• Dana L. Butler

On My Writing Process & the Unlocking of Hearts [Connecting the Dots: Part 2]

I began writing last week about connecting the dots between the technical and spiritual aspects of writing.

And in the process of writing that piece, I was kind of wrecked.  In a good way.  In a coming alive on the inside way.

As if the technical and spiritual sides of this craft were being knit even more to each other inside me, and planted there.  Deep.  Somewhere in the “stuff Dana’s ultra-passionate about” zone.

Seriously.  I’m kind of a mess these days as the Lord continues to rearrange my perspective on art, on life in general.  Unlocking things in my heart that I didn’t know were there.

“Art is literacy of the heart.” -Elliot Eisner

If you’d like to catch up, you can find parts 1-6 of this series here.


How the Technical Unlocks the Spiritual

Be it writing, painting, dancing, playing an instrument, or origami, delving into the technical aspects of our art releases us to be more fully alive, more freely ourselves.

Honing our technical abilities unlocks us in our deep places.  We find ourselves able to express the interior movements of our hearts with more and more abandon.

The words are there when we grasp for them.  We’re able to convey ideas with the power, the umph, with which we intend them to come across.

If I’m serious about God impacting hearts through my work, then I want to share my art in a package that’s easily unwrapped.

Hence, we dove into the technical ideas I shared last week.  And hence, here we go–commence round 2.

How I Write (and Re-write)

They say all good writing is re-writing.

I didn’t believe it at first, but I’ve seen over the last year how a thorough re-writing process can take a message from mediocre and diluted, to strong and impactful.

So.  For any and all to whom this might be helpful, here’s my personal writing/re-writing process.

[Here’s my disclaimer: this process I’m going to describe–it’s what works for me.  Glean from it as you like, but ultimately you’ll want to discover your own version of this process if you haven’t already.]

  1. I sit down with my laptop and a heart-full of ideas I know are somehow connected.  I write on the topic.  Just write.  Whatever comes out, in whatever order it comes out.  I might end up with 1000 – 1500 words.  This is a rougher-than-rough draft.  It’s just my guts exploded onto my computer screen.

  2. I might do one or two re-reads in this session, if I have time and brain-energy left after the initial gut-explosion.  As I’m re-reading, I’m re-ordering key chunks of information.  Figuring out what makes sense where.  I’m deleting parts that seem obviously redundant.  I correct any grammar or spelling errors that happen to jump out at me.

  3. I walk away from it.  Completely close the laptop.  I read books with my kids and cook dinner and chat with my husband.  I take a minimum of several hours, if not a few days, and let my heart and mind detach from the project completely.

  4. Whenever I have another block of time, I reengage.  I read it anew, almost as if the piece wasn’t my own work, but someone else’s.  I ask myself questions like, “Is this good?  Interesting?  Engaging?  Is it an accurate representation of what was in my heart when I sat down to write?”  Sometimes I find that re-reading a piece at this point triggers another level of insight in my heart and I’m able to take the piece to a new depth.  I edit again.  Rearrange information.  Make sure any longer paragraphs are broken up.  Check ultra closely for grammar and spelling errors.

  5. I walk away from it again.  For hours, even another day or two.

  6. Picking it back up, I re-read.  And I cut.  And cut.  And cut s’more.  I try to cut two to three hundred words.  (This isn’t always possible, but I genuinely try.)  I shorten and tighten sentences.  Examine phrases, paragraphs, pieces of stories to determine whether each is absolutely necessary to the core message of my piece.  I make sure my bottom lines/core messages are clearly stated.  I might write and re-write and shorten those a number of times.  I’ve found a good rule of thumb to be this: If a core message can be shortened to the length of a tweet (140 characters), it’s not only tweetable–it’s much more powerful and memorable.  Less diluted.  At this point I also insert subheadings and bold a few key sentences–the ones I’d want to stand out if someone were to briefly skim my piece.  I leave my piece thinking, “Okay, it’s ready.”

  7. If I can, I walk away again, come back, re-read to make sure I still feel good about it (one last check for left out words, spelling errors, etc), and THEN—schedule.  Or click publish, and bam.  It’s live.  And hopefully my audience will be able to tell I’ve put work into making the piece tight, impactful, and memorable.  Hopefully they’ll sense the value I place on their readership.

Maximum Impact and Living From Our Core

Like I said, this process is the way it usually works for me.  Investing the time and brain-energy to make a piece my absolute best sets it up to be used by the Holy Spirit to make maximum impact.

The technical side of writing is the tool box you need to do justice to the message God’s put in your heart.  If your purpose in writing is to see God impact your readers’ hearts, then your message is absolutely worth communicating with excellence.  

And truly, whatever your craft, “forcing your way into its secrets” unlocks your heart in the places where it’s desperate to freely give expression to its depths.

In discovering what brings your heart to life and then pursuing excellence in it, you’re released to live out of your core.  To increasingly be who you most deeply are.

Okay. I know I promised last week to discuss why/when writing rules can (and should!) be broken.  However, as I’m setting a goal for myself these days of writing shorter posts ;), I’m going to call this one finished and come back to that idea next week as I discuss how I discovered and grew comfortable with my writing voice.

Blessings to you, my friends.  May you sense God’s Spirit drawing you today into deeper experience of Him as He dwells within you.  You were created for communion with Him–and you’re so loved.

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