Friday, October 24, 2008

Christians Who Write

My post two days ago, about my WIP, stirred a good conversation (in its comments) about content for Christian writers. How far do we take our faith in our works? Are we, as believers, meant or even obligated to share Christian messages and themes with our readers? Always?

Rachel pointed me to the paraphrase of a great C.S. Lewis quote: "We don’t need more Christian writers. We need more great writers who are Christian." (An online article related to this can be found here. And find Lewis' full explanation of this thought here - scroll down to the second content box.)

I have to say that as a writer who has struggled with how much faith-related content to include in fiction, this quote really resounds with me.

I've sometimes second-guessed myself - with my writing, that is. My faith is a large part of who I am, and it's not something I want to leave by the wayside in my writing. But if I were to include it, how would I do so? My way is not to push myself or my beliefs on anyone else, and I certainly don't want to be caught sermonizing. I struggle with knowing how much such content is smooth and warm and digestible, as opposed to forced and off-putting.

So the comments my readers posted the other day, put together with Lewis' quote, have helped me put my thoughts into better perspective. I think that, while it's important what we write (for instance, I write wholesome stuff, not horror or erotic, etc.), it's more important who we are as authors behind the writing. It's important how we represent ourselves to the platform and readership we build, don't you think?

Just as God has given everyone a talent - some sing, some sew, some work with wood, some heal with medicine - shouldn't it apply that He's made a place for all those talents? And to dissect it further, wouldn't it stand to reason there are varying places for all writing Christians? That He wants us to fill as many niches as we can?

So tell me what you think? I'm eager to get some feedback!

28 comments:

Turkey Lurkey said...

I agree with Lewis and with you. Although Christian literature has its place in the writing world, I don't believe that every book written by a Christian should be about their religious beliefs.

Melanie Avila said...

If Christianity is such an influencing factor in your life, I think it only makes sense that you incorporate it into your writing. You don't strike me as a pushy person so I don't see you coming off as preachy about your beliefs (that turns me off with any religion). You seem to be approaching this with grace and I can only imagine it will come off that way in your stories. By being true to yourself you will be more honest in your stories, and that's what we all strive for, right?

Rachel Burton said...

I agree with your thoughts. I think writing that isn't overtly "Christian" can be just as worthy as writing that is; I also I believe that being a missionary isn't a holier calling than being a software programmer. Like you said, niches. We all have different talents and interests, and we should use them with excellence to represent God wherever life takes us. And our worldview will always slip through; I believe Lewis himself said he didn't mean for Narnia to be taken as an allegory (which boggles the mind).

WendyCinNYC said...

I agree with you. Christianity may play a big role in your life, but that doesn't mean you should feel you have to write about it. If you want to, then by all means do, but it's not some sort of requirement.

Joanne said...

I agree with Melanie, in that Christianity being such an important part of your life, it should be incorporated into your writing. But that can happen in many ways, including so subtly, just in the life choices and behaviors of your characters, without ever even mentioning religion. Or religion can clearly shape the characters' lives. For you, the writer, the beauty of this is that you have a great tool to set the framework of your work, and you decide on its visible presence therein.

Melissa Marsh said...

Your commment right here: "It's important how we represent ourselves to the platform and readership we build, don't you think?" says it perfectly.

I am a Christian, but I've only written one inspirational novel, one that the Lord definitely led me to write. And I've had lots of struggles over whether I should just write inspirational or secular fiction and I've come to the conclusion that my strengths and talents are probably better suited to the secular market, and my reasons for coming to this conclusion largely revolve around your statement above. Who I am as a person should reflect my beliefs, and I think that when I, as a writer, get to the stage where I will be able to reach more people, then I can also represent my faith to them just by being who I am.

Does that make sense? My brain is still a bit addled...

Janna Qualman said...

Turkey - I can't tell you how much Lewis' quote spoke to me. And in looking up that one, I found many, many others from him. His words are some I'll look to from now on!

Melanie - That's a really good point, the being true to ourselves within our writing. Thanks for putting that out there!

Rachel - I like that you've mentioned this, too, as far as career paths go. We each have a calling, if you will, and their through so many varying platforms and venues and courses.

Wendy - I appreciate your words; they seem like some validation for me. Thank you for your choice in phrasing.

Joanne - How right you are! I mentioned this in the comments section of my WIP post (so I know many didn't see), but after a close friend read Bliss Lake, she commented on how the characters' actions and the way they carried themselves spoke as loudly as if I'd been blatant about their values or morals. She got a wholesome feel out of it, when I hadn't consciously planted those sorts of things.

Melissa - It makes ABSOLUTE sense, because being a believer isn't just about saying the words - or even just salvation - it's about our actions and what we choose to do with those beliefs. Don't you think?

thedomesticfringe said...

I think you're right about God having many places for us to fill. I believe He individually leads each of us to use our talents in very distinct ways. He may lead some to write Christian fiction and others to be Christian writers of fiction. The important thing is that we each follow His leading in our own lives.

Janna Qualman said...

df - What a very important thing you've pointed out, following Him in the way He leads us. Thank you!

Janet said...

Jeffrey Overstreet paraphrases Emily Dickinson and says, "In art and faith, truth must dazzle gradually." We never dazzle people by shoving a sermon down their throat when they were expecting a story. This has often been a great weakness in Christian books and especially movies.

