Stories that Matter

How Honest Can I Be?

So I haven’t blogged in a while. Life kind of got in the way. I kind of got in the way of myself.

And so on and so forth. But really, honestly? I don’t feel I have much to say these days. I read a lot of blogs that have things to say. Writers who have a blogging schedule (um, yeah), stick to it, and present their readers with relevant, witty and entertaining posts week after week. Maybe that’s why they have a few thousand followers and I have under two hundred. Maybe that’s why their books are in bookstores across the country. Maybe that’s why they’re being nominated for awards and accolades. Clearly, people want to hear what they have to say. And they like what these writers are offering.

Lately I’ve been wondering if what I have to say is what readers really want to hear. I love what I do, love writing, but I gotta tell you, this is one tough gig. I’m tired. It’s a struggle, trying to find the right words without offending, insulting or ostracizing anyone. Because I know there are a lot of folks out there who are pretty sensitive about what they read and don’t read. And I’ve already had to deal with some not so happy readers because something I’ve written didn’t sit well with them. I’ve tried to approach this logically, kindly and with some understanding. ย I know we’re all different and we view life through a variety of lenses. But here’s the thing… I need to be honest. I need to write those tell it like it is stories. I need to tackle the untouchables, that character who seems so steeped in sin, hell bound and happy about it. Is there redemption for such a soul? Sadly, many would say no. Me? I say I don’t know. Let’s find out.

Writing is challenging. Writing from a Christian worldview is even more challenging. Who am I kidding? Living in the world as a Christian is challenging. Isn’t it? It is for me, and I don’t profess to be as squeaky clean as I probably should be according to the book of Thou Shalt Not’s that certain sectors of the church seem to think we’re all about. You want honest? I’ve been more disillusioned, disappointed, discouraged and damaged by people within the body of Christ than by friends who just don’t give a rip about religion. But we believers don’t discuss that because it makes us look bad. Ever wonder why so many modern sanctuaries have carpets?

Can I write about that?

So I’m sitting here trying to work this all out. Feel like I’ve been in this boat a while. Wondering where God wants me in all of this. And before some well-meaning soul out there points me towards Jesus and tells me to take it to Him…don’t get your knickers in a twist. I’ve got it covered, but thanks for being concerned about my spiritual well-being. That’s another reason I’ve been quiet lately. When you start asking hard questions, people tend to present pat answers. And I’m just not into that.

I know that if I’m going to write, it’s going to be real. It’s not going to be a let’s skim the surface of sin, sail over it and see everyone get saved by the end of the book kind of deal. And since I’m being honest, I have to say I’m not terribly convinced that the average Christian wants to read those kind of books. I’m not sure if the average Christian publishing house would print them.

So where does that leave me? Do I give in, write a formulaic fluffy feel good read that would probably sell and do quite well, might even make me a few bucks, which is more than I can say I’m making at the moment or keep my head down, keep doing what I’m doing and believe that one day things might change. One day some editor out there might pick up my stuff and smile, because they’ve been waiting for someone to challenge the status quo.

To thine own self be true. Heard it a million times, right? Yeah, me too. But there is some wisdom in those words. Because if I’m going to continue down this path, I need to believe I’m giving it my best shot. I need to know I’m writing the words I feel called to, not the words I think will make me the most money. Realistically, as in any business, the bottom line comes down to what will sell. So maybe I’m being a little stupid here. Maybe I should pack up my ideals and convictions and just go with the flow, write stories that will sell without rocking any boats or ruffling any feathers or turning any little old ladies hair a shade whiter. Maybe.

Or maybe I just keep it real. Keep it honest. And trust.

That’s where I am today. What about you?

Have you ever felt like selling out? What keeps you from doing it?

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18 Comments

  1. Megan DiMaria on July 26, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    I understand your struggle, but I love your words, so WRITE ON, Cathy!

    • Cathy West on August 10, 2013 at 11:36 am

      Thanks, Megan! All part of the fun is figuring it out, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Sarah Varland on July 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I think it’s a tricky tightrope to walk, as you probably know better than I do. =) I think on one hand, you have to consider what sells. But on the other, you need to write the stories YOU have been entrusted to tell. I haven’t read your second, but I LOVED Yesterday’s Tomorrow. Were there parts some people were offended by? I guess it wouldn’t surprise me terribly. Do they need to get over it and admit that we live in a fallen world, and that it’s not pretending that we don’t that Christians are supposed to do, it’s processing how having Christ in us changes how we react to it? Yeah, probably so.

    This definitely makes sense. But keep writing. What YOU write.

    • Cathy West on August 10, 2013 at 11:38 am

      Thanks Sarah! I think everyone has their own barometer of what is acceptable to them. Mine will be different than most of the folks who will read a CBA book. I know there are readers out there who will embrace my style of writing, the trick is finding them! Word of mouth is the place to start though, so feel free to share your thoughts about my books any time! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Elaine Stock on July 26, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Cathy, I applaud you for taking this stand and speaking not only from your heart but your wise mind. I’m in the same rocky boat as you: unable to write lighter fiction (than my more darker/tense stories) yet wanting to sell. Yet, I just can’t change. Have stopped years ago trying to. This world is made–as you know–of so many types of people, people who need to read various types of stories. We writers need to write these various types of stories. What more, in my opinion, is that God has put in us certain types of stories to reach specific readers.

