TWO TYPES OF WRITERS FOR SUCH A TIME AS THISMay 31, 2023
I’m convinced that there are primarily two types of Christian writers out there. Type one is the perfectionist (you know who you are). This is the person who needs to get it so right that they rarely complete a project. They work hard, laboring over the minutest details, rewriting various sections and constantly making little tweaks and improvements, but their work is seldom excellent, because good enough just isn’t good enough.
And then there's type two (you know who you are). This is the person who turns out project after project, preferring speed and quantity to perfection. They work hard, constantly churning out words and sorting through the myriad of new ideas that bombard their brain each day, but their work is seldom excellent, because good enough is good enough.
There are two types of writers in the Christian community, and I have a message for you both.
TYPE 2 – We Can Do Better
Let's start with the second type, the one who thinks that good enough is good enough. This is the person who settles for mediocrity and doesn't bother critiquing or editing their work. They're too anxious to get the project done and into the hands of somebody important to take the time to bother with corrections. These writers would never waste their time slaving over a project line by line, sentence by sentence, or word by word. They're convinced that whatever they've written is sufficient, or, if something does need to be rewritten, they’ll simply start that section from scratch rather than go through the pangs of a rewrite.
These writers have their strengths, to be sure. But here's what I have to say to you: Do better. We live in a day and age when it’s not enough to be good enough. We must be better. When you’re sloppy or careless, you make a mockery of us. When you turn in stuff that has spelling errors and mistakes in grammar or is simply not well written, you collectively harm us all. The fact is, it’s a wonderful gift and calling to be a writer. And it’s disrespectful to not be excellent in your craft. It's disrespectful to your Creator, who is the author of creativity. And it's disrespectful to anybody you put upon to read your subpar work. Do better.
I'm at the point now where I get angry when I see multiple, silly mistakes. Spelling errors and inaccuracies in grammar and punctuation are simply unacceptable. When I find those things, I get angry, because it tells me you’re willing to waste my time. You’re a selfish person who thinks you’re more important than I am. And you’re lazy, not even willing to do the work. That person has not prepared their work adequately to justify the time and the energy that I'm supposed to put in their story. If they didn't take the time to make it as good as it possibly could be for me to read, then why should I take the time to read it. It's disrespectful to me. It's disrespectful to your reader and it's disrespectful to God. But it's also disrespectful to yourself.
In my experience, these types of people (and if you're one of them I say this with love and affection), do not seem to be open to feedback. There seems to be a fair amount of obtuseness or denial in them, because they often think their stuff is brilliant. Some of them have even been published, but they’re still churning out subpar art. We can do better. We must do better. It is our duty to make our work as excellent as we possibly can.
That doesn't mean that everybody is going to be on par with CS Lewis or JR Tolkien. I once saw an episode of Oprah where Amy Grant performed just after Mariah Carey, who can sing three and a half octaves (which she demonstrated on the show). So, after performing, both artists were being interviewed, except Oprah was fawning all over Mariah Carey as if poor Amy Grant didn’t even exist. And then Oprah seemed to realize that Amy Grant was still there, and she turned to her and asked some question about Amy Grant’s music. And Amy Grant smiled and graciously replied, “Well, I just take my two octaves and I do the best I can.” And that’s what we must do. But when we don't do our best with gifts God has given us, when we don’t fix or correct obvious things and we squander the gift of creativity, it’s lazy and disrespectful. It’s unacceptable. We. Can. Do. Better.
TYPE 1 – Get Over Yourself
Now, I turn to the other group of artists – those who never seem to be able to get anything done. You're amazed by people who complete projects in a timely fashion because you are so paralyzed by perfection. But I know the secret behind your paralysis: you're terrified of getting it wrong. You’ve become a slave to perfectionism. You are enslaved. You’re like a legalist seeking salvation through your own works.
Here's my message to you: Stop trying to manage the perceptions of others. Stop trying to control everything. Stop trying to be perfect, and trust God. Did He choose you by accident? Has He abandoned you to go it alone? No? Then what are you doing? Stop agonizing. Just write it.
Write it. You can perfect it later. Your job is to get it on the page. You owe it to yourself, to God, and to others. Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Get it out of you. Just write. And tell your inner critic to be silent because you have been given your story idea for a reason. God entrusted you with something precious. And yes, you already know that which is why you take what you're doing so seriously, but your paralysis is a form of egoism, and you’re squandering your gift. So, get over yourself. You cannot do anybody any good if you allow yourself to be paralyzed by perfection.
My practical advice to you is to stop editing your work as you go. Force yourself to keep moving forward. Don't even look back. Force yourself to write it out longhand if you must, whatever prevents you from going back to edit. And then, once you get that first draft down, then you can go back and see what needs to be fixed. But until then, your efforts only sabotage your progress.
So, learn something from those in the other camp, who manage to just get it all down. We should be learning from each other. We are entering some dark days in culture, and we were created for such a time as this. So, let us set aside both our perfectionism and our mediocrity, and let’s write some stories that have the power to change the world.