- Posted by Edith Ohaja
- On October 14, 2017
- 50 Comments
The day before yesterday, I chatted with a lovely sister and blogging friend, Ava Chioma Oparadike. In the course of our conversation, she said she loved my poems and actually thanked me for them. I’ve had other blogging friends like Angela Royse Pellemann, Rita F. Kurian, April Clevenger Boyer and Tammy Dunlap compliment my writing. Being faith and inspirational bloggers as I like to loosely call us, it means a lot to me because many people in the Christian community don’t seem to understand why I often do creative writing instead of straight preaching cum teaching.
I alternate my posts between regular devotionals and creative writing, but many mature believers tend to ignore the latter. In the blogging groups I belong to, I often omit a description of the genre of writing when I share my posts for fear that most people would consider looking at them a waste of time.
Ava’s remark gave me the idea to explain why I decided that my faith and inspirational blog would be a great outlet for my creative writing such that I have categories for poetry, fiction (I call the posts there short stories) and nonfiction. I also compose aphorisms which I compile under the category, self-composed quotes. I often place a few of these in tweet boxes in each post.
REASONS I WRITE ABOUT FAITH CREATIVELY
1. To reach a wider audience: I believe that this is possible when the gospel and encouragement for believers are presented through witty quotes, fiction, nonfiction and poetry, in addition to the usual devotional format. In this way, many who are averse to direct preaching may be touched by God while, for example, they are reading evocative stories or rhythmic poems.Many who loathe direct preaching may be touched by God through creative writing. Click To Tweet
Some people will not click on a post once they think it’s religious. Many of these people will not darken the door of a church either. We can still reach them by approaching them with stuff they can relate to. In the short story series, My Beautiful Neighbour, I presented a young, handsome Nigerian man, who was an unemployed graduate. The story followed his hustles to make a living and his sexual proclivity, heightened by his attraction to his married female neighbour. The story was inspired by the Ponzimania that hit Nigeria between 2014 and 2016. Below is one of my poems inserted here as an illustration.
2. To create an atmosphere for my lessons to sink in more: In the book, Television: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, Volume 2, edited by Toby Miller, the scholars assert that, “Entertainment is the most broadly effective educational fare in any culture.”
When people go to church, most remember the jokes from the priest or pastor. It’s hard to believe, but after a while, the entertaining stuff is all that some remember from the sermons. They can recount details of a dramatic performance in church but may not be able to give you the teachings chapter and verse.People recall entertaining stuff better than more serious stuff. Click To Tweet
God knew this and adopted the strategy of capturing people’s attention and imagination in unique ways before delivering His messages in the Old Testament. He was a great dramatist with the prophets. Remember when He told Jeremiah to wear wooden yokes (Jeremiah 27:2-4) and to break a clay jar before a crowd (Jeremiah 19:1-13).
He instructed Ezekiel to act for the Israelites in Babylon how their countrymen at home would soon be sent on exile during the reign of Zedekiah (Ezekiel 12:1-15). And for those with fragile sensibilities, I wonder what they would have said when God commanded Isaiah to go naked and barefoot for three years (Isaiah 20:2-6). The reason was not to corrupt but to shock the people into paying attention to God’s warnings of impending judgment.
The Lord Jesus knew this too. He did not just quote and explain passages of Scripture to people. He largely taught in Parables. These were highly engaging stories with morals. He encased profound truths in these interesting stories. He challenged his listeners to pray without ceasing with the Parable of the Importunate Widow (Luke 18:1-8) and warned them to wait vigilantly for His return with the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).Jesus taught in parables to engage His listeners & engrave His words on their hearts. Click To Tweet
That, I believe, is part of the reason people were never tired of listening to Him. His sermons were not ponderous like those given by the teachers of the law and Pharisees. And the listener couldn’t remember the story without being reminded of the lessons because they were intrinsic to the narrative, even though he didn’t always explain it all. He wanted the people to reflect on His words.
So I follow His example. For instance, I wrote a story titled Knowing When Enough is Enough to discourage married couples from quarelling publicly. I hope to create a spectacle to the extent that the art forms I use can accomplish and pray that in the excitement, the lessons are embedded in the reader’s consciousness. I would love to do this better by providing audio and video versions but that is yet to be. Now I just build intrigue, conflict, agony and dilemma into my stories, heightening the suspense, and pushing the reader towards the resolution.
Poetry, also, is attractive and memorable. Many of the Bible books, such as the Prophets, are poetic. The rhythm and rhyme caused people to pause and made the messages stick. And they still do. Many were sung, like the prophecy Moses gave about what would befall Israel after his death (Deutronomy 32:1-43) and the Psalms. The true beauty of some of these compositions has been lost in translation but often we still get a sense of how they were originally meant to sound.Poetry is a crisp way of conveying deep truths or making insightful commentary. Click To Tweet
For me, poetry is a crisp way of conveying deep truths or making insightful commentary on Biblical or contemporary affairs, including love, sociopolitical issues and momentous events. In a few quatrains, I can address a complex issue, strike a chord with readers and hopefully get them thinking about it. Sometimes, I receive the grace to weave the theme into lovely imagery, as was the case with Safe Flight, Nigeria, composed in the sustained chaos that followed the inception of the Buhari administration.
