This post is written to link with an online discussion at katemotaung.com on the book “On Being A Writer” by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. Today I’m posting on Chapter 7: Promote- I want other people to know I am a writer.
Self-promotion in any area of life is not something that comes naturally to me. I think that is partly due to personality, partly down to experiences and also partly because of the Scottish culture I grew up in. The message I received repeatedly was that you should just quietly get on with doing the right thing and not draw attention to yourself. If you were doing well at something your reward would come, but it was not a good idea to be seen to be blowing your own trumpet or getting ideas above your station.
As a Christian this idea can be reinforced. There are many examples in the Bible of people who made no attempt to promote themselves, but who quietly worked away until their moment came: Joseph serving faithfully for years in Potiphar’s house and even in prison until he is brought before Pharaoh to interpret his dream, David quietly looking after his sheep in the fields until he is anointed as king, Daniel working diligently in Babylon until he is recognised and promoted. Jesus himself talked about doing good deeds quietly without bragging or calling attention to them. (Matthew 6:1-6)
While I think this attitude is often a good one, I am coming to see that there is also another side to the story. In the very same sermon where Jesus talks about doing things quietly and secretly, he also says: “You are the light of the world- like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No-one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:14-16) He tells a story in Matthew 25:14-30 of three servants, each given money to invest while their master is away. The first two servants double the amount they began with and are praised for using it well, while the third servant digs a hole in the ground and buries his money. He quietly looks after what he has been given, but on his master’s return he is branded wicked and lazy and his money is taken away.
How are we to make sense of these two ideas which seem to contradict one another? I think the key thing is our motives. Are we seeking to glorify God or ourselves? Jesus says in Matthew 6:1-2 that if our motive is to be admired by others, then their praise and acknowledgement is all the reward we will get, while in Matthew 5:16 he talks about letting our deeds shine out “so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” The focus is completely different.
I think as Christians there are times when God calls us to serve him quietly and faithfully with no-one else knowing what we are doing, but there are also times when he calls us to stand up and be counted, to realise that we have something to say and that we need to invite people to listen. I mentioned the examples of Joseph, David and Daniel quietly getting on with serving God, but there are also several examples of people who would have preferred a quiet life who were called to put themselves forward to speak or to lead- Moses being called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Gideon being chosen to take charge in the battle against the Midianites, Esther being asked to go and speak to the king when she would have preferred to stay silent.
In terms of writing, I think Ann makes an important point in the book when she talks about promotion as a way to get the message to a larger number of people. “The message matters and I want to get it to the people who need to hear it.” If we have this attitude it is not self-serving or promoting ourselves, but it is seeing it as something God has given us to share with others and doing our best to use that well so that it impacts the largest possible number of people. I think it’s important to seek God in the area of promotion just as much as in the area of writing, and to be willing to do it when he calls us to, no matter how unnatural it may feel.
“We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson- The Return to Love)