Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Communicating for a Change
What is the purpose of our writing?
For fiction writers, many aspects come to mind: entertainment, inspiration, teaching. For non-fiction writers, the list is smaller: teaching and inspiration, sure, but probably not entertainment to the same extent.
But can I make a suggestion today? I think the purpose for everyone, fiction or non-fiction, should be the same thing: communicating for a change. We communicate, in our various ways, because we want to inspire people to grow closer to Christ in our own specific niche area.
In fiction, books do that by allowing us to walk with the characters, experience life through their eyes, and change our hearts. In non-fiction, it's often done from a teaching point of view: this will work, and thus you should do so and so.
I think, though, that non-fiction writers need to learn from fiction writers. The best way to actually inspire change isn't to list a whole bunch of things that people need to learn, or realize, or capture. It's to relate to them on a heart level so that they feel a connection with you, and experience God's touch, so that they will be motivated to change.
Teaching has its role, certainly. But if a person knows everything about doctrine, and everything about proper family life, and everything about the Bible, but doesn't put it into practice, what good is it?
We need to connect with people so that they are inspired to change. That is the role of every Christian communicator.
It is God, of course, who does the inspiration. We are only the vehicle. But if that is not our aim it is far less likely that God will work in that way. If we are simply trying to squeeze as much knowledge into a book as we can, a person may feel smarter after reading it, but won't necessarily do things any differently.
When I started writing I came straight out of university, and I was in the "teaching" mode. As I've been writing and speaking for longer, I've realized this is the wrong approach. I now plan every talk, and every book, by asking the question: what one main thing do I want people to go and do afterwards? And if I can't answer this in a sentence, then I go back to the drawing board.
This is especially important when it comes to speaking, and I have a new blog up called Christian Women's Speaker, where lots of tips are given about how to launch a speaking career, or go further in the one you're in. And this is something I want to drive home: we communicate for change.
And we write for change. I'm working on a new book proposal now, for a humorous book that I hope will help people build their lives on Christ alone, and not on all the other things we trust in during this life. But I'm starting the project with my aim in mind first, not with a list of everything I want to teach.
It's revolutionized the way that I see writing and speaking, and I hope I've put a nugget of an idea in your minds, too, so that it will revolutionize the way we all approach communicating, in whatever realm of life we find ourselves!
Sheila Wray Gregoire speaks across Canada to women's groups and at marriage conferences. She is the author of four books, including Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight: Help for women who want to feel more in the mood. You can usually find her at her To Love, Honor and Vacuum blog!
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