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Author Topic: Orthodoxy and Writing  (Read 1025 times) Average Rating: 0
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Benjamin the Red
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« on: September 08, 2011, 11:05:53 AM »

A random question for you good folks today:

At this point in my life, I could go several different directions with my "career." Nowadays even, it's common for people to be involved in a few different "careers" in their lifetime. One I am interested in pursuing currently is writing. I enjoy it. I most enjoy writing essays (typically on a religious topic) and fiction. However, being now Orthodox, I have to ask if it is proper formally write (and possibly be published) as both a writer of religious works and fiction works, especially because my fiction does not occur in a vacuum. I don't like writing stories similar to what many evangelical protestant writers will do, in which everyone is a Christian or is struggling to become a Christian and nothing is vulgar or bad. While I can't help my themes from being cautionary or redemptive (since I do believe these things) my characters, even main characters, may say, do and be otherwise involved in quite unchristian things. What I'm saying is I don't want to write "preachy" fiction, and what my writing to have some grit.

Also, I find myself wrestling with what else I might do if I don't write. A few things are on the table, and a big consideration is service to the church. I'm not sure what that will mean in the future. While it could simply mean years of lay service in some position, I will not include nor exclude the possibility of some day being tonsured or ordained into some form of holy orders, as that decision isn't even mine, but belongs to the Holy Spirit working through the Church.

And so, the question I find myself staring in the face is this: Should I consider fiction writing in the manner detailed above if I am not ruling out service to the church, especially in some form of holy orders? Candidates for such things are to be "above reproach" as St. Paul says, but would not writing stories that often include rather unchristian scenes (albeit not being thematically opposed) possibly cause reproach or scandal? I enjoy writing and think I could make somewhat of a living from it, but if having such things on my reputation would hinder my church life and service, it's not worth it. I would like to hear what you all have to say about the matter. I hope I've explained myself adequately here, but if not, feel free to ask some probing questions to better understand what I'm talking about.

I appreciate everyone's consideration and replies!
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« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2011, 11:14:48 AM »

Not knowing the details of your fiction, my thoughts would simply be that it is the message that the fiction leaves in the mind of the reader that counts.  Good should triumph over evil, and it should not encourage youngsters to disrespect all adults.

   
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« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2011, 12:08:50 PM »


I think writing fiction is fine, as long as you don't lead anyone astray with your writings.  In other words, while not being an overtly Christian novel, at least don't make it anti-Christian, proponing bad manners and low morals.

Try to instill good character atributes.  Make the main character someone you would like your kids to look up to (when adults).

...and leave some stuff to folks' imaginations - don't be too graphic.

You might also consider using a pen name, so that your religious works display a different author from your works of fiction.
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« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2011, 12:23:17 PM »

Don't limit yourself. Lots of fiction has been written from a "Christian" perspective without it being obvious. (In fact, until about the last 100 years, most fiction in the West was written from a Christian perspective. That is, it took for granted that mankind is flawed, but basically good, and that Good as well as Evil exist.)  If you write solely to a "Christian" audience, then you are ignoring all those souls out there who need to know that life, though often hard, is good, and that internal change is possible. That's why most of us love the old novels the best.

In brief, avoid nihilism. It's the pose that has, for the last 100 years, run art straight into the ground. If life is meaningless, why even write about it? If beauty does not exist, why paint it? It's a mental attitude of despair and cynicism that holds life and mankind as worthless. Fiction used to be a journey in which the reader accompanied the writer through an imaginary world of moral choice: Good and Evil exist---though they are not always clearly distinguishable---and their battle is fundamental to the story. That dynamic tension, in fact, is the main reason why any story is interesting. (Read Aristotle's Poetics.)

If you write with an intense love and interest in the fascinating world God has allowed us to enter, and if your characters are interesting and complex, and if they struggle with moral choices, or to overcome personal frailties---yet overcome---then you are writing as a Christian. Christian art affirms the basic goodness of this life, even in its complexity, and it does not succumb to despair. Dostoyevsky was above reproach, wasn't he?

I also love Lisa's suggestion about leaving some details the the reader's imagination. In Greek tragedy, the murder used to be committed off-stage because it was far more effective to leave it to the imaginations of the audience. A good novelist allows his reader to participate.

As far as writing about things Orthodox for a career--writing novels isn't going to pay the bills--develop interviewing skills and a solid nonfiction style. There's always room for a good article writer. Now that pays.
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« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2011, 01:00:19 PM »

I guess the lesson I've learned in my old age is: do those things in your life that seem best (best = spiritually health, fulfilling, providing meaning, and all that other good stuff). Don't settle for doing something that you don't want to do, or worse that is beneath you, just to have a bit better job security, a nicer hourse, etc.   As for being a writer, good luck Smiley I can sympathise, since I also will be tempting fate with crazy decisions about what I do with my life.
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« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2011, 01:35:39 PM »

If you are meant to be a writer, you will not be able to stop yourself easily. If you do, you'll probably feel depressed and weird. If you are meant to be a priest, same thing, I think. The two professions are sort of linked in as much as a writer is a teacher and, as an artist, a sort of soul-healer in some respects. But, frankly, if you are at the starting point of your professional life, do not worry about one or the other. Just practice patience. Both involve self-sacrifice, odd hours, poverty, isolation, and reliance on God for inspiration and strength. If you've found a way to get paid as a writer--I'd love to know so I can cash in, too. You may consider getting paying work as a journalist or by getting another unrelated paying job and writing after work. The more real life experience you have the better, no matter what you do.
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« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2011, 01:37:24 PM »

I've always been a writer and I continue to write whatever I want. I think if there is beauty in it, then God is there, even if it is not "Christian" on the surface. My themes and styles have shifted since I became a Christian, but rather organically, not from any attempt to stifle my ideas.

