Monday, 17 June 2013

On Writing Things We Did Not Intend

"There is a mysterious, spiritual component to writing. We may start writing our words but then find that our words are being written for us. We may find we are in the midst of an encounter with God, writing things we did not intend, discovering things we did not see.”
McHugh, A. (2009) Introverts in the Church. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity
This quote resonates with me because so often I have found myself writing things I never intended. I know this is true for many authors. I recall hearing an author talking about writing his novel and how he was upset one day when one of his characters unexpectedly died!

I find this sentiment to be true not just with my creative writing pursuits but even as I’m doing my daily devotions.

I use the SOAP journaling approach in my devotions. This method was original developed by Wayne Cordeiro and discussed in his book, The Divine Mentor. In this approach you write a couple of paragraphs about a Bible verse that has spoken to you during your time of reading.

One of the things Cordeiro suggests is that each day you give your writing a title which summaries the main point. I have discovered that I need to leave writing my title until the end. Since what I thought was going to be my main point at the start, is often not my main point by the time I’ve finished.

It is a surprise to me that God regularly steers my thoughts and leads me to write unexpectedly. Over the years I have used different methods for my daily devotions but the reason I continue with this approach is for this very reason: I never know what God is going to say to me until I have written it down!


Susan Barnes likes to write inspirational articles, book reviews, and reflections on Bible passages and regularly blogs at:


  1. Love this blog, Susan--I can relate to all of it. I love the 'God surprises' as we read Scripture. And, while I haven't had a character unexpectedly die on me, I HAVE wondered what one or two of them might get up to next!

  2. Thanks Susan, this really resonates with me.

    Lately I've been working on scripting Christian radio programs and I begin with a certain theme. And although the theme stays the same, I find the Lord is directing me to another way of explaining it. The Holy Spirit does His work in us when we want to faithfully present the message. He promised to do that, and yet it always surprises and encourages me.

  3. Thanks Jo-Anne and Rita for your comments. Glad you can relate to this aspect of writing.

  4. Susan, I had a giggle because I could relate to this BIG TIME. I guess that is what creativity is all about.

  5. Those are great thoughts, Susan. We write not necessarily to impart something but to find something out :)

  6. Yes, I could relate to this on more than one level. Not just with writing but at times when I am introducing songs at church I have some words planned out and then something entirely different comes out of my mouth. I figure God knows what needs to be said and written.

  7. Thanks for the encouraging comments :)

  8. Hi Susan - Sorry I'm late getting to this blog. I can totally relate. I've have several instances lately when I started with one thing in mind and then it's gone in a different direction. For example, last week, I wrote a short story for a competition. The writing prompt we'd been given immediately made me think of something funny, so I started with that. But by the end of the 750 words, I'd written a heartfelt story about an orphan in India. How did that happen? Part of it is to just be creative and think laterally, but I know a lot of these instances are really prompted by God. He shows us what needs to be said. And while I haven't yet been sad that one of my characters unexpectedly died, I can totally see myself doing that. The characters take on a life of their own. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Nola, I love examples like yours. It is very comforting to know God is guiding and directing our work.

  9. My church encourages the SOAP method. I really should get back into doing it properly.