DEAR CHRISTIAN WRITER, ARTIST, MUSICIAN, MOVIE MAKER, ETC,
On the account of being a writer, I have zero credibility or authority. But here are a few thoughts to Christian writers, from a Christian reader, to take or leave:
1. Write things no one else is willing to write. Don’t write safe stuff. The Christian market is littered w/safe stuff. Write without a safety net. (Or write as though God’s grace is your only safety net.)
2. Write something that you would read yourself. If it doesn’t hold your attention when you go back and read, it’s not going to hold ours either. If it didn’t make you laugh, cry, hug somebody, throw up, or think when you wrote it…revise it. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “Edit yourself mercilessly!”
3. Write like you talk. I was studying creative writing in college and struggling to find a “voice.” A pretty girl (who eventually became my pretty wife) told me, “I like hearing you tell stories. Why don’t you just write stories exactly like you would say them out loud?”
4. Resist the temptation to make all your characters Christians, or make all your characters become Christians by the end of the story. Real life isn’t so nice and neat. “Machine Gun Preacher” was probably a lot closer to a Biblical redemption story than most Christian films. I’m not saying you have to go out and write the Christian version of 50 Shades or anything. It’s just that Scripture is full of ordinary people doing all sorts of shady things, but God’s grace remains the common denominator. (And let’s be honest. A Christianized version of 50 Shades would probably sell loads of copies. Somebody get on that. Zondervan, you’re welcome.)
5. Don’t be the hero. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re all probably closer to villains anyway. Trust me, telling people how awesome you are (no matter how good the illustration) is always cringe-worthy. In one of his recent posts, Seth Godin encouraged people to communicate “Not (with) the arrogance of, ‘I am right and you are not,’ but from the confidence/certainty of, ‘I need to say it or draw it or present it just this way and I want you to hear it.’” Be passionate, honest, and transparent about your shortcomings, and the “converts” will take care of themselves.
6. Write from the gut. Go with your instincts. Lean into the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and don’t be scared to show us your dark parts that needed God’s forgiveness.
7. Don’t believe the myth that non–Christian people don’t read Christian stuff because it involves Jesus. Too many authors and artists (Anne Lamott, CS Lewis, U2) have proven this isn’t true. In general, non-Christian people don’t get into Christian art/music/books because it’s not interesting. (When was the last time your non-Christian friend cranked up some K-LOVE jams?)
8. Don’t feel like you have to solve all our problems. I understand this temptation. Guys especially like launching into super fix-it mode and have answers for everything and everyone. Sometimes we just need to ask good questions, tell a good story, and start the conversation. Lectures have a tendency to end the conversation. Instead, consider giving us something to talk about for awhile.
These are just a few suggestions. What should be added to this list? What would you want to see more of from Christian writers, speakers, artists, etc?