Creative Boundaries

Creative people usually don’t like being told what to create or what not to create.

Similarly, explorers and researchers don’t like being told, “Don’t look there,” or “Explore over here.” By nature, they follow their training and instincts from place to place and thought to thought.

As a writer, while the worst thing you could do is plagiarize someone else’ work, the worst thing someone else could do to a writer would be to censor their work.

“How dare you tell me what not to write.”

A Christian writer enters this protective bubble of creativity and their obedient faith might collide with creative freedom like a person walking unexpectedly into a clear glass wall.

The impact is jarring. Papers go flying.

When I attend a conference for writers in the broader publishing market, there are no creative boundaries. Sex, violence, profanity, overt evil behavior and anything else a mind could conceive are thrown about like children playing with sand on a beach.

And those are the discussions among writers of books for middle schoolers.

Most Christian writers would agree their relationship with Jesus Christ applies some standard for their work which would preclude using certain writing approaches. Just as Scripture warns a Christ-follower about the words they speak, everything we do should be subject to a much higher level of scrutiny as we function as ambassadors for the Creator.

Are there books a Christian should not write?

I think the answer is yes.

A book is a major statement. It has a long life. Words found in books might live for a hundred years, or more.  Among media, books are elephants, social media posts are mosquitoes.

Still, books are not the ultimate destination for every message. Why?

Because as believers, two foundational truths characterize our faith experience:

  1. God is in the continual process of molding each Christ-follower to be more like him. It is a slow journey with many twists, turns, peaks, and valleys, but we are all a work-in-progress.
  2. God is in the continual process of drawing others to him, meaning the person you might paint a certain way today, might be a fellow believer tomorrow, or next year, or fifty years from now.

As an agent, I’ve seen proposals which I don’t think should be published, either by traditional or self-publishing methods.  They ignore the two facts I mentioned above and seek to put a stake in the ground on an issue (or through someone else’ heart).

One or more years from now, the underlying story and facts in a book, or the author himself or herself could be entirely different, spiritually or otherwise, making the book irrelevant.

Mostly, I am talking about writing driven by anger or a judgmental spirit. Most books written with a negative undertone will not last long. Those which uplift, reminding others of God’s ongoing work in the world and pointing to the answer to life’s greatest mysteries, are more compelling long-term projects to pursue.

Writing a tell-all about your former church or ex-spouse and how terrible they are? Nope.

Sometimes an agent or publisher declining a proposal is simply saying, “This book will be irrelevant in six months.”

Sure, there are short life-cycle books which might be here today and gone next week and have some value. But copies of the book will live a lot longer, and the person, company or organization you painted in a certain light might come back and haunt you in the future. The author might even regret writing it.


–Write big – Topics which explain something deep and long-lasting. Almost never will it involve complaining, anger or personal attacks.

–Leave room for God – Never assume you know the end-game or conclusion for any story. God’s grace is lavish, he never lets his children slip from his grasp or withdraws his love from them. Write like you know this.

Writing as a Christian carries different standards than the rest of the creative world. While many authors point to creative freedom as their standard, Christian authors know true freedom is actually the freedom from sin, bought for a great price and they desire to reflect thankfulness for it through what they write.

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