Posted by Simon Hawkins on 9 October 2015

There’s nothing like waking up in the morning with the only thing in your schedule being ‘go down to the beach with guitar, iPad and Bible to craft heart-felt psalms to be used globally by the Body of Christ’. That’s the dream. And even when you are a ‘full-time’ writer it’s rare because of weather, kids, co-writes, (not everyone likes to write on the beach!), travel etc.

In some Christian circles there’s an assumption that unless you are ‘full-time’ in God-related matters you are unlikely to be properly good at it. Reality is, when it comes to writing worship, due to many things including the economics of the music business, there are few worship writers that don’t have some kind of paid work, whether it’s related (e.g. worship pastor, producer) or unrelated (e.g. bouncer, tattoo artist).

As a songwriter I’ve had seasons when I’ve been holding down a busy job and seasons when I’ve been a full-time writer. I can honestly say there are plusses and minuses of both. Moreover, I believe having a day job can actually make you a better worship writer.

Here’s 7 reasons for worship writers to have a day job:

1. Money - you can pay for your family to eat. Pretty essential right? I have always found it impossible to write whenever there’s any conflict in my life (fear is the killer of creativity) and money is one of the biggest sources of conflict in family life. If there are no money worries you are free to write with a clean slate. It also means you are able to deal with relationships (cowriters, publishers, artists) from a happier place.
2. Writing from real life - if you’re looking to write a worship song that real life people are able to ‘hang their stuff’ on it’s helpful to know what real life is like. Going into work with your songwriter ears switched on will give you a wealth of stories, ideas and emotions to write from. This can be a rich seam of gold for songwriters.
3. Left brain life skills - day jobs often require you to exercise the other part of your brain (the left half) as opposed to the creative side (the right half) used to write a song. This helps in keeping track of your catalogue, song ideas, etc, getting you to co-writes on time and meeting a deadline. Ultimately this could well help you finish your worship song. These are more important than most people give credit for. Plus you have a fighting chance of understanding the business around writing - contracts, royalty statements etc
4. Writing in your routine - use your commute to make writing a habit. Scream your new song out in your car! Add it on to your daily devotional or Bible reading. I had my first ever “train co-write” when one of my dear friends from Nashville came to stay with us and it worked great - face to face, in a place away from other things, enough time to think before sharing ideas. Make each journey count. It’s a fabulous opportunity. But be careful about getting out your guitar on the 6:45 to Waterloo as it might backfire on you.
5. Light in a dark place - we are called to be a light in the world - Matthew 5:14-16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” The world needs good Christians in every area of society and the economy. If all Christians hid in a Holy huddle the world would be an even darker place than it is. It’s not easy but it’s true. I don’t believe all Christians are called to sweep the church hall for a living. And being in the front line will inform and enhance your writing (see 2 above).
6. Artistic freedom - There is nothing worse than going into a co-write and hearing “lets write ourselves a worship hit”. If you know you are not dependent on the song you are about to write to pay your mortgage it allows you greater freedom to try new things, to write with authenticity rather than something that sounds like Chris Tomlin and you can focus on what God is saying to you, personally. A song not born out of authenticity is never going to be your best. Your calling as a writer deserves you giving it your best.
7. Let creativity flourish - I used to think that given enough creative space I could write anything. That’s not true. I firmly believe creativity thrives within boundaries and having a set time and place to write is a sure way to have creativity work hard for you. That’s one reason why I think co-writing works so well. There’s also the joy of withdrawing from a God-hostile, dark place to rest in His presence in safety that is inspiring and highly conducive to writing. “He Is God” was written at 1:30am in my drawing room having just got back from a very dark place in the Middle East, at the epicenter of a multi-million dollar corporate scandal involving the dismissal of four of the five most senior people in the company I worked for, one of whom was my direct boss. Writing each line was like tapping into heavenly balm that soothed my soul with every word that appeared on the screen of my laptop.

This is only one side of the story. If you had 24/7 to be a writer you would surely have time to do things to grow yourself as a writer, to foster relationships and figure out the latest technology. But that’s another post.

Of course, when you have a day job you also have the chance to book a day’s holiday. That’s when maybe you can wake up in the morning with nothing in your schedule except ‘go down to the beach with Bible, guitar, and iPad and craft heart-felt psalm’. You never know, it may be God’s plan to use it globally by the Body of Christ. And you are possibly more likely to have scheduled it if you have a day job. You would certainly have earned it.

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