Janna Qualman said...

Janet - I like that. It says to me we want to dazzle the reader in a subtle way, maybe so that they don't even realize it until after the fact.

Terri Tiffany said...

I'm so glad I didn't miss this post! What wonderful comments by everyone! I think most of us feel the same way. I personally write for both markets and try to do it subtly but if I feel led to be more direct--then I am. Sometimes I hear God whispering to say more--othertimes--not so. Feel good about what you write and when it is out there- just pray that the reader enjoys it and you did your best!

Amy Mullis said...

I'm late on this one, but just wanted to mention some things. As a humor writer and friendly neighborhood church secretary, I like to write things that make people laugh, but that I would not be embarrassed for my kids or anyone in the congregation I work for to read. I tell folks, "I know what to say when I drop the hammer on my toe, but I like to keep that between me and the hammer." Do I go out of bounds? Sometimes. But my boundaries are a little stricter than, say, Eddie Murphy's.

Janna Qualman said...

Me, too, Terri. There's no reason we can't listen for that Voice, the one that tells us which to write between Christian and secular. There's a place for both!

Janna Qualman said...

ROFL, Amy. I'll never look at a hammer the same way again. ;)

I guess when it come down to it, how we handle our work is - just as our faith - between us and God.

Thanks for chiming in. Any comment is welcome, any time. :) *waits for spammers to pounce*

Misti Sandefur, Christian author/freelance writer said...

I'm a Christian and have written and published a Christian fiction novel entitled Help From Above. In addition to writing Christian novels, I also try to include it in all my writing. As you said, I don't want to sound like I'm preaching or push my beliefs on others. Instead, I try to write stories and articles that will inspire my readers and warm their souls. I do this because I truly believe God blessed me with the talent to write, and to thank Him for all His blessings, I do my best to inspire others through my writing without sounding like a preacher.

Not only do I try to write words that will inspire, but I also thank Him by donating what I can from the income He blesses me with to charities, my church and churches that have helped me in the past when I was struggling. After all, the Bible does tell us to give, and when we give, we receive even more blessings.

Janna Qualman said...

Misti - Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment! I admire you for working so faithfully, given what you've said here, and wish you the best in your continued endeavors. May you be blessed!

lyrajean said...

Saw your post on "Did you update your blog today?" on AW. I'm rosemerry on there.

This post has really helped me think things through as I am planning on starting a writing blog within the next year and was wondering how I could reconcile it with my current blog which I don't want to give up.

Thanks!

Jenna said...

I love CS Lewis's quote and I too used to hold that close and tell myself as a Christian I didn't need to write Christian fiction...and I may never or I may write both.

I too think that not every Christian is called to "minister" to people and like Rachel says, we all have a calling and one isn't necessarily "holier" than the other.

And Wendy is right on when she says, "Christianity may play a big role in your life, but that doesn't mean you should feel you have to write about it." But (and this is the whole reason I asked the question)...if you sum up your book as one where someone's faith in God is shaken and they have to learn how to trust God again how is that not writing about Christianity? How does that really fit into the secular market?

So, no, I don't beleive Christians should only write for Christians, far from it, but (and this is where I begin questioning things)would CS Lewis had the readership he did had he overtly, not latently, put "God" and "faith in God" in his books?

I truly admire your ability to just write and believe you will find a home for whatever you write. I wish I was more like that. What got me on this whole question was my own turmoil over the little bit of "God" and "faith" I wanted to add but knowing full well if I did I would knock myself out of a bigger market and audience. Just my dilemma I guess.

Keep on writing on :)!

Janna Qualman said...

Jenna, you asked: "But if you sum up your book as one where someone's faith in God is shaken and they have to learn how to trust God again how is that not writing about Christianity? How does that really fit into the secular market?"

To me, yes. God = Christianity in my mind. But I know that's not the case for some, who believe in a Higher Power but don't follow Christ. I guess either way, it probably doesn't have an overly-welcoming home in the secular market.

Janna Qualman said...

Lyrajean - Hi! I can't tell you how cool it is that our discussion here has helped with your decision! Keep us posted with your progress in blogland. :)

Brian and Kelly said...

Writing's not so much my thing, but reading-- that I do for hours (um, each day...). Jane Austen has taught me as much about myself as any Christian noveliest. I think people need these books as well and I can't wait to buy your first!

Janna Qualman said...

Kelly, thank you!

Marcus Goodyear said...

My goodness, what a wonderful community you have here.

This question is one of the reasons I've been on social media sabbatical until today.

I write horror and science fiction. Not Christian horror. Not Christian science fiction. Just the regular kinds. It can be a discouraging place to try to write because some Christians look down on what I do as evil. No word yet on whether non-Christians are threatened by my personal faith. So far, they just ignore my submissions. : )

Janna Qualman said...

Marcus, thanks for stopping by! I'm glad to hear your thoughts. And I think as long as you stay true to yourself, you'll find your written place.

And here's to some submissions that won't get ignored! :)

Janna Qualman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stina Rose said...

Thanks for your comments on my blog and for pointing me to this post! I look forward to following Somethign She Wrote.

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