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