“Oh, you’re a writer? Me, too!” It seems like everyone wants to be a famous wordsmith these days. Regardless of whether you start a blog that only five of your friends read, become a world-renowned author or just stick to Twitter, writing is still an important means of communication. Here are three suggestions for Christians looking to approach it better.
1. Write out of abundance.
In college, I never had time to read anything other than assignments for class or write anything but term papers. After I graduated, I decided I wanted to start doing more in that sphere. I had a few ideas for topics, so I sat down, laptop open and tried to plow through and “say what I mean to say.”
I went back later and realized that what I had on paper was garbage. My brilliant ideas turned out to sound bitter and grumpy. “No one will want to read this!” I admitted. After some prayer and soul searching, I figured it out. “You’re writing out of frustration and a need to prove yourself,” my heart told me. “Write from the overflow of things God has done.” That might come in the form of thoughtful meditation on Scripture. Perhaps it could be sharing wisdom acquired through difficult experiences.
Some of us will have the need and the platform to use a cautionary or aggressive tone. Others will need to be sweet-as-pie. Whatever the topic and audience, start with the best of intentions. No sane person enjoys reading an author who is consistently bitter.
2. Write above the conflict.
We can argue until the cows come home, but there will still be no shortage of controversy on the internet. Seriously, when was the last time anyone was persuaded by people shouting at each other on social media?
I sometimes see friends re-posting a blog entry or article that I really want to refute, but I try to recognize when it’s not worth my time. You can prove someone wrong easily, but if they aren’t calm and collected enough to believe it, nothing has been accomplished. There are often too many voices in the fray for a direct response to really count.
Instead, look for something higher to write about. Does the current stir come from a deeper issue that no one is addressing? Is there a unique perspective that hasn’t been brought up yet? Write in a manner that affirms something positive rather than combating a different perspective if at all possible.
It’s good that Christians seek to be counter-cultural, but we often become so reactionary that the world picks our footing for us entirely. The same thing can happen in debates with other believers. (On a related note, check out Suzanne Hadley Gosselin’s awesome piece on “How to Fight Like a Christian.”)
3. Keep some things to yourself.
The best writers draw from a seemingly endless supply of personal anecdotes and wisdom. Being transparent is a powerful way to connect with audiences, but those who do it well typically have decades of life experience. For those of us who are young, there is a temptation to pull from every aspect of life in order to rival them. Don’t try too hard. You have to live your life well for your own sake before it’s of any value to share with others.
I went through a season where I was posting a lot of Scripture verses and other spiritual things related to my life on social media. Before long, I went from writing from an overflow of what God was showing me to mining Scripture for quotes I could share that sounded relevant to my world. I found a lot of good stuff, but it lacked the power to convict and shape my heart, and my character reflected it.
My devotional time with God is far more important to my spiritual health and ability to serve others in the long run than to my immediate writing career. Share when it feels appropriate and will help someone else, but don’t stifle the work of the Holy Spirit in your life by trying to live tweet the event.
Structured lists make the world manageable, but there really are few hard-and-fast rules when it comes to writing. God may call some of us to be the next brilliant satirists or theological ninjas, so things like this second point might apply differently. Whatever you end up doing, just remember that your heart matters and who you are as a person has a big impact on what you achieve in print. Seek God first, whatever the genre.
Michael Kreuz is a media production specialist, film and literature connoisseur, adventure-seeker, and Hillsdale College alum.
If you would like to contribute a post to the Boundless blog’s “Your Turn” Friday feature, see “Writers Wanted” for more details.