I have always considered myself a writer. My first attempt at writing a novel was in the 4th grade. If I had some time after finish my work in class, I would feverishly scribble down words on a page while they were still fresh in my mind. One page turned into two, turned into four, turned into an entire chapter. I was feeling so inspired I didn’t want to stop. After penning nearly 20 pages and a handful of chapters, I set down my pencil and decided to proofread my work.
As I read back over it, I started to notice a trend. The more I read it, the more I realized… I was writing a book I had just read the day before. All I had done was replaced the main character with a guy named “Matthew Moore.” Pretty creative, huh?
Now I realize this probably happens a lot to people—especially young ones—when they’re first starting to write. We’re easily influenced by the media we take in, and that’s a great thing! But at some point, we have to find our own voice. If I want to call myself a writer, at some point I have to stop ripping off every Roald Dahl book I’ve ever read.
During college I hit a real creative slump. I wasn’t inspired to write songs, I had stopped trying to write creatively, and the idea of pursuing music was quickly falling off my radar. I was surrounded by some of the most talented musicians and songwriters I had ever known, and I felt like I didn’t stand a chance compared to them. I had already learned my lesson in grade school that if I was just going to imitate them I’d get nowhere, so I had resolved instead to just let them be the creative folks and I would be the guy in the corner admiring their art.
Last spring, I was challenged to try and write and record a batch of songs. Originally, I wasn’t really on board. “What do I have to say that hasn’t already been said?” “Even if I had something to say, couldn’t someone else say it better anyway?” I was pretty pessimistic about my songwriting abilities. But after having a few friends talk me down off the ledge, I started to give it a shot. Once I gave myself permission to be creative again, I realized I did actually have something to say.
The truth is, we tell better stories when we believe our stories are worth being told. It’s easy to compare yourself to someone who may be a better writer, a better guitar player, or a better singer than you are, but you have something they don’t have: your own experiences. No one can tell your story better than you.
I was also selling God short when it came to the creative process, too. My doubts in my own storytelling ability also showed my doubts in God’s story in my life. When I put the pen to paper again, I started to see God’s likeness manifesting itself time and time again. I was able to write about hard times in my life because it was there that God showed up with redemption. I was able to write about good times because in those moments God appeared with glory.
So if you walk away from this post with something, I hope it’s this: own your story. It’s the only one you get, so make it count.
Matthew Moore is the worship leader at The Gathering’s BarChurch site. He is featured on The Desert, where he worked as the lead songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist on the record. When he’s not working on music, odds are you’ll see him around town riding his olive green scooter with some earbuds in playing the latest episode of some podcast.