(Related: Governance by Trial and Error)
Whether lyric or otherwise, some poems tell stories. And they usually convey encouragement, comfort and instruction like regular stories. For example, my poem, Live in Hope, is free verse but it tells the story of King Solomon and how he became cynical, guiding the readers on how to avoid that. On the other hand, the poem Watch those Fiends, is structured and lyrical but it is the story of King Saul and how pride ruined his life, again cautioning the readers on how to prevent that in their lives.
Technology makes everything so easy. To ensure my readers don’t miss the lessons, especially for those who don’t come online to actually read but scan through posts, I couch some in pithy sayings which I present in tweet boxes or beautiful graphics. The images help to amplify and vivify the message of the sayings, thus promoting memorability.
3. To provide wholesome entertainment: Entertainment is diversion from the strains and stresses of daily life and often, a lot of what is available in the media in that regard is far from clean. But as a child of God blessed with a sense of humour, I can contribute a little to the pool of edifying entertainment online.
When a story is written with believable and well-developed plot and characters, it draws readers in. Sometimes, I do series and the suspense ensures sustained readership. In a few of my stories, I don’t mention God or the Bible, but I present regular folks grappling with relatable challenges and I throw in some humour as can be seen in Help! My Wife Is a Guy! Never forget that laughter or a merry heart, the Bible says, is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22). And if someone who hasn’t met the Lord keeps coming to my blog for recreational reading, perhaps the Lord will plant a seed in their hearts and bring them to salvation.
(Related: 3 Benefits of Walking in Joy)
In most of my stories, even if the characters are unsaved, their circumstances often lead to an encounter with the gospel and surrender to the Lord Jesus. But I try to avoid the fairytale approach where they meet God and all their problems are solved. I make the suff realistic because God has not promised us an absence of problems if we come to Him but He has promised to be with us and see us through them. An example of where this approach is demonstrated is in the series, From Bait to Catch.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
“But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” – Isaiah 43:1-2
4. To enhance readability: The challenge that writers have with millenials and some other age groups today is impatience. We live in an age of instant gratification, so most people are usually unwilling to devote time to read long stuff. Besides, this is the era of information overload. There is just too much stuff out there competing for people’s attention. So, sometimes I write the short poems and short shorts. In a few lines or paragraphs, I’m done. The readers are happy and I’m happy. The Looming Breakup, for instance, tells the story of a campus romance in six short paragraphs.
Moreover, I try to make my posts more readable by presenting them in forms that draw people in and hold their attention till the end. First, I compose an arresting opening and gotcha! I also read everything to myself and keep tweaking till I get the sound and flow that can carry the reader rapidly through the post such that even if it’s long, they’ll be longing for a continuation at the end. This attention to,cadence comes from my poetry composition but, as you can see, it is helpful in my writing across board.
This is how I began another story about campus romance, Going ‘Home’ to Gerald:
“Wifey4life, wen r u rtnin? Must u complete d 8wks of IT? Sch mks no sense wtout u. HURRRYYYYY n save a soul!” Chinny read the sms again and felt a warm tingle all over her body. She smiled and tried to recall how often she’d read it since she received it shortly after 5 a.m., maybe eight, no, twelve times. It didn’t matter. She’d read it so many times and would probably do so all day long.
And why not? The writer, Gerald, was …
5. To teach writing to my students as well as counsel and witness to them. By God’s grace, I teach writing courses at a university. Familiarising students with principles of good writing like clarity, elegance and vitality won’t do them much good unless I demonstrate how these are applied in different forms of writing.Creative writing is a good tool for education which comprises intellectual & moral training. Click To Tweet
Besides, education is both intellectual and moral training. That is why students in my school are required to be found worthy, first in character, and then in learning, in order to earn degrees. I always bear this in mind. Plus, I am passionate about sharing my faith and I think this is beneficial to the students because I don’t believe the claims of secular humanism that people can be good in their own power. We all need the Lord. But we have hundreds of students, making it impossible for me to reach many of them personally. I also know that most of the students won’t appreciate my droning on about the right values and good behaviour. So I write captivating stories, poems and maxims, which they can read on the blog and we discuss in the process of identifying what constitutes good and bad writing.
I hope you have seen that my creative writing is not a casual hobby, the products of which should be sidestepped in search of my devotionals. They are inspired, praise God, and often have scriptural references.
It’s a huge blessing to be versatile, not for applause but to fulfill a divine mandate. I’m a lady on a mission. By God’s grace, my different forms of writing (creative and otherwise) are helping to announce the saving power of Christ Jesus and His boundless grace to the saints. And to the glory of His name, I’m seeing the fruit of this ministry which He has entrusted to me. Halleluia!
The scriptures used in this post are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
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