Steeping the Tea of Writing

The following is an article I wrote for Oikeo Music’s Spring issue of  “Christian Songwriter’s” Magazine.  To download a free PDF version of the magazine, visit  I hope you enjoy!!


The tide is coming in as I sit on a large boulder not far from the water-line of the Kachemak Bay. The sky is a beautiful clear blue and the temperature is holding just above freezing. For now my fingers work and the ink in my pen is still a liquid…but I don’t know how much longer. This is my writing studio today.

I take in the view of the snow-capped mountains, and gentle surf, wipe my now dripping nose, and take mental pictures of the the landscape in front of me while my heart begins weaving stories.

Today I process the pain of a friendship, while I am praying for the courage to venture again. Scriptures are coming to mind about God who binds up the broken-hearted. 1Corinthians 13 flashes in my mind as well, with the emphasis being on the fact that “love always believes the best in people.” (v. 7) I talk to God about my fears and my pain.

I pause to throw the ball for my dog who faithfully retrieves it every time, although surrenders it reluctantly.

All of these things at once become threads in the weave of my heart and become the backdrop for my writing, and the metaphors of my story. Friendship, loyalty, beauty, wonder, and God’s Word are the constants. The tide that changes and the temperature that fluxes become the variables that give the story pattern and detail.

A mentor of mine, Billy Simon, gave me some advice years ago when I began songwriting that I still carry with me today. He said:

“The main thing is to be calm in your gift and know that no matter who hears what you create… that your gift matters and is pleasing to the one who gave it to you. No need to be overly anxious. Love life first then add some commentary. We song writers are not necessary in the whole scope. Only our message is. Sometimes our gift can be so exciting to us that we give it too much attention and time. Step out of your “write, write, write” stage and just write. Trees are vital for life on Earth. They’re beautiful and it’s nice to have some in your yard. But if you plant one everywhere you think one can grow, soon you will have nowhere to play kickball. Have peace that you are where God want s you to be, to affect the people He wants you to affect.”

As a songwriter, it is not imperative that I write everything that comes to my head. Some of my best writing has come after musing on things I have experienced, or, like tea, let the ideas steep for awhile until the story feels done. Taking life in and feeling it on every level possible, to me, seem to be the greatest tools of my writing. Not being afraid to feel, to hurt, to be cold, to be hungry, to be interrupted, and to be in solitude, give me opportunities to experience life in a new ways and then express them.
So I process my heart while I steep my ideas. I think about how friendship is always worth the risk of pain, because it warms the heart when the days are cold. I feel the cold air beginning to stiffen and sting my fingers. I wipe my running nose again. I shake my pen to get the ink flowing again, and I exhale with the contentment that when I wait patiently, God speaks to my heart and gives me a reason to write. That same God will also give me a platform to allow my musings to be heard when the timing is right.


The Songwriter

I am an artist and I am a collector.  I am not a collector of trinkets, or cars, or antiques; but I am a word collector.  I collect phrases, words, and expressions.  I collect tones and tenses of things spoken or sung.  I collect pictures created by words I have read, and I keep them in books, journals, and in my heart.  Whenever I experience, hear, or read something that strikes me or stirs me, I collect it and muse on it– Sometimes for hours, sometimes for years.  I let it have a place in my heart and I let the Holy Spirit in me analyze it, evaluate it and speak to me about it. Then the creating begins…

I can’t speak for every songwriter, and I’m not even sure how many I represent, but I guess that isn’t why I am writing.  I write because I have a need to express what I am learning, and a desire to work out the ideas and thoughts out in the open where I can see them best and analyze their impact.   You see, my life is impacted on a daily basis by things I see, read, feel, touch, hear, and experience and many of those experiences shape me—change me.  I can’t stay still, I can’t remain the same.  I must work through life’s processes—rejecting some and embracing others.  My songwriting begins with my vulnerable heart.

Out of the storehouse of my collections, I begin to build and assemble.  Using the threads of my emotions, and the glue of my convictions, I see myself as a creator of collages.  I take the Words of Scripture,  let them live in me, let them shape and change me, and then put them on paper or set them to music with the heart and passion they stirred in me as they rebuilt my mind.  I love to take a picture from my window—of the sea and sky and weave them into the collage.  I desire to securely hang each thought using the convictions that direct my life and the authenticity of the Author of my life—the One who holds all things together by the Word of His Power. (Colossians 3:17).  This is how I live; not just the way I write.

Somewhere in my art you will discover it if you look closely—my flaws.  You’ll detect my weak phrasing, or my halted beginnings.  You will discover my wrong notes, and my raw emotions.  Sometimes I will tell you outright my fumbling and foibles.  This is true of my life as well.  Sometimes I stammer and stall, sometimes I hide and retreat.  Many of you I call for prayer.  All of this becomes part of my collections.  Each fear and failure is recreated into an experience or expression that, woven with the grace of God, becomes another piece of art.

I think what makes the difference in me between a vulnerable, flawed mess and an artist is the courage to trust that God will make something out of my life.  I have to “let go” of my experiences and stories and allow them to walk ahead of me sometimes into places I would never have reached if I kept them stored in my mind.  I put it on paper, or set it to music, and let it go.  Then I bring my heart before the Lord again and ask Him to evaluate it, shape it, change it, and fill it, and you know what?  He always does.