And neither should Christian writers. Ours is a message of hope, of reconciliation, of forgiveness. True art will communicate that without preaching. Give the reader credit. Tell a story and assume he gets it.
If the Left Behind books, The Prayer of Jabez, The Purpose-Driven Life, and others have awakened the general market to the vast potential of inspirational titles, the horizon has been broadened for us all.
The toughest challenge for any artist, any creator, is to resist the urge to show off. Our name will be on the cover, after all, and we’d love to remind the reader with a turn of phrase or a choice word that yes, I’m the one fashioning this message.
Art trumps self
But the best writers, like the best composers and painters, know that it is not about them. It is about the art, the content—and anything that interferes with the connection between that and the viewer, listener, or reader is an interruption.
If your reader is aware of your technique, he may miss your message. If the pianist dazzles his audience with technique, the purpose of the composer may be compromised. If the appreciator of art becomes aware of the brushstrokes, the artist may lose his ability to reach the soul through the meat of his message.
A true classic transports you. You’re unaware of the performance and the performer, the author and his technique. As creators, that should be our goal. Not to write classics. That’s not up to us. The market will decide that. But to get out of the way so the heart of the message reaches the soul of the reader.
Accomplish this by writing clearly and concisely, enticing your readers and guiding them to the core of your work. Use words they will understand rather than ones that will make them wonder. Get out of the way of your art.
Jerry B. Jenkins is author of more than 175 books, with sales of more than 70 million copies, including the best-selling Left Behind series.
Twenty of his books have reached the New York Times best-seller list (seven in the number-one spot). In 2011 he released the first in a trilogy of police novels set in Chicago, The Brotherhood. The second in the series, The Betrayal, released this month. Jerry also owns the Christian Writers Guild, which trains writers through courses, conferences, contests, critiques, and community. Visit him online.