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The Top 5 Clichés Used by Christian Writers

The Top 5 Clichés Used by Christian Writers

by Mike Duran · 55 comments

Wblah-blah-blahhat’s the difference between “Christian writers” and every other kind of writer? For starters, they’re forever dragging God into the biz. And usually hanging the blame on Him, too. Like the person who believes God’s “called” them to write (#5), but not provided the schedule to do so. Because of the kids, their job, their health — whatever — they just can’t follow through. They’re “waiting on God” for the right timing. Listen, if God’s really  “called you to write,” He wants YOU to find the time to do so. Maybe you should stop “waiting on Him” and put your hand to the plow. That’s just one example of the unique, sometimes screwy approach that Christian novelists bring to their craft.

And there’s more where that came from.

Having frequented Christian writing circles for some time now, I’ve heard all the spiritualized slogans we believers like to regurgitate. Here’s my Top 5 clichés that Christian writers use.

5.) “God’s called me to write.”Funny how God never “calls” Christians to be sales assistants, lay reviewers, work in circulation, be an advertising manager, or write obituaries for the local newspaper. You’d think that writing novels was the top of the Christian publishing holiness hierarchy.

4.) “It just wasn’t God’s will that I… (fill in the blank).” “God’s will” is a favorite “out” for Christian writers. Most often, the saying is followed by things like “find an agent,” “sell a lot of books,” “finish the manuscript,” or “advertize aggressively.” Poor God. I wish He’d get His act together so your career can finally flourish.

3.) “Marketing is not my spiritual gift.”Then you might reconsider #5. Unless God’s also “gifted” you with spare change to hire publicists and marketing strategists, it’s best to assume that if God wants you to write novels, He also wants you to find readers. Funny how hard work can make up for the absence of “spiritual gifts.”

2.) “I want to glorify God in my writing.”Usually this is code for “clean,” alternative, G-rated fare containing redemptive resolutions, biblical references, salvation events, spiritual themes, or subliminal Bible messages imbedded in the story. The question I have is whether God is also “glorified” in a good, well-crafted story. If we can only “glorify God” by specifically writing about God, we reduce God-honoring lit to religious tracts.

1.) “I write for an audience of One.”Sounds great. But unless He’s also giving you direct revelations, critiquing your novels, correcting your grammar, dialog, characterization, and plot elements, and buying your books, all this means is that you never have to answer to anyone but yourself.

So there you have it! A quintet of cop-outs. My advice to Christian writers: Maybe it’s time to stop over-spiritualizing the craft and just start digging in. Anyway, can you think of some other overused Christian Writer’s Cliches?

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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Kessie December 27, 2012 at 8:09 AM

LOL!!! Preach it! I’ve heard most of those, and #1 has always bugged the heck out of me. But like most subjective, holier-than-thou statements, it’s hard to come up with a rebuttal. I’ll just link people to this post. :-D

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Steve Doyle December 27, 2012 at 8:30 AM

I heard a story about a “Christian Writer” responding to a rejection letter by basically telling the editor he/she was rejecting God because the story came from God.

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Mike Duran December 27, 2012 at 9:14 AM

Hah! That’s a good one. That’s as bad as saying that a publisher should buy your book because “God gave you the story.”

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Gloria Repp December 27, 2012 at 11:02 AM

When I was working as an editor in a Christian publishing house, I sometimes heard this one. It’s sad, because their stories were not stellar examples of the craft.

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sheilahollinghead December 27, 2012 at 8:33 AM

I’ve used variations of a few of these myself–such as #2. We want to glorify God with our lives and writing is part of that. But I see your point in that many people use these as copouts instead of doing the hard work.

Yep, writing is hard work–especially the marketing. As mature adults, we have to roll up our sleeves and get busy!

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Nikole Hahn December 27, 2012 at 8:53 AM

Here’s one: “If God wants to sell my novel, He’ll get it out there. I don’t believe in marketing.”

Heard that one recently and slapped my forehead. Now in my blog the other day I did write God has called me to write, but the difference is He has called me to write. He didn’t specify novels. He gave us writers the tools and we should use them.

