I know, I know— I sound like one of those weird online ‘personality test’ things that are always popping up and wanting to tell you what kind of pizza you are. Unfortunately I don’t have a test for you today. At least not an official one. But hopefully the post is more thought provoking than discovering your deep pizza identity.
This post was inspired by the great K.M. Weiland herself, and I’m just going to cheat (and totally steal my own thunder) by linking to the post that got me thinking: The Words that Changed Your Life.
Reading this was such an eye-opener for me. I’ve always been fascinated by the many complex reasons humans do what they do, and self-discovery has become something of a hobby. I mean, I can be my own test subject. What’s not amazing about that?
So, go read the post. Then come back.
Back so soon? *eyes you suspiciously* You just skimmed it, didn’t you? Eh well. Your loss.
The article touches on a single aspect of something that’s fascinated me for a while. I call that something Writing Personality. The more technical name for it is your ‘brand’, but that’s so… salesy. Your WP is way more than just a cute marketing tool.
The Three Ingredients of Your WP
Your focus. This is what Katie’s article talks about. She said it much better than I could. The core theme, if you will, behind all your work. Even under the umbrella of Christian writers, who are all focused on God, there’s such great variation. Some focus on God’s unconditional love. Some focus on God’s demand for righteousness in a wicked world. Some focus on the way pride constantly turns us away from Him. Some focus on His compassion for lost sheep, and some focus on the painful consequences of rejecting His compassion. I could go on and on.
A slightly different aspect of this has to do with why you write, in a technical sense. Do you write to discover? Do you write to process? Do you write to proclaim? Do you write for the sheer joy of life; to live it twice? All of these different focuses will turn out much different stories.
A lot of what determines a writer’s focus, I believe, is the way they view the world. All the material we use is pulled from the world around us, and interpreted through the lens of what we believe. Which brings us to the second ingredient:
Your filter. Is it just me, or are Christian works as a general rule a lot more hopeful and inspiring than secular ones? Even if Christ is never mentioned, stories written with the assumption that God has a plan for the world and is working in it for good set an amazingly hopeful tone. This is a good example of filter in the broadest sense. Your worldview. How you interpret what happens in the world around you, and how that translates to your work.
But there’s also your personal filter. This is harder to define, and different for everyone. Think of yourself as a character. All things that contribute to a character’s personality contribute to your personal filter: what you’ve been through, your strengths, your flaws, the people around you, the influences in your life, your goals, etc. A writer who struggles with pride and rebellion against God will write a much different story than a writer who struggles with fear and lack of faith. In fact, it’s often from our different flaws and our struggle to work through them that we discover what we truly want to say. That brings us to the third ingredient:
Your mission. Pretty simple. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? Beyond just turning people towards Christ. Do you want to inspire them with stories of God’s eternal love and forgiving grace? Do you want to sober them with stories that focus on the consequences of sin? Do you want to challenge them to examine themselves by writing about the responsibility every man has to do his best before God no matter what the world thinks of him?
All of these things are good things, and all of us write about all of them some of the time. There’s overlap because we’re all inspired by the same amazing God. But knowing your specific mission will help you in so many ways. It will be easier for you to explain your work to yourself and to others. It will help you focus your stories more clearly towards their end goal. And most importantly, it will glorify God as you strive to discover which member of the body of Christ He created you to be, and to do it as excellently as you can.
How beautiful is this? Just as God gave all people different gifts— some to be writers, some to be businessmen, some to be artists, some to be scientists— so God also gave all people within each group different corners of the group to fill up and round out. We are truly a body. Too much time is spent worrying about all the other amazing writers out there who have already said so much of what there is to be said. These are our colleagues, not our competitors. Each one of us is filling our ‘spot’ as best we know how, and in the end that’s the only thing we ever need to be concerned about. Am I doing the best I can with the mission God’s given me? The stomach doesn’t worry because the brain is processing its contents faster. All are created for something different.
I don’t know about you, but that’s one of the most encouraging things I can think of.