The In-Between Places: How My Faith and Art Fit Together

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How my faith and my art fit together has been one of the great challenges — and satisfactions — of my life and writing career so far.

For years, I separated my beliefs and my creative work — writing faith-themed non-fiction (articles) for Christian publications and audiences, and fiction (plays/screenplays/novels) for mainstream audiences.

Only here and there would I create small overlaps. But recently I decided it was time to fully integrate these two ‘sides’ of who I am, with a novel series and script adaptation I will share about more when completed (soon!)  They’re not ‘sides’ really; they’re at my core. They don’t run contrary to each other.  But in this world of ours, the various parts of who we are can seem that way.

Because here’s the dilemma I’ve encountered in the writing industry, or so I’ve been told: my writing is too spiritual for mainstream publishers/producers and too worldly for Christian publishers/producers.

Translation? Too many faith professions or references to Jesus, God and the Bible for nonbelievers; too much ‘language,’ sex/intimacy or misguided behavior for believers.  (Not that there’s very much of either, outright — but even a single instance of one seems to bother somebody or other).

Why be so inclusive? Because I want to explore who people really are. How messy and imperfect we all are. I select contexts very carefully, and I strive to make all situations and choices believable for the characters in the story. Not glorified, but clarified. Even if I don’t personally agree with all that my characters do, and all that happens to them in the story, I want to show the reality of who they are and where they are at.  I want readers/viewers to understand how and why they got there.  Just like I’m called, in life, to understand and care for people who may be different from me.

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Being a Musician vs. Being a Writer

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In my freshman year of college a few things happened where I felt I had to decide between being a musician and being a writer.

 

I had gotten to the point in the repertoire as a violinist where I’d either have to become a professional or keep it as a hobby. To take the professional route would require me to spend a dozen or more hours a day in practice and let go of most other time commitments in my life. I had concertized; I had been in orchestras, even toured a bit — but I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted above all else.

 

Alongside my musical studies in those years, I also studied theater, acting and playwriting. It just so happened that in this same period of my freshman year, I had entered a young playwrights festival contest and got word that I was one of the contest winners. The prize was to have my play produced professionally.

 

The process of seeing my play come to life for the first time — working with a director and dramaturg, doing revisions, watching actors audition to play my characters, seeing them bring the roles to life — all of it transformed me. My words, my thoughts, my voice were not only coming out but being affirmed by professional artists and by audiences.

 

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As an 18-year old, this took me in a direction I didn’t quite expect. Music was always my main thing; theater was second. But winning that contest and seeing my play performed in front of me that year clarified my decision.

 

I decided to be a writer.

 

Why? For the “glory”? No. There were gloriously satisfying moments as a musician too — performing solo on stage to enthusiastic applause after hours of learning a piece, winning regional or national competitions, touring the country. It required my creativity, my being, poured into the work, just like with writing. I knew that either field would require a lot of un-glorious work, rejection, and persistence, like in any arts field.

 

What was different?

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