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Mike Duran December 27, 2012 at 9:17 AM

For some reason, we Christians seem to think that the writing can be spiritual but the selling cannot. Still waiting for the writer to confidently announce, “God’s called me to publicize!”

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Jay DiNitto December 27, 2012 at 8:58 AM

“Writing for God” is convenient because it cures the writer of bad production values. It’s more self-medication than conviction or divine revelation, which is dangerously close to heresy.

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Jill December 27, 2012 at 10:27 AM

Okay, the marketing one is a ridiculous excuse for not learning a new skill set. However, I think you should give people a break on the others. This is a frustrating business with few rewards for all the hard work involved. From where I sit, it appears Christians are attempting to make sense of their perceived callings combined with their lack of successes. They’re attempting to shrug off their rejections by stating the obvious: obviously, it wasn’t God’s will if it didn’t happen. It wasn’t meant to be. Why should they get hung up on it? Why shouldn’t they just move on and accept that it wasn’t God’s will at that moment in time?

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Jill December 27, 2012 at 10:32 AM

I take that back–I don’t think you should give people breaks. But I should.

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Kat Heckenbach December 27, 2012 at 10:38 AM

Hm, I do think God calls writers to write, and sometimes He has a different time schedule than we do. The problem is this: Just because God called you to write doesn’t mean you’re going to sit down, be divinely inspired by a perfect manuscript, and then, poof, God will drag you down the path of success.

No, if God is calling you to anything, it’s going to be a process. Hard. Work. Maybe you aren’t “gifted” with the spiritual gift of marketing–so then God wants you to learn it on your own. Get out of your comfort zone. Silver in the fire, folks. It’s meant to change us, as people, as Christians. It’s meant to make *us* grow, not just use us as passive vessels or–or worse, pious ones.

And you’ve struck a nerve with me with the “it’s God’s will” thing. Yes, there have been times when I’ve had my hopes on something and it fell through, and I believed it was because God wanted me on a different path. Sure. But again, it’s not a passive thing. Maybe that agent or editor rejected my manuscript because it *wasn’t ready*, not just because it’s “God’s will.” Maybe it was God’s will for me to be *accepted* by that person, but I hadn’t worked hard enough. God doesn’t get everything He wants, ya know. If He did, the world wouldn’t be so full of….well, anyway. The point is, sometimes God plans something and we mess it up. Maybe He has a message to send through us–but if we don’t do our part, he’ll pick someone else to send it.

And the “audience of One” thing. It reminds me of “seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto it” (that’s from memory, don’t lash me for quoting it wrong please), but we ALSO have to keep in mind the parable of the talents. Burying them in the ground instead of using them doesn’t accomplish anything. If you write a novel with the expectation that God is going to the be only audience, then that’s prayer on paper. It has nothing to do with other people, and certainly doesn’t need a “message” or a conversion scene…God already knows the gospel.

Anyway, I’m not saying we shouldn’t write “for” God. That’s worship. And it CAN end up helping others. But if we’re praying on paper with the *preconceived expectation* that God will make sure it gets out to the world, then how is that putting God first?

(Oh, sigh. I should be finishing my own blog post, not commenting here right now :P. No offense, Mike! But why must you post about things that distract me? Mine’s a post about YA fiction, though, so you may want to read it when it’s up. I’m linking back to your post about the Monstrumologist and what makes a book YA. There, paybacks.)

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Kat Heckenbach December 27, 2012 at 1:52 PM

OK, I just read Jill’s comment, and I want to clarify that my comments are meant for a specific set of writers. Not that she was pointing fingers at me–as hers posted before mine. But I reread my own comment and don’t want any misunderstanding.

Not all writers are going to be huge successes even if truly called by God, despite hard work. I do think sometimes it’s merely the process God calls us to, not publishing success. Who I meant my comments for is the set of writers who won’t get critiqued, who won’t work on craft, who sit back and think it’s all going to magically happen because God called them to it. For the writers who just don’t get that they need to learn, to improve, to move forward. I have met writers like that, and it’s sometimes fear at the root of it–or denial–but at times it’s entitlement.

