Thursday, February 19, 2015

Qualities of a Christian Writer by Nola Passmore



What qualities do you think are needed by a Christian writer?  In asking this, I'm not only thinking of work that has specific Christian content, but anything a Christian might write with a view to publication.  It could be novels, non-fiction books, poetry, devotions, blog posts or a myriad of other material.  Here are some things to think about.

Heart attitude – What are your motives for writing?  Is it to glorify God and help others draw closer to Him?  As noted above, this doesn't mean that everything you write has overt Christian content, but it should be consistent with a Christian worldview.  God gave us our abilities for a purpose.

Your own devotional life – Are you spending quality time with God?  Do you study scripture regularly?  How’s your prayer life?  You need to have water in your own well in order to impart it to others.

Responsibility of a teacher – If you have aspirations of teaching others the word of God, make sure you know it well.  Study it, pray about it, ask God for revelation and insights, read commentaries.  God holds teachers accountable for what they teach (James 3:1).

Integrity – Are you practising what you preach?  None of us is perfect, but we can’t expect to help others follow God more closely if we’re not seeking to be more like Him ourselves.

Transparency – We’re often touched by reading honest accounts of people who’ve struggled with different issues.  However, it costs you emotionally to lay yourself bare.  If you have deep, personal stories that have caused you pain, they are worth sharing so that you can help others.  But seek God’s wisdom in knowing how much to share, with whom, and when.

Patience – There can sometimes be a long time delay between sending your work off and receiving that acceptance or rejection letter.  Some journals and magazines include the expected time delay on their web sites.  Always give them more than that time.  If you haven’t heard by then, you could send them a query.  Sometimes, you’ll never hear.  Once it’s accepted, there can also be a big time delay before it appears in print.  Waiting is part of the game.

Perseverance – (Luke 8:15) - Anyone who tries to get material published is going to get the odd rejection letter (maybe hundreds of rejection letters).  Famous authors get those letters too.  You may have written a really great piece, but have had it rejected because there were hundreds of submissions and they only picked ten, they already had other similar works, it was in a different style to the type they usually choose or ... it wasn’t very good.  If it’s the latter, there are lots of things you can do to improve.  But sometimes, it’s just a matter of polishing it up and sending it off somewhere else.  Don’t give up.  Perseverance is necessary if you want to see your work in print (e.g., 2 Pet. 1:5-8).

Humility - Do not despise small beginnings (e.g., Zech. 4:10) – All of us would like to have an article published in a magazine that has millions of readers.  It’s also nice to get a cheque for your work.  As a general rule of thumb, however, the magazines that pay and the ones that have large circulations, also attract the most number of submissions.  You’re in a much larger pond and have less chance of being accepted.  Don’t be afraid to start small.  Even if you only have a paragraph printed in the church bulletin, you’ve already reached 100 or more people. 

Teachable spirit – You never stop learning and growing while you’re on this earth (Phil. 1:6).  You need to be open to the Holy Spirit’s prompting when writing.  You need to be able to accept feedback from others graciously and discern which comments to act on.

I wish I could say I have all of these qualities nailed.  The truth is that I struggle with a lot of them, but that's okay.  It's all part of the learning curve.  How about you?  Do you agree or disagree with any of these?  Which ones do you struggle with?  Do you have any other qualities that you think should be added to the list?  I'd love to hear from you.



Nola Passmore is a writer of shorts, a would-be novelist, and the originator of many a hare-brained scheme that she inflicts on family and friends.  She loves exploring different facets of creativity and encouraging others to develop their God-given talents.  She and her husband Tim have their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  You can find her writing tips blog on their website: www.thewriteflourish.com.au


18 comments:

  1. Love your post Nola - it's a great reminder that being a Christain writer is not just about the content of what we write but who we are in Christ. This reminds me of 1 Cor 13:1 "If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." We are to be living epistles. Thanks.

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  2. Thanks Jenny. Yes, that's a great scripture. We can have all the skill and talent in the world and write beautiful, flowery prose. But if we're not doing it with the right heart attitude, it will come to nothing. Now I just need to follow my own advice :) Thanks for your comment.

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  3. Yes, I agree. You've done a great job of summing up so much of it.

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement Jeanette :)

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  4. And in the process of developing these things and/in/through our writing/publishing adventures, God has a wonderful way of blessing us in the moment, with little bursts of wit and wisdom and encouragement from others. Like you've given us today. That's kinda nice too.

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    1. Thanks Cathie. Yes it's amazing how God pops those ideas into your mind when you're seeking to develop those qualities. And thanks for the many times you've encouraged me too :)

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    1. Thanks Kaye. I need to remind myself as well :)

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  6. Great post Nola. I think you have mentioned them all - at least I can't think of anything to add to your lovely list. I think it vitally important that we Christian writers check our motivation and our own integrity often - the Holy Spirit cannot do much with our writing if we are not living what we preach.

    A few years ago when I went through a season of pruning. God showed me then how vital it is for me to not only talk the talk but also to walk the walk. That I have a responsibility as a Christian writer to be authentic and a writer of integrity. I've never forgotten the lesson. It's always good to be reminded so THANK YOU. :)

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    1. Thanks Anusha. That's so true. 'Walking the talk" can certainly be challenging, hey? I remember writing a devotion once on the importance of hospitality and then I had a sudden surge of visitors wanting to stay. It was as if God was giving me a little test to see if I would practice what I preach :) Good on you for living out a life of authenticity and integrity. Many have been blessed by your writing. xx

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  7. GREAT post Nola!
    I love the sentence from the devotion paragraph
    'You need water in your own well'.... Think I will be using this somewhere soon!
    Thanks for all the paragraphs.... wonderful info!
    Di xoxo

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement Di. I'm sure I've read something similar to that previously, but it stuck in my mind. We can keep writing for a while on our reserves, but eventually the well will run dry if we're not replenishing it. Thanks for your thoughts :)

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  8. A really thoughtful summary, I agree with you on all those things. Writing is a study in patience, perseverance and humility.

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  9. Thanks for that Jennifer Ann. In some ways, I think those things are more important than actual skill.

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  10. Thanks nola for post it reminds me the reason I write and keeps me focused daily

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  11. Thanks Nola. I remember when we were learning Creative Ministry. The question was are we CHRISTIAN artists or Christian ARTISTS? Thanks too for the reminder that it's not just about our content, but also about how we behave in the process and industry.

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    1. That's a good point, Raelene. We can have Christian content in what we write, but our actions speak louder. It's hard to always 'walk the talk', but I think as long as we try to be authentic, and apologise when we get it wrong, that can go a long way. I appreciate your comment.

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