Writers are all called to write different things. But like the excellent Tozer quote Jen M pointed out, instead we copy each other.
Ideally, we’d all be writing the thing only we can write. We each have different talents and tasks, and yet we’re all called to truthfulness. And if we lack in content and substance, style and form, our works are robbed of truth and come unbalanced. It’s like applying a statement of scripture without the context. It will also lack beauty because beauty and truth are inextricably linked, and because of what Ping points out: we wrongly want what’s in the writing to serve us. We’re less interested in serving a lasting work than we are in our creative energies serving us. And instead of valuing truth and beauty above ourselves, we cater to readers who want a quick fix. We decide we know better than God and we write what we want, what the audience wants, what the publisher wants: self-expression, creative turns of phrase, felt-need-driven thingies.
So all of this is why we shouldn’t be fighting for “equal” shelf space but for more truthful shelves.
And how should we do this? By learning to write better, of course. You can change the limitations by shifting your focus from yourself to your Creator. The real battle for better writing is in our hearts. Can we drop our pretenses and look beyond our bubble? Can we let in more of the world and the culture around us? Can we trust our readers to use discernment and choose godly, truthful, culturally relevant literature that’s honest about fallen nature?
Beauty and praise is easy to find in beautiful places. But praiseworthy beauty isn’t only there. God is everywhere, and there’s nothing he can’t redeem. The sinful, “ungodly” things of this world are also worthy of grace. They’re worthy of our time and attention. They’re worthy of God’s effort to redeem them. And our books need to say that.
If God is great enough to redeem a wretch like you, he’s great enough to use a Christian writer to reach those he misses most.
But don’t worry about it; just write. Praise God he’s able to reshape our distressing reality. Praise God it’s his power to wield, his overwhelming grace that doesn’t shy away from the ugliness and the groaning of his creation. Praise him for keeping us from the evil around us, even as we attempt to engage it honestly and trust his power to redeem it. Praise God it’s ultimately not up to us to decide which world we would live in. We are responsible for us. And for our part, we must serve him by becoming truly competent writers.
So how do we do that? Clive James says, “Competent writers always examine what they have put down. Better-than-competent writers—good writers—examine their effects before they put them down: They think that way all the time. Bad writers never examine anything. Their inattentiveness to the detail of their prose is part and parcel of their inattentiveness to the detail of the outside world.”
“When Pope called genius an infinite capacity for taking pains, that was what he meant. The greatly gifted have almost everything by nature, but by bending themselves to the effort of acquirement, they turn a great gift into great work. Their initial arrogance is necessary and even definitive: Heinrich Mann was right to say that the self-confidence of young artists precedes their achievement and is bound to seem like conceit while it is still untried. But there is one grain of humility that they must get into their cockiness if they are ever to grow: They must accept that one of the secrets of creativity is an unrelenting self-criticism. "My dear friend," said Voltaire to a young aspirant who had burdened him with an unpublished manuscript, "you may write as carelessly and badly as this when you have become famous. Until then, you must take some trouble." (From Slate’s reprint of Clive James’ Cultural Amnesia)
Look at the reality around you. Examine it more closely, and then reexamine what you put down. Consider, and reconsider. Maybe God’s hand is withheld from cleaning up our world for our benefit, that we might learn, in time, a deeper appreciation of him and his power to redeem. If he cleaned it all up right now, how much less would our appreciation be? His restraint teaches us not to skim over evil. We have to learn from it, and as writers, we have to be honest with it. His awesome patience contrasts our striving and foolish attempts to clean-up our creation through half-truthful prose. His love and peace remind us we are foolish to think it’s our job to restrict, reframe, and replace evil. How much greater would we praise him if we handled evil in the way he did? Allowing it, revealing it, exposing it to the light? And through his grace, how he keeps us from ever forgetting his power in spite of it all.
Who among us has that kind of faith?