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Melissa Ortega December 27, 2012 at 2:17 PM

I know some writers like this – who feel they’ve been rejected for publication as a matter of persecution rather than poor writing execution.

I have also met writers who were rejected for good content and didn’t give up. The sales that followed once they were finally picked up validated them.

Then I’ve met writers whose books I wouldn’t have published and whose writing makes me cringe (both in the music and fiction world) and their books/songs break records and sell millions of copies for decades and decades. Other books/films/whatever initially bomb then are rebirthed into a different cultural context that embraces them long after their creator has passed away.

Then, I’ve met people who read some really tiny, self-published unheard of book at just the right moment in their life and were changed forever and went on to do great things as a result – all while the clunky, “insignficant” book fell out of print and into oblivion.

Go figure. God doesn’t always work by the rules.

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Patricia Zell December 28, 2012 at 12:01 PM

I’m the writer of one of those really tiny, self-published unheard of books who is hoping that people will read my book at just the right moments in their lives and will be changed forever and will go on to do great things as a result: God’s Absolute Love: Perfect, Complete, and Real

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Jill December 27, 2012 at 3:23 PM

Oh, I know there are people who are possessing of a magical belief structure. And there are people who aren’t willing to do the dirty work necessary to reach their goals, but I’m coming at this from the perspective of somebody on the other side of the fence from you and Mike (both of you are published). I’ve literally worked my tail off for 20+ years in my attempt to become a better writer and to make it in publishing. At times I’ve felt that God was my only advocate because I had nobody else, and not for a lack of trying. Because I know my lack of success isn’t owing to a lack of hard work, I’ve had to reassess. Perhaps it wasn’t/isn’t God’s will. In fact, I’ve given up writing fiction for the time being. But back when I was still in the thick of things, this list of cliches would have felt like a smack in the face–so I can’t get published, and, in addition, published authors are going to mock my faith in what I perceive to be my calling??

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sheilahollinghead December 27, 2012 at 4:42 PM

I agree, Jill.

All things come directly or indirectly from God. Having a desire to share stories is from God. God endows us with a measure of his creative nature.

Writing is different than other types of work. >>>Others are influenced by our words.<<<

When we bare our souls, we need all the support we can get.

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Kat Heckenbach December 27, 2012 at 6:45 PM

I have to say that *before* I was published those cliches got on my nerves. I felt they smacked my hard work in the face. Do I feel “called” to write? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I do know I *wanted* to be published so bad I could taste it and I was willing to work at it, to have my writing sliced and diced.

And now I am published. With a very small press. Is this God’s will? It wasn’t my *goal*. My goal was a big press. I spent years sending out query letters to agents and getting rejected. I have a binder filled with rejection letters. But leaning on “it’s God’s will” does not help me.

I think God let me go this route because I needed it. I needed a foundation of friends, I needed to learn, I needed a dose of reality. I needed all sorts of things. But it doesn’t change that my “call” is just as much my personal want…it doesn’t change that *I’ve* screwed up now and then and been lazy at times and those things aren’t God’s fault or His will…it doesn’t change that marketing is hard, hard, hard and there are days I hate it sosososososososo much….it doesn’t change that even with magic and cussing and mean girls and zombie dogs my writing does glorify God…and it also doesn’t change that putting Him first doesn’t mean I’m okay with the fact that I feel like I can count the number of my readers on my fingers and there are days that alone makes me question both my sanity and His.

Maybe this post is really hitting home with me. I’m looking at the end of 2012 and not seeing the goals I’ve set met. I’m STILL wanting that contract with a big press. I want the NYT bestseller list. And it’s not about ME–it’s about my writing. I want the stories I tell to make people swoon the way I swoon when I read Harry Potter and Incarceron and The Monstrumologist and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. But there are too many days when I can’t see it ever happening, when I’m overwhelmed with doubt, and when I think I’ve neglected my family for something God doesn’t want for me. The only conclusion I can come to is either I’m on the wrong path, or I am on the right one and *I’m* doing the wrong things.

