Last week my Bible study class was reading in 2 Peter about false prophets, of whom, as Peter warns his listeners, “In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping” (2 Peter 2:3 NIV).
Of course, as a creative writing professor currently leading a novel workshop—that is, teaching eager students how to fabricate stories—and as a writer currently engaged in writing a novel of her own, I shivered a bit.
He means a different kind of story, I consoled myself, as the class question-answered through the passage. He’s not talking fiction writing, the passage makes clear, but about preaching, about spreading “destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord” (2 Peter 2:1 NIV).
Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about the uncomfortably commercial side of the writing world in which I am involved. How the buying and selling of books necessarily engages our—i.e., writers’, agents’, publishers’, marketers’, publicists’ —greediness: to get more media exposure, to sell more books, to make more money. And, we Christian writers are, in effect, preaching, aren’t we? I worried. The Holy Spirit was at work, I feared, forcing me, as always, to look again, think again, before proceeding.
Just then, one of my classmates confirmed my fears by reading from his version of scripture the same passage about greedy story-fabricators: “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Peter 2:3 KJV). Isn’t that what we seek to do in our blogging and signing, platform-developing and tribe-building? I confronted myself. Turn our readers into merchandise sold?
The self-promotion demanded of us writers has always disturbed and embarrassed me. Deep down, I genuinely believe that, if a book is good, it will sell itself. But, the publishing world sages are quick to remind me, if a book’s not out there for people to see and read, no one will know it’s good. My efforts as an author stretch thin between these two pillars of writerly wisdom.
No answers here. Just puzzles, some worries, and a bit of scripture—fodder for reflection, I imagine, among fellow writers bent on being transformed into the image of the One God Sent.