Thomas Merton wrote often about writing. When he entered the Trappist monastery in December 1941, Merton renounced secular life—which included a very promising literary career. He gave all his journals, poems, and a novel-in-progess, to his mentor, a Columbia professor, for safe keeping. Merton expected to write little, if anything, ever again. However, he almost immediately was assigned writing tasks by his Abbot. Among these was an autobiographical essay The Seven Storey Mountain, which surprisingly became an international best-seller. The book made Merton famous, and for a time, he struggled with the compatibility of dual vocations as a monk and a writer. Eventually, Merton came to accept his new calling, even using it as a source of creative tension. His thoughts on writing, though decades old, remain uniquely relevant for the Christian writer. This excerpt was taken from The Sign of Jonas (shout out to pastor friend Dave Jacobs for calling my attention to this quote):
We who say we love God: why are we not as anxious to be perfect in our art as we pretend we want to be in our service of God? If we do not try to be perfect in what we write, perhaps it is because we are not writing for God after all. In any case it is depressing that those who serve God and love him sometimes write so badly, when those who do not believe in him take pains to write so well. I’m not talking about grammar or syntax, but about having something to say and saying it in sentences that are not half dead. St. Paul and St. Ignatius Martyr did not bother about grammar but they certainly knew how to write of God.
Imperfection is the penalty of rushing into print and people who rush into print too often do so not because they really have anything to say, but because they think it is important for something by them to be in print. The fact that your subject may be very important in itself does not necessarily mean that what you have written about it is important.
A bad book about the love of God remains a bad book even though it may be about the love. There are many who think that because they have written about God, they have written good books. Then men pick up these books and say: if the ones who say they believe in God cannot find anything better than this to say about it, their religion cannot be worth much. (pg 59 and 60)