Faith, for the Creatives

Being a Christian writing really nonchristian work

Though my faith is important to me, my work doesn’t fit into the rules of that genre. If you’ve read books from the Christian market, you probably picked up on that 😉 Sorry, but my murderous psychopath protagonist isn’t gonna go to church and convert.

And yet, if you stick around long enough, you may hear about my faith on my blog and social media. It doesn’t make sense for marketing or branding purposes, I know. But here’s a peek behind the curtain of why. (Note: it’s not some sort of cheesy “hide it under a bushel” answer either.)

The problem:

There’s this perception within pockets of Christianity that if your art isn’t explicitly Christian in theme – if you’re not painting pictures of Jesus or writing Scripture on your artwork, if you’re not singing worship songs or at least angsty churchy themes, if you’re not writing clean Christian-themed books that wrap everything up in a tidy Jesus-saves-the-day bow – then you’re not using your gifts for God.

What further perpetuates that mindset is that it’s hard to find Christians who are doing their art in the general marketplace, not because they’re not there, but because their websites understandably don’t scream “Christian alert!”. It’s arguably easy to connect with artists in the marketplace. And it’s relatively easy to find Christian artists making Christian art. However, it’s hard to find Christian artists in the secular market. Their faith is not their branding, so they’re inconspicuous.

A solution…?

Kiera Cass was one of the first writers I found who has nothing to do with the Christian market but still mentions her faith. Matt Tommey and Alex Marestaing have both spoken at Karitos Christian Arts Conference about believers working in the secular market instead of separating ourselves into this Christian bubble. And I recently finished a book by Marlita Hill about “represent[ing] the Kingdom while…making ‘that kind’ of art,” (that’s an affiliate link, I may receive a portion of sales through that link). The book is an encouraging and hopeful book for this weirdly taboo topic in Christian circles. One day, I want to be what those people have been to me, an example to some artist who wonders if they can create nonchristian work and still honor their faith and their God.

I’m still learning how my faith plays into my writing. What I do know is: There’s not the Christian Amy and the writer Amy. It’s not two separate Amys, two separate lives; all pieces of me are intermingled. My writing, and my faith, together. They play into each other, perhaps in subtle ways rather than overt. If you look really closely, you just might see my faith as you read about my murderous psychopath protagonist. And when you look at faith really closely, it may not tie into the way you envision a Jesus-saves-the-day bow. It doesn’t always look like a good story, but it could still be a good story.

for the Creatives

On taking creative risks

The end of last year I heard 3 sermons in a row, and from different speakers, about God rewarding risk (referencing the parable of the talents). It seemed like apt timing with me taking a risk and publishing a quirky meta short story. Niche in every sense. And nearly a year later, I regret nothing. I might have chosen different marketing avenues, but that’s about it.

More recently I’ve heard a teaching about God rewarding risk, from Alex Marestaing referencing when Jonathan said “Let’s go to the camp of those foreigners. Maybe the Lord will use us to defeat them” (1 Samuel 14:6, ESV). Key word “maybe.” Jonathan didn’t know. He took a risk.

One artist trope is that we have to quit our dayjob to build a successful artist career. That’s the only way we have adequate time to get our business off the ground…right? A few weeks ago I was reading “Originals” (affiliate link) about how nonconformists move the world, and studies actually show that businesses tend to be more successful when the entrepreneur kept their dayjob for awhile. (Read the book for exact details and figures and such.) Because the pressure was off, they could take the time to build something solid. Adam Grant, author of Originals, talked about how instead of taking a risk in every area of life, taking one great risk (like launching an artistic career) while playing it extra cautious in other areas to balance it all out. One great calculated risk.

Back to Alex Marestaing’s teaching. (I know, I’m all over the place, you love it 😛 ). I don’t remember the words he used, but he talked about how Jonathan didn’t know the outcome, but he knew God’s character, so it was a calculated risk.

Calculated risk. I like that. Because taking a risk sounds brave and daring and adventurous, but this little homebody wants to think through all the minute details and move ahead with caution. I like hearing that I can have both. But it still comes back to taking a risk. Artists still gotta jump at some point – or, more like at multiple points – in building their creative life.

This whole “risk” message coming back into my life right now, I’ll be honest, I don’t have a big booklaunch or a big anything in my plans. So what does the “big risk” messaging mean this time? I don’t know. But I’m making myself ready for when it shows itself.

Tell me: Are you more on the calculated side, or more of the risk taker? Which do you tend toward and which do you need to grow in today? Stepping out in risk, or taking a moment to calculate?