Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Top 5 Clichés Used by Christian Writers

blah-blah-blah Did you hear about the Christian writer who responded to a rejection letter by telling the editor she was "rejecting God" because the story "came from God"?

Welcome to the world of Christian writers.

So what’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" (another Christian cliché). Listen, if God’s really  “called you to write,” He wants YOU to find the time to do so. He "called" Abraham but didn't do the walking for him. Maybe you should stop “waiting on God” and put one foot in front of the other. That’s just one example of the unique, sometimes screwy approach that Christian novelists bring to their craft.

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? 


* * *

Mike Duran is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike's novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly released short story anthology Subterranea  You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.

20 comments:

angchronicles said...

This is great. I don't have many Christian writer friends, so this is hilarious. And at the same time, you have pinpointed why I think one of my stories is most rejected. Possibly, the middle section reads like a religious tract. At a writer's group, one of the readers said, hmm this sounds religious. We were on page 75 of the novel.

Ron Estrada said...

I think you've covered 'em. However, I did put my writing on hold because I thought we were just too close to Christ's return to bother any more. When you start using the Rapture as your excuse for laziness, you've hit bottom.

Wendy Reis said...

As an editor who is also a Christian (not all of my clients are) I never expected to run into these clichés, but alas, I have. I have even been asked to edit a manuscript without pay because apparently I owed it to God. I pay bills in the real world. We are a fun bunch, aren't we?

Ane Mulligan said...

The sad part is the grain of truth in each of these statements. I think God gifts us with talents and desires for the work he has prepared and saved us for. The thing is it's one of those gifts that has some assembly required, and that's where many fail. They don't want to spend the time it takes (or the effort) to assemble and hone their gift.

Heather Marsten said...

The first one made me laugh. How true - for many God only seems to call us into areas where we can get puffed up. I think the behind-the-scenes and small actions are also important callings. I hope the memoir I'm writing glorifies God, but it isn't written for other Christians, it's written for hurting people. I suspect God hasn't called us to preach to the choir, but to reach hurting souls. It saddens me to find out that people expect Christians to donate their time to edit a manuscript for free like Wendy Reis stated. Since God handed out talents, He wants us to multiply them - that includes earning income to be tithed, and developing our craft of writing, or being a janitor, or working in the baby room at church. Each of these are necessary for the Body of Christ. Great post!

Leslie Roof said...

Christians often do feel led by God. They're imperfect people trying to live by his will, honor him with their work and write things that ultimately please him, their most important audience. It's probably good that you pointed out these clichés. My guess is that non-Christain writers have them too, it's just a different list.

bminor said...

Thanks for this frank article! I completely agree that we Christian writers can hide behind the lingo in ways that, if you look at the practice objectively, is just ridiculous. I appreciate #2--God is glorified by a job well done. I'm a firm believer that art that holds that which is praiseworthy in high esteem gives the maker of good things his due.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Great post--Ron's comment above made me literally LOL, about quitting due to the (hopefully impending) Rapture!

I do think writing can be our lot in life--our calling, if you will. I personally haven't found a better venue to merge and utilize my spiritual gifts, and I've tried quite a few. That surely doesn't mean I preach in every book. I do believe good books have over-arching spiritual THEMES--classic, ABA, or CBA, doesn't matter which. Good books address spirituality, even if it's not oozing off the page. The situations and characters THEMSELVES bring that spirituality/those questions to life and touch us in deep ways. That's where the Christian writer can step in an offer an important worldview, without shoving the message down readers' throats.

Marian Pellegrin Merritt said...

Maybe our calling is simply to Glorify God and because writers love to write...a match made in heaven?

Oops, another Christian writer cliché. :)

Stacy A said...

"Preaching to the choir" vs. "reaching hurting souls" is another one of those cliches that bothers me, though. We Christians need building up and encouraging. Often we struggle with incredibly difficult things. The Christian walk is more like a slog through the trenches some days -- WWI trenches, bloody, smoky, muddy, frightening trenches where we are hunkered down exhausted, beaten to a pulp, wondering how long we'll be stuck here in the thick of it. If I can read a well-written book that deals with a similar struggle to mine, and if I can find glimpses of God-light in that book that give me hope to go on, that's invaluable. My soul can hurt just as much as a non-Christian's ... but I do have the hope of Christ. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that!
So my writing is for hurting Christians. And I'm glad others write for non-Christians. (Hopefully my writing can reach them, too.) I think He can use us in multiple ways at once.

