Friday, February 14, 2020

Two Words Christian Writers Should Stop Using

by Joshua J. Masters @JoshuaJMasters

As Christian writers, we know the importance of selecting just the right words. But many of us over use two words that stunt our growth as writers and followers of Christ—two words we should remove from our vocabulary. Those words are have to.
“I have to work on my book.” 
“I have to edit my first chapter.”
“I have to prepare for that writing conference.”
“I have to read my Bible.” 
“I have to go watch my kid play a spoon in a fourth-grade production of Beauty and the Beast.” 

Most of the time we say, “I have to,” we should actually say, “I get to…” or “I choose to...” 

If we’re honest, there aren’t that many true have to situations in our lives. Using that phrase reveals our attitude toward our writing, our relationships, and the circumstances of our lives. 


The blessings we count as burdens in our writing life are not have to moments, they’re our get to moments. Remembering that is a great way to change our attitude, which leads to deeper personal contentment and a more fulfilling career as a writer. 

Yes, sometimes the good things in our lives can be inconvenient, but we should avoid using the words “I have to” or the so-called inconvenient will transform into bitterness. Instead, we should use the words “I get to.”

“I get to work on the book God has given me.” 
“I get to edit the first chapter God gave me.”
“I get to prepare for that writing conference God is allowing me to go experience.”
“I get to read my Bible and build my relationship with God.” 
“I get to see my child play the actual rock in their annual Plymouth Rock pageant.”

See the difference? When we perceive our blessings as obligations, we stop being thankful. That impacts our spiritual growth and our writing, but when we reframe our words to reflect a heart of gratitude, our chores feel more like a life purpose.


There’s another way we misuse those two forbidden words. We use them to cover the unhealthy (or at the very least, unproductive) choices we make, the things that impede our writing career and threaten our relationships. Those moments are rarely I have to decisions either. They’re I choose to decisions.

We prefer to say, “I have to,” because it justifies our behavior. We can feel better about a lack of productivity if we frame it as a cosmic happenstance rather than our own choices, but most of the time we’re misleading ourselves.

It’s not, “I have to watch Grey’s Anatomy and then I’ll get to my writing.”
It’s, “I choose to watch Grey’s Anatomy instead of writing.”

It’s not, “I have to go out with my friends. I’ll edit this weekend.”
It’s, “I’m choosing to go out with my friends. The editing can wait.”

It’s not, “I have to hit my word count. I don’t have time to read the Bible and pray today.”
It’s, “I’m choosing to make my writing a bigger priority than my quiet time with God.”

Some of those choices may be appropriate occasionally, but be honest about them. Don’t trick yourself into believing you’re at the mercy of circumstance when you’re really making a choice.


There are real have to circumstances in our lives, and we should honor them. When the phone rings in the middle of the night and you rush to the ICU because there’s been an accident, that’s a have to situation. But don’t minimize those moments by applying the words to something trivial like watching a television drama. 

Saying the words, “I have to,” is usually a crutch. We use them to undermine the blessings in our lives and avoid taking responsibility for our less-than-healthy decisions.

But if we want to grow in Christ, live a life of joy, and find meaning in the gift He’s given us to write, we must embrace our blessings and take responsibility for our choices. 

If God called you to be a writer, He wants to do incredible things in your life. He wants to reveal His encouraging truth in and through you. We partner best with God when we’re willing to be as truthful as possible in that relationship too.

Stop saying, “I have to,” when you should use the more honest, “I get to,” or “I choose to.”

Then watch how God transforms both your perspective and your writing.


Joshua J. Masters is a pastor, author, and speaker. He’s been featured on CBN Television, HIS Radio, and the Light Radio Network. Josh is the author of American Psalms: Prayers for the Christian Patriot and is a contributing author for Feed Your Soul,  Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and One Christian Voice. Josh has also worked as an actor and crew member in the film industry (SAG/AFTRA) and continues to have a passion for film. He lives with his wife, Gina, and Franklin the Pup outside Greenville, South Carolina where he serves as a speaking and care pastor.

Josh would love to connect with you on his website, or engage with you on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Goodreads.


  1. Josh,

    Thank you for this subtle but important mind shift for Christian writers. It struck home with me and I've been in publishing many years. Grateful for the insights.

    Get a FREE copy of the 11th Publishing Myth

    1. I'm glad you found this helpful, Terry. I think it's so important that we challenge our perspectives.

  2. Alas, how to small words can change our perspective. I get to say Thank You for this gentle reminder about how blessed we are to be able to write for God. Would also respectfully suggest one word phrase you omitted, I "need to", as in I need to go get more coffee this morning to continue writing. :-) God's blessings sir.

    1. That's wonderful, JD. Yes, I think I NEED TO get more coffee as well. Thanks so much for your encouragement.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you, Warren. May we all see our tasks through God's eyes instead of our own.

  4. Replies
    1. It's not always easy advice to follow, but we should encourage one another in changing the way we see our lives and writing careers.

  5. Joshua, your post made me dig deeper in my struggle of writing:

    ‘Should’s’ beats us up with regret
    ‘Have to’s’ remind us of the importance and
    ‘Get to’s’ shows us the blessing

    Thank you for your words.

    1. Well said, Daphne. Thank you for your kind words. May the Lord encourage us both.

  6. Great point made. If it is all for the glory of God, we are blessed to "get to" do things. I guess that includes building platform and learning twitter.
    Thanks for the post!

    1. Ah yes, the dreaded platform. I have to admit, some times it's difficult to get into the "get to" frame of mind for some of the tasks on my writing career list. But when we consider what God allows us to be a part of, and when we're working WITH him instead of just FOR him, we can see the blessing. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Thank you, Josh, for this post! Word choices can change our attitude and make us think about our choices. I appreciate these wise words.