By all means though invoke the aid of our many great writer-saints.
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« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2011, 01:38:51 PM »

On a side note I read somewhere that Blessed Photios Kontoglou made his living writing pirate stories.
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« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2011, 01:43:14 PM »

Dostoevsky evidently is a Church Father.

And didn't write like no Saint.

Dostoevsky today would be writing screen plays with R ratings. Or long format premium cable TV series.

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« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2011, 01:48:59 PM »

Yes, I think even if Dostoevsky is not a canonized saint, his work has become a de facto Church tradition for many.

I think writers and other artists who become Orthodox and are worried about the role of secular arts in the Christian life would do well to read what St. Basil said about pagan literature.
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« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2011, 01:54:24 PM »

Dostoevsky evidently is a Church Father.

And didn't write like no Saint.

Dostoevsky today would be writing screen plays with R ratings. Or long format premium cable TV series.

I wonder how different some of the works of Dostoevsky might have been under different circumstances. As it was, he sometimes rushed his work, and probably always felt a great weight on him, because of his debts and other problems (some of the debts admittedly being of his own making, but some of them came because he did the honorable thing).

I think writers and other artists who become Orthodox and are worried about the role of secular arts in the Christian life would do well to read what St. Basil said about pagan literature.

Link for those interested...
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« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2011, 07:46:09 PM »

If you plan on writing, i highly highly echo Liza, and use a pen name.


It is the easiest way to be free to write whatever you want, and keep each part seperate. For example(not that anything of mine is published yet, but intentions) when i write stories about women and possible issues, i will usea name such as Lauren Montalo, rather then my real name, or my normal pen
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« Reply #12 on: September 09, 2011, 08:17:18 AM »

Dostoevsky evidently is a Church Father.

And didn't write like no Saint.

Dostoevsky today would be writing screen plays with R ratings. Or long format premium cable TV series.


One of the few people who I felt truly sorry for.

I thought about writing some fiction loosely based on the Grand Inquisitor with Christ returning and being rejected but it would be too parallel to what has been written.

I'm not sure how you would approach your fiction, if you do incorporate Orthodox elements. If I wasn't considering leading folks astray I would add alot of mythological things inter-spliced with Orthodox things to make a compelling work of fiction, would take some discernment on the part of the reader if it is to be a serious work rather than satirical.

Whatever you do end up doing I would love to read it, I personally have enjoyed all your posts and have gained deeper knowledge and wisdom from them. Your writing style would be something I would definitely read.
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« Reply #13 on: September 09, 2011, 03:48:52 PM »


Narnia has a boatload of mythological creatures and still passes on a good message.

(Don't tell anyone, but, I actually cried when the lion died.)  sniff....sniff.....
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« Reply #14 on: September 09, 2011, 10:16:32 PM »

Metropolitan Leonty wrote poetry.  The current Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem. Abp. Torkom Manoogian, has not only written books of poems under a pen name, but has also published translations of Shakespeare in Armenian under a pen name.

Go for it.  I don't know why your faith should preclude your art and talents.
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« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2011, 11:05:32 PM »

Sorry it took me so long to get back here. Thank you all for your responses. It's been very helpful.

I definitely plan on using a pen name. What I'm looking at is writing work that, I think, is redemptive...is Christian. I'm not going to write a work in support of nihilism. But, I am going to portray nihilism. I'm going to face real life head on. I have written works that include vulgarity. Including in language, sex, illegal activity, etc. I think to do so is to actually interact with actual depravity in the world. Of course, I'm not going to include such things just because, but if they're useful to the plot or the setting of a scene, I will. And they won't always be portrayed in the light of being absolutely wrong. Not that they're condoned, but that the point of my writing is working towards a broader theme than knit-picking every little action.

I think there's power in interjecting eternal truth into a broken situation, and I don't think that's done by converting everyone in the to Christianity. That's just fake. I actually prefer to leave out specific religious references. I don't want Orthodoxy being the central pillar of the story, or any religion, really. While religion may be included in a story, I don't want to use fiction writing as a sermon. As a morality tale, as a story to make people stop and think about life...absolutely. But that's not a sermon. I hope I'm making sense!

Again, thanks all for the input. I appreciate it. And thank you for the kind words, Achronos, I'll be sure to share some of my writing with you sometime.
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« Reply #16 on: September 15, 2011, 05:53:04 AM »

Whatever you write - be it fiction or nonfiction - write prayerfully and write from the heart. Don't write to please people or to make a profit. Write that which you cannot help but to express, and strive to formulate your words with creativity, simplicity, and truth. As you write, seek the glory of God and the edification of your fellow man. It doesn't matter if others agree with you or like what you have written; what matters is that your words come from the recesses of your mind and heart. Ask the intercessions of St. Paul and St. John the Evangelist. They are patron Saints of writers.


Peace to you.


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« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2011, 12:40:09 PM »


^...coming from a great author, himself!

Excellent book Gebre! 

I had no idea it would be soooooo thick!
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