Carol Brown said...

I had this wild funny thought of trying to put all five cliches together to make one big fat excuse, but I have to go now and pay the bills!

Karen Kyle Ericson said...

These cliches are so funny partly because these are easy outs : ) "God are YOU SURE this is what YOU want me to DO?" I keep asking Him this question now and then. He's very patient just look at Jonah... I've never really considered these excuses because I've always worked in business. And just don't have this mindset. But after watching the News I do get a sense that the rapture may be near and a good nap would feel great.

It's interesting how some of us agonize over God's will. For Moses it was so easy. God asked, "So what's in your hand?" Moses stuttered, "a a a a staff." I think we should look at what's in our hands and realize God put it there for a reason. He blesses when we get busy to honor Him and help others. Mike's advice is great.

Cindy M. Jones said...

This was so freeing! I've been back and forth on writing a story that's far from what Christian publishers would print, but it's the story I can't stop thinking of. I can't help but reflect what I believe when I write, I'm sure this is true for every writer, believer or not.

Jessica McInnis said...

I think #2 and 5 is a little harsh. People do want to glorify God with their writing and God does call people to writing ministries. God may call them to write but may not call them to be a published author. Or God may call them to be a published writer.

I can't believe anyone would say the other three though. They are rather obnoxious little sayings.

~sharyn said...

The one I've heard far too often goes something like: "Oh, no, I didn't write it. I was just the instrument God used to get His words on the page." Then I read it and wonder how God feels about being blamed for something so bad.

These people say they know it was God because the words "just flowed onto the page." And I want to say, "That's not writing. That's journaling. Something anyone can do."

Patrick J. Moore said...

As Ane said, "The sad part is the grain of truth in each of these statements." (I wish we could "like" comments here)

There needs to be balance.
5. Acknowledging the call to use the gifts God gave you, AND doing the work to develop those gifts.
"Give him your best and God will do the rest."

4. Accepting God's will isn't our own (he may not want us to be rich and famous), BUT taking responsibility for the life and gifts he gave you.
"God will do it for you but he won't do it without you"

3. God may gift you to be an excellent cook, BUT you still have to do the dishes and take out the trash.
Child: "Doing dishes is boring"
Parent: "Many things in life are, but someone needs to do it and today that someone is you."

2. Glorify God- not by writing "clean" but by writing excellently. It takes study and practice, not following a Do & Do Not list. Writing a goody-goody trite story does nothing to expand God's Kingdom. We need to be knocking down barriers to reclaim territory, not locking ourselves in a little cage to protect ourselves from the big ugly world.

1. You should be writing to please God, but he's not in that box in your pocket. You may need to reconsider how big God really is, and how big he needs you to live your life to truly be pleasing to him.
“If you aren’t struggling you must be right where the devil wants you”

I believe God has grand plans for each of us, but... we have to stop waiting for him, and do what he already told you to do that you haven't done yet; know it's not all sunshine and roses; and take responsibility for yourself. In the end you may get in the gate because Jesus gave you the key, but you are going to be judged for what you did with the life and gifts he gave you- not for that list you kept of all the things he did or didn’t do for you.

Sorry, Mike, for hijacking your list and putting my own spin on it. It is all true and good points that we Christians have a tendency to blame God for our own failings, but… It also bothers me when God’s role and work in a person’s life is minimized or dismissed as delusional. God really does gift and call, but developing the gifts and being obedient to the call is our responsibility- not his. It’s not just one or the other- it is both at the same time. Sorry such a long comment, but I felt the need to make that clear.

Gina Holmes said...

Love that, Patrick.

Dan Walsh said...

Well said Patrick. Was thinking of some of the same things.

Grace said...

As a former English teacher, I hate cliches in writing. On the other hand, my call to write was the most powerful and emphatic of any of the calls on my life. And I knew what I was up against in publishing, therefore I knew what kind of work I would have to put to the working out of that call. Yes, it's a cliche in this milieu. But for a lot of us, the issue of calling is also reality. We can't make a blanket statement that we shouldn't say we're called to write. But we should continue the conversation of what it means to be a artist whose work is spiritual worship.

Grace said...

And I can't believe I let two grammatical errors slip past me! Apologies! :D