What’s the balance between faith and writing? Where’s the point where you have to stop and think: Am I focusing too much on fiction and losing grip on the Truth? Have I lost sight of what really matters? Am I dwelling on things that aren’t real, and wasting my God-given talent on something that’s only in my head?
I believe I found that balance, and the answer might surprise you.
With art, there’s no limits, no rules, no right way or wrong way. But, for us Catholics, we are living a Truth that we want to keep important even when we’re writing in our leisure time. It’s happened to me before that I became so absorbed in the worlds I created in my head that I forgot to pray before bed at night. Then I woke up and found my Bible, and wondered what it was that I kept doing so wrong. Why was this an either/or situation? How come I had to choose between the two things I loved most—God and writing—when God Himself gave me this gift of writing?
I see musical artists who seem to have found a balance. People know they’re Christian, but listen to their music anyway. Sometimes, the fact that they’re Christian only makes them more popular. It takes a lot longer to read a book than it does to hear a song, though, so I found little hope in dwelling on the secret of a music artist. They’re similar, yet not. Both forms of art tell a story and appeal to different audiences. The Christian artists appeal because of their personality, because of their style, or maybe because of controversy. I never thought much on that.
I didn’t know how to find my niche in the writing world as both a Christian and a writer. Life kept presenting me with two choices: God or writing.
Don’t let life lie to you.
I used to feel really bad that during the day I will often find myself daydreaming about my stories, putting myself into the heads of my characters and their situations, working out solutions for them or simply playing out a scene over and over again. Something in the back of my mind nagged me that I should be reading the Bible or the Catechism instead of setting my mind on this petty distraction. And of course, I should spend more time with Bible-reading; I’m working on that. The point here, though, is that I thought I was almost sinning by putting so much devotion on a story that only I knew about. Was it unChristian to do this?
Of course, if that was the case, all artists would be unChristian.
I know as a fact that every writer puts more of themselves into their work than even they realize. I’ve had friends read some of my pieces and point out little details that sounded just like me, things I never realized myself but that on retrospect were a great part of my world at the time. This never changes. A real writer spills themselves onto a piece of paper and doesn’t clean everything up, so something is always left to stain the page. The stain is a part of your soul, a fingerprint if you will. Finding that balance between being a Christian and a fiction writer involves simply living and thinking like a Christian.
It’s all about putting God first in the end. Put Him first and you won’t have any problems!
I want you to realize that if you’re a real Christian, it’s not an either/or situation. If you’re a real Christian, you’re living out your faith in the fullest possible way. If you’re a Christian, if it is what you are, then it’s going to come out in your writing. If you have a conscience and common sense, if you know what makes a good story and you know the teachings of Jesus, if you never spend a day without sitting with Him for just a little while—your story is going to reflect this, accidentally.
Or is it really an accident?
Just like a person who really enjoys the ocean, and surrounds themselves in a setting by the sea with lots of sand and seagulls, will doubtlessly reflect this if they spill their heart onto some paper—the same goes for writing as a Christian. Surround your heart with Christian things. Make sure you know what’s first in life, and center your work on the Person Who is most important. Center yourself on the Source of all creativity, and things related to Him, and your writing will reflect this in ways you never expected. Someday your friends will read your work and tell you, “That sounds a lot like something Jesus would say! Did you do that on purpose?”
Fear not: If you keep Christ within view in all things, He’ll appear in your story where you never planned to put Him. He’s sneaky like that!