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.
Many of us, by default, partition off our writing growth and our personal growth. One is vocational and the other is spiritual. Although we realize that the two can and do intersect on occasion, we assume that the phenomenon is limited to traits that help us with the process (such as patience or courage), not experiences that inform our craft. But what if both kinds of growth coexist in the same sphere, each complementing the other?
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 methods for planning a novel are endless: character questionnaires, structure templates, prewriting, outlining. Some writers fall into the camp of plotters, where warm-up work is second nature and vital to racking up a word count. But how are those of us who approach the process by the seat of our pants supposed to write amazing stories?
Somewhere along the road, every fiction writer will be asked to participate in a critique. It’s practically a guarantee. Whether you’re new to critiquing or are already teamed up with an epic partner (who should probably read this article too), you should aim to provide the best feedback possible. This can help you grasp facets of the craft that you couldn’t before. Aiding and encouraging others also builds relationships.
The trouble with Christian writers today is that, instead of leaving everything behind as Matthew did, we sometimes stay huddled in our own little booths, waiting for excitement to tap on our windows. But not only does this mentality ignore Christ’s greatest commandment (“go into all the world”), it also stunts our growth. Only interesting people can craft interesting books. And being an interesting person requires one crucial element: adventure.