In 2007, I thought I was a good writer. Looking back, I was dead wrong. I had asked my wife, a gifted editor, to edit my papers for school. To that end, she had me double space each document and then print it out. She took hours editing my essays. When her edits came back the first time, she says I cried because there were so many edits. I remember one of the first experiences I had writing for a popular publication in 2009. Again, at this time, I thought I had progressed as a writer, but I was fooling myself! My wife edited the article several times, and then I sent it to the editor who edited it several times. Back and forth the article went between me, my wife, and the editor. Finally, the piece was finished, and it was much better than it started.
Writing both academically and for publications has been formative to me much the same that reading has. Many people know that I love to read but may not be familiar with how much I also love to write. Writing has challenged me to communicate well so people can understand what I’ve learned and why it matters to the reader.
When my wife first started editing for me, I wasn’t any good. It took several years before I felt comfortable really with her editing. I would offer lots of pushback to her which mostly didn’t go over well. The Lord was using this to humble me and to get me to see that I had not only a lot of room to grow as a writer but as a man and a Christian! You see, if you get anything out of this article, get this about your writing voice. It doesn’t matter how big the place is you write for or how small it is either. What matters is that you grow in grace as a Christian. You can let the article go and the opportunities to write for other places also. You should never write for the applause of men and the pat on the back of others. If you do that you will not grow but stifle your growth in grace.
Even after over a decade of my wife editing pieces I write, I will tell you when I get edits back from my articles for Theology for Life I still wince. The first thing I do is look at how many revisions I have in my Word document and think, “Really?” Of course, I end up going through them and accepting the vast majority of them. If I have a question, I bring my laptop and ask her, “Why does this need to be changed?” I’m still learning humility and graciousness.
One pivotal moment in my Christian life came outside of writing with my former pastor. He said we needed to talk and so he and I set up a time to play golf. He said, “Dave you need to work on relational maturity and humility.” Wow. The way he said it though was like a father to a son. He was loving, yet firm. While this was seven years ago this man is still in my life. I call him my big brother and he calls me his little brother. We’ve walked through a lot together and continue to do so. You see, at this time in my life, I needed him to point this out to me that I lacked humility and relational maturity. I needed to learn that I needed others to help point out my blind spots.
There was another pivotal moment that helped me understand this point very clearly that has impacted me profoundly and how I deal with challenging people. There was a man in the previous Bible study in Idaho that I led and he challenged everything I said. I didn’t appreciate that, and we would go back and forth. It came to a head one day. I was with this same former pastor talking to him about it, and he said, “Pray for him.” My reaction to this man in my Bible study wasn’t gracious. I needed my heart changed by the Holy Spirit towards him. Well, guess what happened? I prayed for him. God changed how I saw this man not as an opponent but as a brother in Christ. That was huge and still is for me. I can tell you at this same church other people were very challenging and there are challenging people I deal with each day. But now I pray for them. God does what He does best; he changes my heart towards them.
You might be wondering what all of this has to do with your writing voice, and it has everything to do with it. When editors edit your words, don’t view that as them taking away from your words but helping you develop your work. Don’t see them as an opponent to be opposed but as a friend to be valued. Editors help us understand our blind spots in our writing and thinking. I tell writers at Servants of Grace my job isn’t to change your words. My job is to help you communicate your words to your reader so they will understand them. I tell authors on podcast interviews all the time who ask me what your audience is. I tell them my audience is the people you wrote the book for. Speak to them. The same is true in writing. Your audience is those whom you want to write to.
Humility as a Writer
You may not know who you are writing for at the moment. You may be writing for your benefit. You may be writing for someone else. You may write something that reaches and ministers to others a lot. But you have a choice when you submit something to a publication that requires your piece be edited. You can either be humble and receive the help being offered to you along with the correction and guidance, or you can choose to reject it. But you should understand that when submitting to a publication that requires editing you will be edited.
When my wife edits my articles, I have the same choice as someone who submits an article at Servants of Grace. I can choose to be gracious with my wife (and I always aim to be!), or I can rebel against her words which brings her ire. Or I can choose to disagree respectfully and explain why. She may still disagree, and I will go with how she thinks it needs to be said. Why? Because my wife knows me. She’s helped me. It takes time to build this level of trust with an editor, but the same should apply with any editor.
Humility as an Editor
As editors of people’s words, we should be gracious with writers. We should help them to address the people they want to address and to help them learn who that person is. We should help them understand why we disagree with their words. In turn, writers should learn to trust editors and to accept their guidance. There will be times when editors and writers will be at odds with one another. What we need to see is that we both have the best in mind for each other. We need to genuinely love one another as we work together as Christian writer and editor. We need to be gracious with one another and to pray for and care for one another.
I always aim to be gracious with writers. I am not perfect; I’ll be the first to admit that. I have a long way to go to always being gracious and having my words “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). But with that said, I’ve learned through writing for several popular publications and editing others work that more communication between writer and editor is better than less. As an editor, I work with writers to help them craft great articles all the time. I develop the content on Servants of Grace to serve people in the pew and to help them grow in grace because I desire to provide trustworthy resources that will help pastors help their people grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus so they may serve in their local churches.
Wherever you are in your writing journey begin to write. Find an editor who will care for you not only as a writer but as a Christian. Send them your work, ask how you can pray for them, and get to know one another. Beyond just writing for someone the writer/editor relationship should be one of mutual fellowship and ministry to one another as Christians. That is what I try to do at Servants of Grace. I want to help people not only grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus but to discover their writing voice as I have.
My writing journey began in 1997 and continues to do this day. I am not the best writer, but I’ve kept on throughout the years, hopefully getting better than I used to be and continuing to improve and grow in areas where I need help. The writer writes and the editor edits. Together they form a community. As Christians, we are to love and care for one another. Beyond just writing content for one another, we should love and purposefully care for one another. That is not only the key I’ve learned to become a better writer but to discovering who you are best suited to address in your writing and who you should write for.
Over the years, I’ve written on a variety of topics such as pornography, biblical gender roles, preaching, and much more. My education gives me the ability to write on a wide range of subjects. While my experience in ministry further adds to my ability to speak to a wide range of issues my best writing (and speaking for that matter) is from both my education, experience, and testimony. While there’s a wide variety of topics that touch on all three in my life, these have provided the best vehicle for me to find my writing voice.
No matter whether you are new to writing or seasoned at writing begin today. Open your Bible and read it daily. There you will learn about God, His Ways, and the gospel of Jesus from cover to cover. Only then will you have something to say that is lovely, beautiful, good news that will help people to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus. In the Bible, you will discover God’s world and the saving message of Jesus and how your life fits into the grand narrative God is weaving together among the people of God in the Church.
See, I need you, and you need me. I need you to help me with my blind spots, and you need me to help you with yours. We are to do that out of love, with words seasoned with grace to help one another grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Finding your writing voice is critical, but beyond that I want you to see that growing in grace is the place to begin to find your writing voice. Only then will you ground your life and thinking in the Word of God so what you’ll say will be helpful and truthful to people.