Making the Grade

by Jan Powell


Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own”

(Philippians 3:12, ESV).


Learning drills in elementary school bored me. At metal desks with wooden tops, we practiced forming letters with fat pencils and double-lined paper. The dashed middle lines aided our accuracy in drawing letters with half heights like “h” and “k,” as well as those extending below the line like “p” and “q.”

Recalling those days usually makes us nod, grin, or perhaps grimace. But those early skill exercises echo the patterns we need as writers. Teachers aimed to make us not just legible printers, but excellent ones. We practiced every day. After we mastered rows and rows of individual letters, we moved on to single syllable words, and finally, sentences. Each page fell under the instructor’s encouraging scrutiny to help us develop perfection.

I worked to achieve the bright red “A” on my papers. With each bit of new skill, I grew closer to my goal of independent reading. With parents who invested in magazines and books, literacy ranked high as a family value. Soon, weekly trips to the library meant checking out my own stories instead of relying on my older sister or mother to enjoy adventures on the page.

Writing as believers offers a different kind of “A” grade—the approval of the Lord. Unlike sports where there is one first place, one second, and so on, our compositions can all earn awards in the sight of God. These suggestions which parallel early learning drills can help.

Have a model to follow.

Our initial efforts may mimic our favorite authors because their patterns and images live in our minds. In time, we’ll develop our own style which, like penmanship, will become our unique voice.

Write regularly.

Consider our call to write and our passion for words, as important as going to a traditional job and doing our best. Consistency can propel us toward improved quantity, depth, and quality.

Keep learning.

We improve through study, editing, and getting outside input. Swap and critique with a friend. Share notes from conferences or classes, and read books on writing. Then after days, weeks, and years of effort, we’ll offer many good works to our ultimate teacher, the Lord. His “A” of approval is the one that counts.


Author of our faith, teach us to write with diligence so we can offer you polished words. Amen.




Jan Powell, a graduate of the University of South Florida has two small businesses. Through Writing with You, she offers writing services: editing, rewriting, coaching, and ghost writing for fiction and non-fiction. She loves to help polish manuscripts for others. She has been published in The Wordsmith Journal, Splickety magazine, and edited over a dozen books.

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