How to Write for God

I begin by restating the post's title because I want my clever answer to land with devastating force, as if the Moon decided to erase San Francisco. 

How to Write for God

Don't.

 

 

Goodbye, Golden Gate Bridge.

Explain yourself

Well, alright. William Zinssser died the other day. When I, an aspiring writer, heard the news, all I could think was, "Who?" Note I said aspiring, not well-informed. It so happens that Zinsser was a master of the craft, and his On Writing Well ranks second perhaps only to Strunk and White's Elements of Style in the canon of "Important Books on Writing that Everyone but Chris Has Read."  I nabbed it from Amazon, and I've been paging through it the past couple mornings. It is an incredible thing. Zinsser is warm and sagacious, and I turn the pages less for the professional instruction than to read just one more word from a sharp old man. 

Zinsser makes two points in particular that found purchase in the soft sponginess of my brain. "Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it," he writes at the end of Chapter 2. Turn the page, and he builds on the idea:

Soon after you confront the matter of preserving your identity, another question will occur to you: ‘Who am I writing for?’
It’s a fundamental question, and it has a fundamental answer: You are writing for yourself.

This seems to contradict the advice I've heard given to Christian writers, advice I've followed for the past couple years: "You are writing for an audience of one: the LORD!" I never questioned this. I mean, it sounds churchy in all the right ways. It even echoes Paul's mandate in 1 Corinthians 10:31: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God," an authority on Christian ethics if there ever was one. Writing for God sounds like a good choice. Writing for yourself, though, is better.

Writing is a craft. It's work and art. It can be a hobby. It can even be a vocation, if you're a masochist. Writing is also a magnificent gift from God, an opportunity from the Creator to become little creators ourselves. (I suppose this applies to art in general, but not being a polymath I can only write on writing.) The difficulty in "writing for God" is that such a mindset may tempt the writer to devalue the gift. Writing, as a gift, is something good and worthy in itself—not because mankind has done something swell with it, but because God has made it so. When we take up the pen and apply our soul to the work simply for the inner joy of writing, when it is just us finding pleasure in the toy the Father has given us, we have the purest expression of both the art form and our gratitude. I would be disappointed if I gave a child a birthday present and they only played with it for my sake. I want them to make the gift their own, to seek their own adventures with it. Their delight in the present is what I'm after, not their recognition of me.

Another useful analogy would be the act of, well, begetting. No couple skips off of to the bedroom "for the Lord." It doesn't happen. Ever. Nobody does that, because that would be sadPeople have sex because they like having sex. Yes, even Christians.* On the religious side, it's something we're thankful for, and it's something we enjoy, but it's not something where we say before we begin This one's for you, Jesus. Writing, I think, is like that. It's a good gift made by a good God for a good purpose. We're meant to take it and run with it, to enjoy it because it is good. We should write for ourselves, for the raw pleasure we find in it. Sometimes we forget that Creation, as warped and bent as it is, is still intended to be something wonderful. The pursuit and enjoyment of our gifts is part of the goodness that still remains in nature.

This, of course, doesn't mean the gift becomes elevated above the giver. Nor should it obscure our vision of him. In church-ese, we must still steward our gifts responsibly, offering them in his service. But I don't see that in conflict with writing for yourself. To enjoy a gift for the thrill and cheer it gives you in no way diminishes God's place in your heart. Rather, it fulfills the purpose of God giving the gift. Writing is like a birthday present. The best thing to do with it is wait 'til all your friends are sent home, tell Father thanks, and run off with to start the adventure.

 

 

*The notion in secular culture that Christians despise sex is very funny. Where do they think all the children came from in those massive Christian families?  Russian mail-orders? 3D Printers?