The Real Challenge for Authors Today: Should You Have a Voice?
In a previous post (“The Real Challenge for Authors Today”), I talked about how the real challenge for writers these days isn’t being published; it’s being heard. But that doesn’t mean that every voice should be heard, contra contemporary sentiment. The question I’m dealing with in this post is, should you have a voice? That is, should you be heard?
I know, I know — asking that question sounds a little backwards in the context of creative expression. Shouldn’t everyone have a voice? In a broader sense, certainly. All creatives should have the freedom to express themselves, politically speaking. But in a narrower sense, no. Let me explain why.
My answer grows out of my theological conviction that writers are at their best only when they draw attention to the truth that God has already revealed in the world around us and in his word (Scripture). In other words, I believe that God is the greatest creative, and that we will never (not even in eternity) plumb the depths of his creativity. The best a human writer can do is draw attention to what God himself has revealed — about his character, about the human condition, and about the world in which we live.
Now, call me narrow-minded if you like, but that means that I don’t think that everyone who writes today should have a voice. And there are even times when every writer should stop writing, and just listen. Because of my theological conviction, I believe that there are authors out there with manipulative, soul-enslaving messages. I also think there are well-meaning authors who are simply misguided or confused when it comes to what God has revealed about himself and the world. Such writers, I believe, will often have the loudest voices (in some ways, falsehood tends to be much more attractive than the truth), but that doesn’t mean they should have a voice. It doesn’t mean that they should be heard. And I’m judging myself when I write this, too. If I write something that doesn’t clearly echo the revelation of God, then I shouldn’t be heard; I shouldn’t have a voice.
If, on the other hand, you and your readers can confirm that the message you are communicating resonates with God’s revealed truth
(note: you can’t be the only one who thinks your message echoes God’s revelation), then I hope your voice grows louder and louder and louder. In this context, I believe you should have a voice, not because you’re so brilliant (settle your ego, friend), but because your voice is drawing greater attention to God’s voice.
So, should you have a voice as a writer? “Yes, but only if your voice is an echo of God’s voice.”
Writers need to do a lot more thinking about where their messages are coming from and why they believe they should be heard. And, for the record, if your answer is simply that “you can’t stop thinking about it,” or “I just have something on my heart that I have to get out there,” then I’m not convinced that you should be heard. After all, the prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Don’t go touting your readers to listen to your heart and use that as a valid reason for having your voice heard. Maybe your voice needs to be heard; maybe it doesn’t. How can you be sure? I believe you can only answer that question by comparing (and perhaps contrasting) your voice with the voice of God.
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