f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Tensions: Day II

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tensions: Day II

(Speaking of tension. In dire frustration, I shouted audibly in the office today. Rather loudly. Here's the thing about publishing houses: they're dead quiet. Publishing houses in reserved Scandanavia-laden Minnesota are doubly so. I had six people check in to make sure I was okay. Some from halfway down the office.)

Anyway, here are the other two tensions. You know these. We talk about them all the time.

Craft and Commerce

Like all of these, it's fundamentally a false dichotomy, the assumption that one can't be found without the other. But in practice it's pretty evident. Critically-acclaimed books often have very low sales. Bestselling novels often get ripped to shreds by the literati. I'm not saying anything new. The interesting question isn't about good writing or bad. It's about where a novel starts and where it finishes. How much are you willing to change your initial vision for a novel to capture a theoretical audience?

Finally the biggie, at least for us here on this board.

Art and God

What's interesting is that for most of us, this isn't a tension. It might have been at one point, but likely we've gone before the throne and prayed and thought through this. We've made our decision. I had a dark night of the soul regarding my writing shortly out of college. A sermon on Phillipians of all things gave me confidence and restored the joy of the creative spirit.

So it's not an internal tension so much as an external tension. Because what we find, particularly in the Christian publishing world, is that a lot of people have come to very different conclusions about this topic. And so we're either frustrated at the undisciplined worldliness of some art or dumbstruck that intelligent human beings could think a swear word invalidates an entire piece of art. I'm not sure I've seen even a lick of movement from either side.


So those are the four fundamental tensions, as I see them, within Christian publishing. They make it a fascinating place because, in the best of times, there can be widespread discussion and debate. Very little comes easy or cheap. At the worst of times, these tensions can be extremely polarizing...and we have plenty of that in our country right now as it is.