Conclusion

Writing as a spiritual discipline is not as commonly practiced as singing but can sing his song nonetheless. So go out and write, your story, the story of others around you, His Grand Narrative. Create like our Creator. Take joy in the lyric beauty of language and the marks words can print on our souls.

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If you’d like to learn more about Writing as Worship, I have a few suggestions for further reading, many of which Bryan and I used as source materials for our posts:

Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer
Music Through the Eyes of Faith by Harold Best
The Liberated Imagination by Leland Ryken
Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin
Making Manifest by Dave Harrity
A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

and don’t forget, the links to all of the posts from this series can be found here:

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Thank you for following along and learning more about what it is to write as a spiritual discipline. I hope that these posts this month have helped you to draw closer to Him.

Why Do We Create?

The question is simple enough.  What drives us to create?  Creativity is one of the defining attributes that make us human.  But where does it come from?

I believe creativity is seeded in the soul, just like thought is seeded in the mind and physical interaction is seeded in the body.  We cannot survive with thought or physical interaction, and I believe we cannot truly survive without creativity either.

More than that, though, we create because God has created us to create.  Creativity is a gift and duty given to us by God.  One of the first things Adam did was name the animals.  God gave Adam this duty and gave him the ability to accomplish the task.

Even more than that, we create because we are made in the image of the Creator.  God gave us the gift of creativity because He made us to strive to be like Him.  This is really the driving factor for everything we do apart from sin; we do things because God first did them, and the first thing recorded that God ever did was create.
When we worship God through creating, whether it be painting, sculpting, songwriting, poetry, or even writing a research paper with excellence, God’s glory is reflected in the beauty of the creation.  When we create, God is made big, and we delight in bringing Him His glory.

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Niche or Not

So, at the end of this series on writing as a spiritual discipline, as worship, I have touched on publication—when we should send our work out, when we should keep it for ourselves. I think that either way can be a good thing—just in writing it, you have worshipped. But, in sending it out, you can edify other Christians and shine a light for unbelievers, so that is a good thing too.

Once you have decided to send out your work, then comes more questions: where to send those poems, those stories, those songs? Do you send them to the Christian markets—because there is a Christian set-aside version of everything in the arts it seems—or do you send it out into the snarly unpredictable SECULAR (are old ladies fainting yet?) world.download

I would argue to send your work to both, but to favor “secular” magazines/presses. As I said earlier, your work can encourage other believers and bear witness to unbelievers, so it makes sense that you should send your work to magazines that are read by both believers (maybe) and unbelievers (definitely).

Another argument : pursuing publication is part of pursuing excellence in your field—and, sadly, small niche markets are often where subpar work can get published just because it fits the theme (not only in Christian markets—any magazine or press with an agenda, whether its political or religious or something else).

I love it when I publish in a literary magazine and see my little poem in there with all these perspectives—atheism, Buddhism, spiritual whatever-is-good-for-you-ism—and then the reader reads (or maybe skips over—hopefully they read it!) my poem, written while worshipping my Creator. And maybe something happens and maybe it doesn’t, but in their reading I’ve born witness, and we’re called to that, Christians.

There are so many resources when it comes to getting into publishing, but a good place to start is Newpages.com for literary markets, reviews, and calls for submissions, and The Review Review for more of that Plus publishing tips.

You might write the occasional piece that you think would be more fitting for a Christian audience. Maybe a creative nonfiction testimony or a biblical retelling, maybe you wrote a spiritual memoir. If that is the case, there are also some Christian magazines in the literary community:

Christian Literary Magazines

Christianity and Literature
Image
Relief Journal
Ruminate
Windhover

(if you know of more, please comment below so I can add them to my list!)

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Five Minute Free-Write: In place of writing today, send your work out to one of the literary magazines listed above or to a secular magazine.

Why Christians Should Publish

Your name in print. Every writer wants it at some point—the title of some story or poem, your name beside it, printed in black-and-white in the table of contents. Or, better yet, along the spine of a book, alphabetized in Barnes and Noble, alongside the greats.

Yesterday I wrote about when Christians shouldn’t publish and today I will write about when they should. I believe that

  1. a Christian writer submitting their work for publication is part of the pursuit of excellence in writing as an art form

  2. Published work by Christians can edify other Christians

  3. Published work by Christians can bear witness of God’s grace to unbelievers

I also know, from my own experience, that you have to keep a finger on the pulse of your heart motivations when it comes to publication. And when you are seeking publication because you need approval of anonymous editors more than approval from the God of the universe—stop submitting. When you need your name printed next to the names of Big-Name Poet and Best-Ever Poetess—stop submitting (at least for a time).

But when that isn’t an issue, then stuff those poems into envelopes, those short stories into emails! Query the editor! Enter that contest! Because the world of creative writing is a dark place, a misunderstood and maybe avoided place by many Christians, and could use a douse of fresh air and light.

And, before you even ask—don’t worry about the rejections, the inevitable, happens-to-everyone, rejections. God is your first reader, and he will use your words as he sees fit.

31  Days

Five Minute Free-Write: Revise 2 – 4 stories or poems that you’ve written this month—get ready. Tomorrow you are sending them out!

Have you ever sent your creative work to editors? Why or why not?

 

 

Why Christians Shouldn’t Publish

For years, I validated the worth of my writing through publication. I was lucky (or not so, some would say), publishing my work early on in my writing, a couple years after my first creative writing class.

This probably was good for me in some ways—gave me confidence to keep writing, to pursue the MFA that led to the great job I have now, gave me the ambition to keep publishing, to work on a book.

