"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Monday, 12 March 2012

What we should know about writing

Why do I write?
That's a very good question. Last Saturday was a glorious spring day. The sun shone, it was unseasonably mild, and I just wanted to put away my laptop and get out in the garden and up to the allotment to prune shrubs and pick Brussels Sprouts. But no, that wasn't to be, as I had another engagement, and there I was gathered with perhaps fifty other like-minded Christian writers at a day organised by the Association of Christian Writers. We heard from Liz Babbs about how to promote our work, and Roy McCloughry kept us on track with his thoughts on the theology within our writing.

But one question kept on cropping up. How appropriate is it for Christians, brought up with the idea of humility ingrained within us, to push ourselves into mainstream promotion, building the much vaunted 'platform' beloved of publishers these days. This has been the subject of some debate already around our Facebooks, but came to a head on Saturday and comments are still flying around.

Fact is, we all know times have changed - social media has done much to move the goal posts of promotion, self-promotion and communications generally. And publishing is not what it was - there is a planet-load of books out there craving our attention. But what we are talking about doing here on the social media is building relationships, not just connections - thank you Liz! And thank you also Liz for a great biblical quote which really captured our imagination - it has been flying around cyber space ever since.

I think it all really boils down to that big question; why do we write?
Do we write because, as some people put it, we have to, it is in our blood? Do we write to earn our living? (very unlikely that one if we write books - as Liz reminded us - 85% of book writers don't make anything from their books at all - only a very few book authors could afford to give up the day job). Do we write to entertain, to get a serious message across, to educate, to support the work we do?

As Christians we believe that the gifts we have are God given. We are all unique, we all have our own unique gifts to take into the world, and it would be wrong not to use them, wrong to 'hide our light under a bushel.' At the same time Jesus was humility writ large. And he was vulnerable, compassionate, spiritual, self- effacing even.
Is it right therefore to shout about our gifts from the rooftops?
It really all depends! Depends on what?

As a little girl I was always being told to shut up! Undeterred, I carried on asking, reading, seeking, asking more and more. Later in life events took a different turn - you can read about that elsewhere, but my life was changed. The points on the railway track changed and I went across them. As with all points the ride was bumpy for a while - but I was now travelling down a totally new and different and unknown track. But I believe I was called to do this and have no regrets. (Well one actually. I wish I'd listened to my mother as a kid when she told me to do my piano practice - it's much harder to learn now!) I have a serious concern for the world, for the environment, for the deep global wounds and the deep healing needs of humanity. So I write - and talk - to groups big and small - in church halls and churches and sitting rooms - to get a message out there. And speaking engagements come naturally - as I said, I love talking!!
But you may not like to do that. It doesn't matter then. Don't do that. You have other gifts, things I simply could not do so easily. You may be writing to support the work you do, the business you have. Perhaps your patients, clients, students, would like you to put your own ideas in writing for them to use. You may be a great entertainer, or at least have a great sense of humour - something Liz displayed so well in her talk. After dinner speaking comes to mind if you have such a gift. Building a platform should not have to be forced. It should be simply expanding the range of our gifts, to be prayerfully achieving whatever we feel our calling may be.
So let's not stress ourselves out with whether we should be doing this platform building. If it feels right for you, it is right. If there is a niggle somewhere in our minds, then back to the prayers and the drawing board to rethink our gifts and how we are to use them in serving Christ.

And what was that quote?
Habbakuk 2:2 "Then the Lord answered me and said: 'Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it…" The version on Saturday from a different Bible went something like "write answers on a billboard large and clear and rush to tell others…"

So we can all write in our own ways, tell others in our own ways, and not get hung up about it! I'm going back now to my billboard to finish writing that talk I've been asked to give on Thursday!

What are your views dear reader - that's if you've got this far down the page!?!

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