    • Cathy West on August 10, 2013 at 11:40 am

      Elaine, thanks for sharing your thoughts! It’s all part of the journey we’re on – the waiting, the insecurity and the not knowing if we’re in the right place. I have to really learn to just trust God on this one. If I’m meant to reach people with my words, then He will have to push open the right doors and lead me to the right readers. All I can do is keep being me and doing what I’m called to.

  4. Jody Moreen on July 26, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    PLEASE Cathy don’t change- we need MORE writers who stand for truth and are not ashamed of the FULL complete gospel of Jesus Christ- not the feel good stuff. Sadly I have often found there are too many Christian churches that are “careful” with their preaching and teaching not to offend anyone- for fear of dwindling numbers. Though I still attend church regularly, I find myself going outside of church to Christian ministries who embrace and preach the full gospel and spiritual warfare and the ugliness of our past and sin and shame that needs to be surrendered and yielded in order to be transformed by Jesus. Remember the book/movie Little Women- Jo, the feisty sister leaves home to pursue her passion to be a writer and went to New York as a young girl and attempted to change her writing to bend to publishers expressed desire for more worldly passions in her scripts- but her future fiancรฉ told her not to do that and to write from her heart and she did- the result- Little Women. See the wonderful scenes from one of my favorite movies – Little Women with Winona Ryder. You have an audience of one that really counts- the Lord and He will find favor and honor and praise with your obedience to Him!

    • Cathy West on August 10, 2013 at 11:41 am

      Thanks Jody! No, I don’t want to change who I am and how I write – just need to find the right market for it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. dtopliff on July 26, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    I value honesty extremely highly. Keep it up. I’ve recently felt like packing it in because though I find many things easy w/ hard work, I work super hard at fiction w/o achieving the well-filled in holes I desire. My characters so often run away w/ the plot, rascals that they are. Last weekend in Duluth w Susie May Warren relit my fires & built confidence. I also need to move into son’s home to help w/ 2 lovely young children half-time–a major priority for me. I’m trusting God to make my writing time count when I have it (besides teaching college classes on campus and on-line, too) but I’ve had His help wonderfully before and know I can count on it again.

    • Cathy West on August 10, 2013 at 11:43 am

      I love Susie! I am so grateful that she shares her wisdom and talents with us. I guess all of us go through these periods of despair and discouragement, I just wish they weren’t so frequent!! But I’m glad we have each other to lean on and we can give that push when needed! Keep trusting God for your writing, but sounds like you have your priorities straight, and He’ll honor that!

  6. Ian on July 26, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Cathy – I love your blog voice. It’s raw in its honesty and directness which I appreciate. I think you’re right about what the average Christian wants to read but there are many of us who want to read about peoples struggles with sin and such. Helps us all (well me) feel a little less alone.

    As Elaine says we need more authors like yourself. Let’s face it Jesus’ stories were rarely non-confrontational.

    Perhaps there’s scope for some “Cathy West” novels in the secular market.

    • Cathy West on August 10, 2013 at 11:45 am

      Ian, I’ve thought about it. I would definitely cross over if it seems that’s where God can use me. So I guess right now I’m just waiting to see what will happen with the books we have out on submission, and we’ll take the next steps after that! See you at conference!

  7. Chris Kincaid on July 27, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Cathy, you can’t sell out. It would be like ripping out a piece of your soul. You have to write what you are called to write. I feel the same way as well. What am I doing this for? Who is going to ever read all the words that come out of my heart? If only One reads them, then it is all worth it. I can’t – and you can’t – be something that you aren’t.

    • Cathy West on August 10, 2013 at 11:46 am

      Thanks Chris. I agree. I know what I am called to do and I won’t water it down. Can’t imagine doing anything else either, so I won’t be quitting. It’s interesting to see what IS being published in CBA – small changes are being made, so we’ll see what happens in the future. But I’ll hang in there and wait for God’s lead.

  8. Sue on July 28, 2013 at 6:49 am

    I have really enjoyed your books, Cathy and I hope you keep on writing like you do. I definitely feel that there is a need for more books that explore the challenges in life. I just wish that you could write more – please keep it up. I get tired of the shallow predictable books that are light but not really addressing real life issues. I am letting others know about your books in Australia.

    • Cathy West on August 10, 2013 at 11:48 am

      Thank you, Sue! I am definitely writing more – just need to find the right avenue to get the books out there! Hopefully you’ll be able to find a new one from me in the near future! Thanks for your kind words. ๐Ÿ™‚ One of these days I would love to get to Australia, if I can find enough drugs to get me through the flight!!!

  9. Maxine Thomas (@maxwriter360) on July 30, 2013 at 2:29 am

    Cathy – my comments are no different from the ones above, so I’ll keep it short. If our calling is to spread the Good News through stories, let’s do the job in a manner that is pleasing to “The Boss.” Please keep writing as you have been doing. Your words are honest and from the heart.

    • Cathy West on August 10, 2013 at 11:49 am

      Thanks, Maxine! I will keep writing and I’m so grateful for you and others who are also reading and enjoying, and praying for my work! It’s great to connect with you!

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