But it was bad for me in some ways too. I’m a first-born bent on winning that stamp of approval from authority figures, and a publication got me all sorts of stamps of approval—from professors, parents, other writers, the faceless literary magazine editors I emailed my poems to with such high hopes.

It perpetuated that lie that a lot of first-born daughters carry close to their heart—I must perform correctly to be loved.

So when I found this wonderful thing, publication, that could give me approval and love and meaning, I went after it with ambition and all I could. Even though in some part of me I knew it was a lie, what my head told me contradicted my heart and my actions—I had to have those publications. I had to keep writing.

The day after Keeping Me Still was accepted for publication, I happened to be having lunch with a poet who was visiting campus for a reading, Todd Davis. We chatted about our work, and the business of poetry, and he told me “I used to be thrilled with publications. But now when I get them, I don’t feel anything at all. it’s good for professional development and to get the work out there, but I don’t need the publication.”

I thought about that for a long time. Could I get an acceptance from Agni or The Paris Review and not have a complete Hurrah-For-Me party ? I just couldn’t imagine getting an acceptance and not feeling anything about it.

Which probably means that publication was an idol. That, deeper still, Acceptance was what I craved. More than anything…more than God.

It took getting a book out for me to learn that publication doesn’t matter. The why of writing outweighs what I do with it.

Tomorrow: Why Christians Should Publish

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Is My Writing “Christian” Enough?

by Bryan J. Emerson

This is a common question, but it stems from many misconceptions about the definition of the word “Christian” and a lack of the full understanding of the Christian Worldview.

downloadFirst and foremost, the word “Christian” is and has always been a noun.  I am a Christian.  “Christlike” is an adjective.  I do not act “Christian”, I act “Christlike” because I am a “Christian”.  Secondly, what makes someone a Christian is the grace of God redeeming them out of their sins through the salvific work of Christ on the cross and through that person’s faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

All that said, I cannot write anything that is “Christian”.  What I can do is write as a Christian.  As a Christian, I write from the experience of one who has been created in the image of God, fallen from communion with God, has been redeemed by the grace of God, and is being restored to my proper place in the Kingdom of God.  My writing, therefore, needs to reflect these qualities; but it does not need to reflect each at all times.

Another common misconception about a Christian’s writing is that it always need to include the Plan of Salvation.  While presenting the Gospel is of utmost importance, the Gospel cannot be reduced to the Roman’s Road.  We call the Gospel the Good News, but as my pastor always says, “The Good News is the ‘Good’ News because there is a Bad News.  Without the Bad News, the Good News is merely the News.”

In other words, it is perfectly fine, and often extremely appropriate to write about struggle.  We all struggle, and to hide that from one another to put on the very dangerous mask that we are without sin.  The book of 1 John warns against people who wear this mask, so with our writing, it is important to include the struggle of our fall, and slow road to restoration, not *just* the joy of salvation (though, yes *do* write about the joy of salvation).

So, getting back to the question at hand (and setting semantics aside for just a second): What makes my writing “Christian”?  Hope.  For I once was lost, but now I’m found; I was blind, but now I see.

31  DaysFive Minute Free-Write: Have you ever struggled with wondering if your work was “Christian” enough? Why or Why Not?

Making Time To Write (As a Mom), Part 2

To continue from yesterday, on finding time to write in our busy, busy lives… well, I find that really everyone is pretty busy—I don’t meet many who say they are bored—and the best way I’ve found to make time is twofold:

1. Scheduling

Every other week, I choose a day that is typically slower with grading, and put “write” on my to-do list. It isn’t the only thing on my list, not by far (I will not show you my list—it is overcrowded and it makes me look crazy)—but having it on my list reminds me that when I do have some alone time in the evening, that I must dedicate the first thirty minutes of it to writing.

Sometimes I run over that thirty minutes, writing poetry in a mad-dash, sometimes I just read poetry and take notes. Either way, I find this fairly productive, and it’s much easier to accomplish then doing a for-real “artist date”, where I must leave the house and everything. I consider this the “work-out video” equivalent of writing time—maybe not quite as awesome as a five-mile run (equivalent to the writing residency?) but a workout nonetheless.

2. Gap Times

If you really pay attention to it, most of you, no matter how busy, will find that you have tiny three and five minute gaps in your day where you could possibly fit writing in, if only to jo down an idea, image, phrase.

Some of the best gap times for me are while the girls are eating breakfast, absorbed in playing with each other but also not hitting or fighting with each other (three minute segments, here and there), while I’m cooking dinner, and while I’m driving to work (just kidding on the last one, ha). I try to keep a notebook and pen handy at all times—I’ve been doing that since my first creative writing class, and it’s a habit I plan on keeping my entire life.

Also, pay attention to where you are wasting time. I rarely watch TV or spend time on the internet, aside from work, so that frees up a lot of time for me. I also don’t fold clothes very efficiently, iron EVER, pre-rinse the dishes as well as my husband does, or make my own bread from scratch—I’m ok with that.

Figure out what you are OK with cutting from or cutting back on in your schedule—you may have time for writing that you didn’t realize you had, if you make writing more of a priority.

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So that’s my secret, how I make time for writing. Using those methods, I typically write two to three poems a month, though my “goal”, if I have one at all, is only 1 poem every two months. I write less and have less time for it, but I use my writing time much more efficiently—when I sit down to write, I WRITE!

I hope that some of these tips will give you ideas so that you can do the same!

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What are your time limitations? What are some activities you could cut back on to make room for writing?