My four year old grandson sings, “There’s no God like Danoba, there’s no God like Danoba…” He’s either an idolater or he didn’t get the word right. As a Christian writer, it makes me wonder about the spiritual side of getting the words right. I want my writing to please Jehovah, but how do I do that?
Studying His Word helps me know and write my “innermost thoughts and desires,” (Heb. 4:12 NLT) but it can also help me get them right. One scripture I use to examine my writing is Philippians 4:8.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (NLT)
Each of these qualities can help me critique anything I write, whether fiction or non-fiction, secular or Christian.
True means “in accordance with fact or reality.” If I make assertions in my writing, they should be grounded in fact, not opinion. Even my fiction can be true by making descriptions and actions true to character and setting.
True also means “conformable to a standard or pattern.” God is the standard my life should conform to, but does my writing conform to His character? When He created, He said it was very good. Would He say what I have written is good?
Honorable means characterized by integrity, or “adhering to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” For my writing to be honorable, I must follow the moral standard God has revealed in scripture and adhere to His values. That means I must spend a lot of time reading and studying the Bible, and then check my writing to make sure it reflects what I have learned.
To be right is to be “in accordance with what is just, good, or proper.” Before I can judge if my words are right, I must determine what is just and proper. How is God just? There is no evil in Him, so I should make sure there is no evil in my writing. That is not to say I can’t write about evil. But do I portray it as evil or do I gloss over it or commend it in some way?
Another definition for right, is “suitable.” Are the words I have used suitable to the purpose of this piece of writing? Are they suitable for the audience? Are they suitable for a Christian to use?
To be pure is to contain “nothing that does not properly belong.” Writers are told to cut, cut and cut some more. Cutting out unnecessary or improper words is one way for my writing to be pure. But purity is also being free from taint. So I must ask if my writing is tainted by my opinion, or by inappropriate language, or by my desire to please an editor or reader. Even worse, is it tainted by my high opinion of my talent?
Loveliness describes the aesthetic value of my writing. Is it beautiful? Even if I’m writing about harsh or dark subjects, is there a way to bring beauty into it? God hates evil and judges it harshly, but He is also merciful. Does my writing include mercy and grace?
Sadly, I’m a writer who wants to be admired. When I start writing something, one of my first thoughts is how it will impress. The dictionary defines admirable as “deserving the highest esteem.” Before I can receive the admiration I long for, I have to earn it. For that to happen, I must be a thorough critic of my own work.
Of course, it will only be admired if it is excellent. There are several ways I can work towards excellence. First, I must keep learning from better writers. I can read and analyze their work and I can take classes and read about writing well. Then, I must apply all I know about it each time I write.
Worthy of praise
When I have looked at my work critically, prayed over it, and done all I can to conform it to God’s standard, then I can hope for it to be praiseworthy. It is worthy of praise if God is pleased with it. And if He is the only one to praise it, I can be content, because He gave me the gift of writing.
*Dictionary definitions are from [url=http://www.merriam-webster.com/]Merriam Webster on-line[/url]
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