Many of us sit down at our desks with a list of criteria we believe we must meet before we can be confident that we’re honoring God with our writing. Our stories need to be thought-provoking, spiritual, and compelling, to name a few expectations I’ve heard or held myself to. The commission to impact others weighs heavily on our hearts because we know that our writing is an outflow of our Christian witness—and we long to capture our Creator’s magnificence in our own small sphere of creativity. But when we ask how our faith should influence and set us apart as writers, the answers vary as widely as all of humanity.
When you think of Christmas shopping, visions of toys, jewelry, clothes, and candy probably dance in your head. That’s if you’re a normal human being. If you’re a little weird and a lot nerdy, you get starry-eyed over Lord of the Rings mugs, graphic T-shirts with famous literary quotes, and stacks of books as tall as skyscrapers. I’m guessing that everyone reading this falls into the latter category. Am I right?
If no one’s ever told you, you’re a liar. And you’re allowed to be proud of it. As storytellers, we’re engaged in a ministry that’s centered around imaginary realities. We carve out mythic spaces and beckon readers to enter in the hopes that they’ll gain a better understanding of themselves, their world, and God’s purpose for them. We’re masters at weaving beautiful lies, but not at ignoring ugly ones.
As writers, words are our swords and pain is the process that tempers those instruments. Death, divorce, disease, job loss—with the crises we face mounting on a daily basis, we may sink into an egocentric realm of despair where we can’t write, can’t ideate. But through these stressful circumstances, God challenges and molds us. And when we endure, we can mine our experiences to commiserate with hurting readers.
Sometimes I worry that we spend more time talking to peers about the ins and outs of being a Christian writer than we do asking God to help us flourish at it. Chatting about ourselves is easy—it’s one of our favorite hobbies as humans. And if the other person shares our interests, we can ramble back and forth for hours. But when we speak with our Heavenly Father, other concerns tend to crowd in. An ailing family member. A sin we need to overcome. A decision we’re not sure how to make. Prayer is the lifeline that keeps us afloat in the whitecaps. We have no doubts about that! But is it necessary to our writing?
Rarely does a day pass anymore without a depressing headline hitting the news. Violence, hate, and fear rampage across your screen. Some days you can’t bear it, so you shut off your devices. You’re done. You want life to be normal again. You want your motivation back. You want to revive the creativity that all of the chaos and uncertainty killed. But ignoring the news will only give you a false sense of peace that won’t last. “Take a walk. Read a book. Visit a friend,” anxiety taunts. “I’ll return when you’re through.”
Three years have passed since we released our manifesto, but some of you may still be wondering how it can help you thrive. A document like this is pointless if it never translates to action. We recently surveyed our audience to see how signers have applied the CSM to their writing, and today I’m going to highlight the five differences it’s made in their spiritual lives, mindsets, and relationships.
You probably think that fiction and nonfiction are on opposite sides of the equator—and I would say that you are absolutely correct. Each have different sets of rules, audiences, and goals. One is entertaining and the other is informative. One keeps us on the edge of our seats and the other keeps us on the edge of our brains. One lifts us into another dimension and the other pushes us down to reality.
The task of fiction writing is complicated. We make up people, places, and situations that are supposed to inspire readers to care and relate. We’re not trying to enchant anyone to the extent that they lose sight of the line between fiction and reality, but we are hoping to lift the veil of disbelief so that their imagination can run through the lush grass or the chipped pavement of worlds that don’t exist.
Have you ever been tempted to tear pages from your notebooks, toss the crumpled wads into the trash, and vow to never write again because it isn’t worth your time? Some days, the words refuse to come. On other days, people insist that playing around with imaginary characters and places isn’t a real job. And every day in between, you stare at the gaping whiteness in front of you and wonder, “Why do I bother?”