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What Guides Your Writing Process?

What Guides Your Writing Process?

guide in the sunbeams

by Jan Kern

When I had a PC (before my MacBook), I changed the hover-over message for Microsoft Word to say, “apart from him I can do nothing,” a personalized rephrasing of a part of John 15:5. I wanted to bring into my time of writing an awareness that I need God to do this well.

Writing with prayerful intentionality became important, even crucial. Not that I always did, but I noticed the difference when I didn’t. Somewhere along the way, I developed a sort of creed that now hovers in the background of what I teach in my clinics at Mount Hermon. It also hints at the content of our hours together as we look at writing elements that matter for our reader, how to know and care well for our reader, our author presence and its impact in our writing, or ways to identify the arcs and create flow for our projects.

These are practical teaching points but alongside is a recognition that God is active in each. The words I chose for the paragraphs below grew out of those initial words from John 15:5. They reflect the development (over years, I’m slow) of my writing process with God and his invitations to keep him in the center of that process.

I encourage writers I mentor to consider creating a simple creed shaped by their own writing journey with God. I share this one with you with the same encouragement.

  • • Writing That Reaches toward Your Reader
  • We tell our stories and share our passion around our topics honestly, humbly, and prayerfully with our readers always in mind. We know the difference between writing for ourselves and writing with a sensitivity to our readers’ questions, hurts, and needs. We pray for our readers often and before we write.
  • • Writing That Reflects the Writer God Created You to Be
  • We honor who God is creating us to be as a writer through our authentic and creative use of words. We are alert to the ongoing process of discovering and developing our writing voice and its genuine reflection of the uniqueness of our person and calling. We pray for his continual transformative work in our lives.
  • • Writing That Remains Open to God’s Overarching Purposes
  • We seek God’s wisdom in writing the message he has given us. We remain open to his leading of the structure, forms, and tone that will carry that message well. We pray he will help us see, beyond our own understanding, the connections and flow of the message or story he has placed on our heart.
  • • Writing That Flows from “Apart from Him I Can Do Nothing”
  • We understand the responsibility inherent in the opportunity to write to others. We realize our lack and God’s grace and gifts in making each project we write possible. We pray he will help us to abide daily and closely with him when writing and when not writing so our words flow from open and discerning hearts ready to serve.

So, what guides your writing process?

If you look closely, you might see, hovering in the background, that one phrase that guides you well—like John 15:5 does for me. Jot it down. Recognize it as God’s invitation to join you in your writing process. That’s where you begin each time you write.


If you’d enjoy a focused, small group mentoring clinic for your current nonfiction book project, consider one of the main conference clinics. Jan Kern and Joseph Bentz are teaching nonfiction clinics. Mona Hodgson is offering a children’s writing clinic, and Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen is leading a clinic on blog writing. Fiction clinics are also available with Brandilyn Collins, Sarah Sundin, and Ginny Yttrup.

During the pre-conference, we also have fiction and nonfiction clinics. Highlighted is a newly opened beginning nonfiction clinic led by Renae Brumbaugh Green, and a clinic specifically focused on proposal writing, taught by Janet McHenry.

For more information about the various clinic and application details, visit Morning Mentoring at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference webpage.


Jan Kern headshotJan Kern, author, speaker, and credentialed life coach, is passionate about story—not only how we live it with courage and intentionality but also how we write it with craft and finesse. Her Live Free series for teens launched with Scars that Wound, Scars that Heal: A Journey Out of Self-Injury, an ECPA Gold Medallion finalist. In the series, she intertwined a narrative style with fiction techniques to tell the true stories of teens who struggled with pain and brokenness. She knows about writers in transition as her focus has turned to writing for and serving women through Voice of Courage, a multi-generational organization she founded with her daughter.

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