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Jill December 27, 2012 at 9:11 PM

Kat, I apologize. I didn’t mean to imply that you weren’t struggling. Mike, I’m certain, also struggles. My original comment (the first one) was really meant to be a reminder that these “excuses” are often just last ditch hopes writers cling to when they’re disappointed. That’s why I relate to them–I haven’t even achieved publication by a small press. And, for me, it’s not about the writing. It IS about me and my search for meaning during this lifetime. I’m so sorry you’re hurting. I don’t know what else to say. I don’t pity you; I simply understand what you’re going through (I got in big trouble the last time I told somebody I was sorry for what he was going through because he thought I was pitying him). Being a writer is not the easiest profession out there.

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Kat Heckenbach December 27, 2012 at 9:44 PM

Oh, sheesh. I literally sat down to apologize to YOU, Jill, when I saw your reply here. No, I don’t take it as pity, at all, and I DO understand what you’re saying. I didn’t mean to jump down your throat. I’M sorry.

I don’t feel like I’m on the other side of the wall, though. I feel like I’m on the path toward it, but it’s looming, looming.

And I get writers holding on to those things. I so do. It’s hard to look at all you’re doing and seeing other people pass you by–some who “deserve” it and some who don’t. This whole business reeks of “unfair” and there are times when we just need something to explain why we’re not getting accepted, why our books aren’t selling, etc. I’ve looked at what I’m doing and wondered so often if maybe God is telling me it’s not my time, or it’s never going to be, that it was all just some personal growth lesson. If that’s the case, though, I probably failed.

Maybe it’s that the people using the cliches are using them AS cliches. Truly seeing that God led you to writing as a way for you to grow closer to Him is different than the attitude that usually goes with, “I write for an audience of One.” It comes across like, “My writing is more important than yours because I’m writing for God, and you’re just writing for yourself and your readers–or worse–fame.” Does that make sense? There’s always an implied inverse statement. “God called me to write”–>”He didn’t call you. You want this for selfish reasons.” / “I want to glorify God with my writing.”–>”You’re a sell-out.” / “It wasn’t God’s will….”–>”My big prize is around the corner. You had to work, I just have to wait.” (The marketing one….not so much. Although it has that kind of “sell-out” implication, too, as though authors who actively market are just out for the money.)

I think one thing that really makes this problem worse is that we see only the super-success stories, the rare overnight blockbusters, the end product but not the years of work and rejection that go behind most books. There are authors I found myself really jealous of until I found out how long it took them to land that sweet deal they have, or how different their circumstances are from mine. For some reason those excuses dissolve away when I see the evidence of real hard work behind someone’s success. Does God lead us? Yes. Does He sometimes make us wait? Of course. But we’re still part of it. We’re not passive in this, and the cliches to me imply passivity as a road God puts us on.

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C.L. Dyck December 28, 2012 at 1:20 AM

Dear Jill and Other Kat:

Hugs…you are both awesome.

And thank you for this.

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Kat Heckenbach December 28, 2012 at 7:37 AM

Thank you, Cat! You are awesome, too. And so is Jill :). I have the coolest friends.

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Mike Duran December 28, 2012 at 7:24 AM

Jill and Kat, I really appreciate your exchange. I want to make clear that I’m not trying to minimize God’s calling, wisdom, and guidance upon writers. I think God can and does call writers. Thing is, I think we throw that term around too easy and trivialize its meaning. I mean, why doesn’t God “call” people to more lowly positions? And is His calling guarantee of publishing success? This list is a somewhat satirical look at how, I think, we over-spiritualize the writing biz and process.

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Elaine Manders January 5, 2013 at 10:30 AM

The truth is God is not a respecter of persons. He gives talents to everyone and expects everyone to use them, whether Christian Writers or not. He may give you one talent or five. If you get a one level talent in writing, you may never get published, but you can still write plays for children’s Sunday School, and you may reap greater rewards for that than writing a best-seller. I think most people who use those cliches really want glory for themselves instead of God. You can be called to do a job, but the reward is in the doing, not the end result…at least it has been for me.

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Jill January 6, 2013 at 2:45 PM

Perhaps you don’t understand the concept of just weights.

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Rebecca LuElla Miller December 27, 2012 at 10:43 AM

From Samewise Gamgee to Farmair in The Two Towers:

It’s a pity that folk as talk about fighting the Enemy can’t let others do their bit in their own way without interfering. He’d be mighty pleased, if he could see you now. Think he’d got a new friend, he would.

Becky

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jed December 27, 2012 at 8:51 PM

Love this!

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Mike Duran December 28, 2012 at 7:26 AM

So I’m working for the “Enemy”? Hmm.

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Rebecca LuElla Miller December 28, 2012 at 10:19 AM

Mike, Sam said this to Faramir, and he was not an enemy or working for the enemy. But to Sam’s eyes, Faramir’s treatment of them–especially when he made it known he was leaning toward taking them back to Gondor rather than letting them continue on with their task–made him appear to be as good as helping the enemy.

I feel “writer bashing” is a discouragement, a delaying tactic, if you will, that can undermine what God is doing in and through someone else’s life and writing.

Becky

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D.M. Dutcher December 27, 2012 at 12:17 PM

I agree with you Mike, but writing a novel is a lot more personal than writing an obit or a lay review. Not many of those things involving putting your own hopes and dreams into it, or have such a level of self-investment. I’ve never seen anyone’s self-image threatened by the fact they write mediocre advertising copy for the local news, but when you realize your novel may not be any good that’s when the pain comes.

It’s natural to turn to God for consolation, but what you are pointing out is that it isn’t when you use Him as a source of denial. This is true, but it is a hard truth, and the dark side of the Protestant work ethic is failure. If work is a calling of God, what do we do when the work we love we can only be mediocre at or fail in?

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Patricia Zell December 28, 2012 at 12:31 PM

At that point in time, perhaps we should look beyond publishing as the goal. When I first started honing my writing skills in the late 1980′s, my purpose was to write a best-seller. Through the next 15 years or so, I plugged away and had a few paychecks, but no book and no bestseller. Then, in 2002, I was offered a position as a high school English teacher because of my writing (my degree had been in elementary education). After completing all the requirements to keep my job (there were a lot of them), I turned my attention back to writing a book which I self-published in April 2011. I didn’t get very far in the marketing because my husband’s health began failing and he passed away this past fall.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my book–I can see God’s purpose in me publishing it so that my husband could hold it in his hands and read it before he passed. He was the one who pushed me into writing. However, when I look at the world and all the loud voices that are hawking their wares and when I look at my measly strength and soft voice, I wonder how in the world will I ever be heard. Yet, I do believe that my book can change people’s lives. So, I’m waiting on direction from God. I can already count the benefits that writing and self-publishing my book have brought into my life, so if nothing else happens with it, I can still be content.

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Melissa Ortega December 27, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Hmmm. I can see how these things might be irritating, but I will say that I do think this is an oversimplification of these ideas/values. Just because something is repeated by folks often doesn’t mean its not true. That would make a lot of Scripture itself cliche.

It may seem to the person hearing it that “a call to write” sounds holier-than-thou, but so does saying God has called one to do anything which communicates His message – especially if you’re bad at it. However, it can sound equally holier-than-thou to hear the response “yeah, right” to this claim. Who are we to say a person’s commission is or isn’t from God? He does give them – even to crazy people, like fishermen and tax collectors.

As for #2, I would hesitate to ever make light of that. Code for “clean” is okay by my book, if it means that person feels completely convicted about writing certain things. I am not going to push them to do something contrary to what the Spirit may be directing them to do. Even if people don’t always know how to glorify God in what they do, I think that if that’s their primary drive, they’re going to make God smile a lot more than those of us who want to prove how smart and hip we are so that people will start thinking better of Jesus for hanging out with cool cats like us.

God’s Spiritual guidance is going to sound cheesy and ridiculous to the rest of the world no matter the phraseology, but He’s not interested in using the wise things of the world to confound anyway – His style is to use the foolish.

