Being a Writer I work,


Being a Writer

I work, after a fashion, as a writer--although that is not my title. However, I have always been a writer. There are a number of us blogging--people who write, not because they like to, but because NOT writing simply isn't a possibility. Even if we were not composing weblogs, we would be writing something. Some of us have shelves full of notebooks that consist of sketches, stories, poems, and writing from all times and ages. Some of us are actually published--some of us aspire to be published in a way that actually brings in some money. But there are several, perhaps many writers in the community.

One of the most difficult aspects of being a writer is the need to serve as your own agent for a while--the need to put forth your work. To some extent the artists of visual media have an easier time of it. You might have difficulty getting a gallery showing, but once there, people can see the merits of the work. A writer's work is a good deal more difficult to evaluate. It is an art-form that is not readily reduced to the level of visual impact, liking or disliking. As a result, relatively few writers are published. Those that are usually have a proven track record. A track record that often, as the writing continues, develops into a self-indulgent oeuvre that editors fear to touch. And there is another problem--it seems that the current crop of editors and copy editors needs some work. So much homage is paid the almighty dollar, that the most excessively self-indulgent whims of a Stephen King, or a Stephen Jay Gould are indulged in order to put the work before the public.

Sturgeon's law notes that 90% of everything is rubbish. That includes much of the writing that is in the world at large. I go to a bookstore crammed full of new releases and find vanishingly few that are really worthy of the attention that they are getting. But worse than this--I pay far more attention to these things than they are really worth. How is what I am reading affecting my relationship with God. Many of us excuse some of the most deplorable habits in reading and in viewing popular culture with the excuse that it is merely entertainment--we can't be "on" twenty-four hours a day. And I think it is in that that we err. The Saints had their recreations and without doubt did their share of reading. St Teresa of Avila even confessed to having a fondness for the courtly "novels" of her day. A fact that she rued because it took time away from what she should have been focusing on.

As a writer, I am concerned about contributing to this vast deluge of dreck. I am concerned, but not overmuch. Part of our mission is to bring Christian concerns into real writing and to bring Christ to the masses. Now, much of this is done in such an enormously heavy-handed way that no one in their right minds would consider for a moment taking any of it seriously. For those who have not yet indulged themselves, glance at the hideous prose and endless religious hammering of the Left Behind series, a series guaranteed to alienate you from Jesus if you believe that this is the kind of art and entertainment that must extol Him. We have lost a sense of the Christian novel, precisely because culturally we have lost a sense of what it means to be "in the world but not of the world." I read the "Christian" novels of John Updike and I am left wondering--what manner of Jesus does he believe in? Where is the Christian worldview that permeates each of his works (supposedly). My conclusion is merely that he represents the New York Review of Books and New York Times view of acceptable, liberal Christianity.

Those of us who write need to make our voices heard after the fashion of Flannery O'Connor, and Walker Percy. We need to reconstruct truly Christian novels with Christian themes that give the reader a glimpse of the majesty of Jesus, not those that drub the reader about the head and shoulders with characters that drip piety and act like everyone else in the world around them. The Christian novel used to be the norm--it was the understood understructure of every piece of writing because it was the understood platform that held up the entire western world. Not so any more. Faith itself is practically a vanished commodity. Where is does appear, it is often an enemy or an agent of intolerance and misunderstanding.

What Christian writers need to do is first to live fundamentally Christian lives, steeped in an understanding of what that really means. While we can be aware of popular culture, it is probably salutary not to indulge in much of it. We need to understand what makes great writing and what persuades people. Finally, we need to make the reality of Jesus Christ known to people. The reality that penetrates a life in Christ should be translated to the page and made real for the reader. Augusta Trobaugh comes to mind as someone whose novels are permeated with faith, belief, and the Christian Ethos, but who doesn't feel the need to have someone falling on their knees every two pages and uttering a long, rambling, and largely idiotic prayer to Jesus in Mars' drag. The reality of a faith-life is that we do not fall down on our knees every forty-five minutes (though perhaps we would be better off for doing so) and yet we can carry on a conversation and a communion with God on a fairly constant basis.

We have a number of writers here, and I (to my great shame) have not yet read much of the work. (Don't do much in the way of internet commerce since two of my friends had their entire bank accounts wiped out for a couple of months thanks to internet transactions). That is a next step. Ms. Lively ran an excellent Catholic Writing discussion group over at Yahoo in days of yore, and now maintains her own blog and a number of other sites centered around Christian and specifically Catholic writing. Those who are seriously considering Christian and Catholic Fiction writing would do well to check out some of these sites and works. Those looking to apologetics would do well to check out the finest in apologetic writing because you cannot write what you do not love. If you aren't a "fan" of serious Christian writing, you should not consider trying to write for others. If you do not care for the great classics of the faith and for the serious writing of the present day then it would do writing a better service to find a field that you do care for and work it as carefully and as exactingly as possible. We do no credit to Jesus when we write reams of junk prose extolling His virtues. Christian Writing is doubly exacting because it calls us to both the highest standards of writing and the highest standards of living. Our writing can only reflect our living--we rarely rise above ourselves--we must be lifted up and it is far better for this to happen through the Holy Spirit than through the Aesthetic spirit.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 8, 2003 8:21 AM.

People of the Worst Case was the previous entry in this blog.

Urgent and Ongoing Prayers Needed is the next entry in this blog.

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