August 21, 2012

Rethinking the Concept of Platform as Christian Writers

Writers, ever feel overwhelmed or confused or just plain lost when it comes to trying to build that mystical 'Platform' the experts are always telling us we need? Me too.

Yesterday I started reading a book called The Narnian: the Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis, by Alan Jacobs. I'm only on Chapter 2, but so far it's amazing and I suspect you'll be hearing much more about it before I'm finished.
But while I was still reading the Introduction, something jumped out at me and really made me stop and think. The author, Jacobs, was talking about the "mixed bag" of material that C.S. Lewis wrote - science fiction, fantasy, literary history, literary criticism, apologetics, and theology.
For any author today - being hounded from every side by 'experts' to stick with a single theme and build a solid platform on that theme and whatever you do, don't step outside that theme - a repertoire like Lewis' looks like a big no-no.
But, as both Jacobs and Lewis point out, throughout all of Lewis' work "there is a guiding thread" (Lewis' words, quoted by Jacobs). That guiding thread is, at least in part, Lewis' desire to simply do what needs to be done and say what needs to be said. He became a novelist because no one wrote what he wanted to read, so he did it himself. He wrote a defense of John Milton's poetry simply because he cared about Milton's poetry. He defended and argued for and promoted Christianity because he was convinced of its truthfulness. He simply said what he felt God wanted him to say. Every time I read something by C.S. Lewis, whether for the first time or the fiftieth, I find connections to his other works - whether it's finding a connection between Mere Christianity and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or between The Silver Chair and a deep Biblical truth, that 'guiding thread' is everywhere.

What can we take away from this? Writers, I'm guessing most of you wouldn't want to face the challenge of trying to create a platform, according to today's guidelines, that encompassed all of C.S. Lewis' work to the experts' satisfaction. It would be murder! According to today's guidelines, Lewis didn't really have a platform. All he had was that guiding thread, that need to say what God had given him to say. When his message could be said best through a theological treatise, a theological treatise was what he wrote. When his message could be said best through a children's fantasy story, a children's fantasy story was what he wrote.
Writers, I know what the 'experts' say. I've heard it too. Platform, platform, platform. But what if our concept of platform became less about the genre/sub-genre/story-type we write, and more about just saying what God has given us to say in whatever way is best to say it?
Interestingly enough, literary agent and expert Rachelle Gardner has a post on her blog today that expresses a very similar idea. Click Here to read it. She encourages writers to write what they know - not just about experiences or circumstances they're familiar with, but about truths they know in their hearts. Isn't that what Christian writers are supposed to be doing anyway? Maybe God is trying to tell this generation of writers something.
Man-made rules and molds and cookie cutters were made to be broken (or stabbed by a spiky shoe). Let's not let them scare us into trying to confine our work inside a pre-made box. Instead, let's start looking for that guiding thread.

Do you struggle with the concept of platform as a writer? Do you know what your guiding thread is? How do you approach this issue? Feel free to share in the comments box.


  1. Great post. I have often thought these things to myself, but you did a wonderful job putting it into words. I had predetermined to just write whatever I want, or feel led to write. It's a very freeing feeling, especially if other people intend to do the same. Thanks Mary!


What are your thoughts on this post? I'd love to hear your comments, questions, or ideas, even if you don't agree with me. Please be aware that I reserve the right to delete comments that are uncivil or vulgar, however.