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Mike Duran December 28, 2012 at 7:42 AM

“I do think this is an oversimplification of these ideas/values.”

Melissa, it is! Please don’t mistake this for a theological expose. It was intended as a light-hearted semi-comedic look at ways Christians cavalierly import Christianese into their writing pursuits.

Re: Glorifying God in our writing — I’m not opposed to clean, hope-filled, evangelistic fiction. I’m opposed to the idea that that’s the only kind of fiction that glorifies God. Christians are supposed to do “everything” to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31). This involves A LOT more than the types of stories we write.

For most Christian writers, glorifying God is all about their message. Which leads me to ask: Can only writers of explicit “Christian content” glorify God in their writing?

    IF NOT — if only Christian writers can glorify God in Christian stories — then how can a Christian ever hope to “do all to the glory of God”?

    IF SO — if Christians can glorify God in whatever kind of story they write (or task, service, job they perform) — then how is glorifying God in a Christian story any different than glorifying God in a “secular” story?

All that to say, once again, I believe Christian writers throw the “I write to glorify God” card around way too lightly.

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C.L. Dyck December 27, 2012 at 2:10 PM

I think we forget too easily that writing is a spiritual discipline. It’s the exercise of morality, logic, perspective, truth values, and creative expression.

The secular writing world does acknowledge this spiritual component, though differently–and to the extent it doesn’t recognize it, that doesn’t mean Christians are wrong for not following the rest of the world’s viewpoint.

“Funny how God never “calls” Christians to be sales assistants, lay reviewers, work in circulation, be an advertising manager, or write obituaries for the local newspaper.”

I don’t think this tracks at all. I know far too many people who’ve devoted significant amounts of their time in publishing to these very things, or to the “mundane” tasks of church newsletters and communications. One of our local newspapers is managed by a Christian friend of mine, for that matter, and the regional boss and a number of the local staff in other towns are also Christians. But you’re right, their work is worthy, and very possibly of more lasting service than a multiplicity of vague aspirations to noveldom.

Perhaps the complaint is more like the one that persists in all areas of publishing: There are a lot of wannabe novelists who regard “writing a book” as the ultimate, for whatever reason (too often it seems to come down to ego or flights of fancy). But they don’t really mean publishing a book successfully. They haven’t thought it through in a businesslike way.

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Jon Mast December 28, 2012 at 7:02 AM

“I don’t think this tracks at all. I know far too many people who’ve devoted significant amounts of their time in publishing to these very things, or to the “mundane” tasks of church newsletters and communications.”

Agreed. I know plenty of people who understand that what they do, they do to the glory of God. A man in my congregation designs a new service booklet every week. He can’t write the words — that’s not his skill, at least for now — but you give him the text, and he will make an attractive design that fits the theme. And that’s his calling. He’s great at it, and he’s content to have his designs be used at a small church that only fifty people will see any given week.

It gets to the old lie that one job is more highly valued than another by God. The butcher, the book seller, and the ballerina can all perform their vocations to God’s glory, and he’s pleased with each. When we stop putting them into some sort of hierarchy that pleases our egos, we’ll be far more content in our own lives — as well as more free to pursue our own dreams.

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Iola December 27, 2012 at 3:11 PM

#6: This is the story God called me to write

(So if the reader says they don’t like the plot/characters, the reader is obviously not in a right relationship with God).

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C.L. Dyck December 28, 2012 at 12:43 AM

If it doesn’t connect with readers, one has to wonder how God *didn’t* also call the writer to listening to feedback, and subsequent revision and self-editing. ;)

Honestly, I recall a keynote at a conference put on years ago by one of the two top Canadian Christian writing guilds, and the speaker’s words really sat poorly with me. She basically said writing is like some kind of subsidiary divine revelation, where God makes the writing happen and we’re speaking His words to the world. I thought that was maybe not the best thing to say to aspiring writers.

Writing as prayer, that I can see. But with the caveat that “we do not know how to pray as we should.”

