Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Knowing Who I Write For Matters More than what the Market Believes My work is worth
I just returned from the first day of the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference. In recent months since my return from the Mount Hermon Writers’ Conference, I’ve found myself thinking long and hard about where my writing belongs, a thought that was further explored by something I read on the Steve Laube blog this afternoon. The timing couldn’t be better than that.
A list of discoveries that may be found while attending a writers’ conference was presented in bullet form, such as:
- I missed my targeted market.
- I don’t know the market well enough to present my work yet.
- My platform isn’t nearly as strong as I believed it to be.
- The book’s slant is wrong for the market.
- I wrote too much “Christianese” for the market.
- The Christian worldview isn’t strong enough in my work.
- I don’t want to write for this market after all.
Writers are all familiar with rejection, as it tends to happen often in an industry saturated with creatives of various interests and desires.
Somehow, though, whenever I’d think about rejection as a writer, it was always as the recipient of rejection (from literary journal editors, etc.) not as the one who rejects.
Let me explain.
As I sit through workshop after workshop during conferences, read blog posts from industry professionals, and toil over revisions, I examine the purpose of my writing and the market in which it finds itself.
All my work—fiction, essays, reviews, interviews, short memoir—have been published in the general market. Recently, however, one anthology published a short work I produced after a call for submissions was released. It was accepted a day or two later by the editor and now my name is in print amongst a delightful company of Christian writers, some of which I’ve met.
So when I contemplate the bullet list above, I have to ask myself the very questions that the industry demands answers to. I cannot simply say I am a Christian who writes. I need to say I am a writer who writes Christian fiction, and the definition of Christian fiction has no standard, it seems, from what I’ve come to learn; meaning, what I would perceive as non-Christian (horror, speculative, sci-fi) is packaged into the tomes of Christian literature. I don’t know what vexes me more. This realization, or whether I am being provoked to find a place for myself and my writing in a dubious arena.
You see, I understand the general market is seeking more value-driven works; therefore it’s safe to say that those readers are more value-driven.
I also understand there are a handful of Christian writers who are genuinely principled in their craft and message, who desire to penetrate the culture with their art, who want to look beyond their peer group, their church family, their brethren as their audience.
But as I listened to cases for why Christians could shine a light in the world with their art, I couldn’t help but ask: how do you reconcile being a light in this world with being separate, that is, not of this world? How is it possible for Christian writers to use the devices of the enemy while projecting a light?
We’re reminded of Elijah and how he served God when it was unpopular (sound familiar?) Many of the Israelites had abandoned God and turned to idols. But even amid that saturation, God had a remnant of faithful people, seven thousand strong (1 Kings 19:9-18).
I am comforted by this thought: when everyone else seems to be turning to strange idols, there is a remnant that the Lord has not forgotten.
Remaining faithful to Him in all we do will have eternal value, whereas what the world offers the Christian writer by compromising the faith via pragmatic approaches to sharing the gospel or by using counterfeit vehicles of deception to attract an audience, will fail. It fails because it doesn’t point to God.
Ultimately, we will give an account to the Lord for what we communicate, for the way our message is clothed, and for the vehicle or device in which it is transferred.
As writers, we want to convey a complete story but that story need not be sacrificed for the benefit of appealing to readers with devices that only confuse the holiness of God. Christ in his parables didn’t go into extremely dark themes to make a point. Likewise, we need to ask ourselves this:
How does one walk into the dark expecting to find a light in there to shine the way?
We walk into the dark fully equipped with our light in hand.
For more takeaways from the SoCalCWC17 conference: