I ran across a quote recently that was made by fellow Christian blogger, Micah J. Murray. He commented, “I don’t want to be a Christian writer, if it means writing from the heart and then hitting backspace until it feels safe again.” Initially, when I read that quote, it struck me as incredibly beautiful and it seemed like a goal that I wanted to achieve within my own writing.
However, as so often happens, things fail to stay that simple.
Enter Proverbs. In my church small group, we have been studying the book of Proverbs and last week, specifically, focused on the use of our speech and how it relates to being a wise person. There are several themes that permeate Proverbs on this topic. One of these themes is that wise people are careful before they speak. Another is that wise people don’t make hasty judgments but consider all the information. Another is that a wise person doesn’t enter into conflicts easily or answer a fool on the level of the fool.
Those are great pieces of wisdom, unless you are a writer, blogger or columnist.
As a writer, what topics are off limits? Or is everything fair game? How does one decide? When can a writer pen a piece knowing that he or she doesn’t have all the facts? Does being first trump being right? Naturally each writer writes to his or her unique audience but how much should that influence what is written? Do we write just for hits on the website, more book sales or a wider carried column?
We know what people like to read about; people like to read about controversy (meaning they like reading about when the side or opinion they don’t like get’s slammed). How much controversy have writers and bloggers created just to grow their webpage and platform?
Is it ok to be provocative for provocative’s sake?
When does being provocative cross the line to being a parasite? What’s the line between being comfortable in writing what is controversial or challenging (to shape, form, correct, and move forward your belief, group or cause) and becoming a cannibal to the very cause you are trying to promote?
I posed this question to blogger and author Tony Jones via Twitter. He responded by simply saying, “game time decision.”
Maybe that’s how it works. Writers write and hope for the best because it’s only hindsight that will determine whether a written piece was taken too far or not far enough. In the case that it was taken too far we need the humility to apologize. On the other hand, in the case that it was not taken far enough we need the guts to continue to push the issue- even if it’s to a place that isn’t safe.
In the end, maybe Murray’s quote is the best way to approach writing. I don’t know if Solomon would call it wise but I think it’s the best we have.
© Ryan Vanderland 2014