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D.M. Dutcher December 29, 2012 at 1:51 PM

Not every failure to connect with readers is due to technique. If we’re going to talk about the business side here, we need to talk about that side’s effects on what gets published. There’s an awful lot of blame the writer here, and a tacit assumption that everyone who doesn’t get published or successful suffers from horrible technique. That always isn’t the case.

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Guy Stewart December 27, 2012 at 5:01 PM

When I need new ones, I always go here:

http://slushpilehell.tumblr.com/

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Jessica Thomas December 27, 2012 at 7:13 PM

Love this. I needed a laugh. Thanks for sharing the link.

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Guy Stewart December 27, 2012 at 9:05 PM

You’re welcome! I go there when I need to laugh. At myself, mostly!

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Jon Mast December 28, 2012 at 7:04 AM

Another thanks for sharing — this is hilarious!

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jed December 27, 2012 at 8:45 PM

It is also cliché for writers to write about writing; and yet they persist. It reminds me of movies about movie makers making movies, or novels that have a “writer” as the protag (how original). It can be done, and it can be done well, but how often is that really the case? That is the question.

And if you are following your own path which is personally fulfilling, do you really care if a critic considers it to be no more than a sad cliché?

We have identified not merely a set of clichés, so much as a set of what are clearly “defense mechanisms” possessed by {unsuccessful} writers who are Christian…

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Jenni Noordhoek December 27, 2012 at 9:20 PM

I have gotten a lot of these types on the Christian filmmaking forum I frequent. It always frustrated me because it would often be accompanied by poor punctuation/spelling/capitalization – basic high school English grammar – and the person never wanted any real help with their work. Just expected that now that they wrote a screenplay, then the Christian filmmaking world would flock in to produce it without costing them a cent… (Why no, people don’t like to work for free! Isn’t it funny how people have to feed their families?)

So I swore I’d never say that “God told me to write this” or any of those other statements because of the people I’d run into who used those statements.

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Lara Van Hulzen December 27, 2012 at 10:29 PM

Love this! I avoided for years the thought of writing for Christian publishing/audience but over time realized its just where I want/need to be. And yet I’m still trying to figure out how to navigate the waters. It’s a business and yet so many want to spiritualized it. It’s a tough balance.

My favorite is when people say, “Everyone is a writer. If God’s called you to do it, you can.” Now, I’m not saying someone who feels called by God to write, can’t. But I’ll be honest, it rubs me wrong since I spent four years in college getting a journalism degree and countless hours and money since then learning and trying to improve my craft. Being a writer isn’t just a calling, it’s how I’m wired. I can’t imagine an existence without writing. So no, I don’t believe every single person in the world can wake up one morning and just decide to be a writer. It makes me feel that my craft has been reduced to a hobby one can pick up like knitting. And beyond working at bettering my work, to get published in this business is tough and it takes hard work and networking and understanding the business. It’s not something I do for the heck of it on the weekends.

As far as Gods timing, I believe His hand is completely in it when things happen in this business. However, I have to take an honest look at the rejection letters and feedback I get and be open minded enough to learn from them and continue to move forward and improve, always learning and continuing to work hard.

Having said that, I do think you’ve hit on the major cliches that are used and in my opinion, are truly annoying.

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Jon Mast December 28, 2012 at 7:11 AM

I think some writers forget: you might be called to write… but that doesn’t mean that others have been called to read your work.

So I’ve written a novel. That’s nice. I learned a lot in writing it. Doesn’t mean it’s going to get published. I learned. As several up there noted, it’s part of a process. The novel went through approximately a gazillion revisions, and now I’ve set it aside. Learning on that manuscript done; time to learn on a new one.

Sometimes your writing is just for you… which also means that, well, it’s for you, not for anyone else to read. Like Mike said, if you’re writing for an audience of one, why would you expect anyone else to read it?

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Ed VanDeMark December 28, 2012 at 11:11 AM

You got me with your marketing dig. I do hate the marketing process.

The word “Just” not as in Justice but rather in Limiting shows up in many prayers. “Lord please just heal her.” Suppose God wants to do way more than simply heal her. “Lord please just find me an agent or a publisher.”

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Brandy Heineman December 28, 2012 at 12:06 PM

I think “God’s called me to write” and “I want to glorify God with my writing” are basic, fundamental realizations a person must have in order to commit to picking up his/her cross and following Jesus down the writing road. Yes, “wasn’t His will” and “audience of One” can come off sounding like spiritualizing disappointments, particularly as you point out when the writer hasn’t put the time in. However, they are also ways of acknowledging God even when we don’t understand what He’s doing, or perhaps backing off an earlier assertion that God was blessing something that didn’t turn out, except in the “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” sense. There’s that about being called again.

Speaking just for myself, when I’m struggling with WHAT He’s called me to write and HOW my writing should glorify Him, I often revisit the moment when He spoke to me clearly and remind myself of what He said. Back to basics, I guess.

Thanks for your always thought-provoking posts, Mike. I know this was meant for a bit of fun, but it really got me thinking about whether some of those clichés are actually stages in a growth process… and if so, what the next stage looks/sounds like. Have a happy New Year!

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Julie Coleman December 28, 2012 at 9:55 PM

Marketing seems to be counter-intuitive at times for the Christian, because it can feel like we are essentially promoting ourselves or our writing. I had to get past that one.

How I now view it: God gave me a message. I worked hard to present the message in the most effective way possible. Now the book is being published. If the truths in my book are from God, there is power in that truth, and I want it to get into as many hands to affect as many live as possible. So I market. I hate marketing. But it is a necessary component if you want people to actually read what you wrote. If it’s worth reading, it’s worth the effort to market it.

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Keith December 29, 2012 at 10:57 AM

God may have indeed called someone to write, but that doesn’t mean that He intends for the process to be easy or failure free. The Bible is full of examples of individuals called by God who experienced great difficulties and setbacks in following their callings. As one example, David was annointed to be king and then spent years as a fugitive before ascending the throne.

Number 2 is the above list is why I don’t read Christian fiction. Most fiction (and movies) I’ve encountered marketed as “Christian” seem to be more about a message than a story. I maintain that message is fine as long as it’s secondary to story. Unfortunately, most authors of Christian fiction seem to be using their fiction as a vehicle to preach a sermon. If I want a sermon, I’ll read a nonfiction book. (For the record, I regularly read Christian nonfiction.)

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Dan December 29, 2012 at 12:54 PM

When they say “God has called me to write,” often what they mean is, “God has called me to be a writer. A successful, famous writer.” It’s like my friend who came out to North Dakota to work in the oil fields. “If God wants me to have a job out here, He’ll provide it.” No, if you want to have a job out here, you live in car in the winter, turn in dozens of applications, get completely ignored, talk to every person you can about job opportunities, get ignored some more, take a job at Walmart, then get an entry level position for less money than you wanted and work overnight in -20 and 30 mph wind. Then things begin to improve.

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Lyn Perry December 31, 2012 at 3:40 PM

These actually aren’t too different than secular reasons for giving up: It wasn’t meant to be. I have a purpose, I just may not see it fulfilled. The market is already flooded with… Readers are stupid and don’t recognize my genius. Etc. We sanitize these same excuses with godtalk, but it’s human nature to offer them, I suppose.

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Larry W. Timm January 5, 2013 at 9:17 AM

Thanks, Mike. This is a list that every Christian writer needs to keep in mind.

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Melissa Kirk January 5, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Glorifying God was revealed to me through inspirational fiction a number of years ago when I was very ill and could do nothing but read – 20 – 30 books a month! I thank each writer that allowed God’s renewing power to be revealed through their work. During that time I couldn’t vision doing what God had asked me to do before I became sick – which was to write. I was in sales at the time and who has time to write while doing that, right? I believe we are called by God to do laundry – if it keeps clean clothes on a child. Or offer encouraging words in someone’s darkest hour. Or listen to someone rant because we are the only person they have who will listen. Being called and working seem very much the same to me now. I’m not sure if God’s timing for me to write was now – or if it was while I was in sales. I mean, if He called me and I thought I was too busy…did He put me in bed so I would sit up and pay attention? I guess my thought is that no matter what you are doing, keep tuned in to God.

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