by Jeff Ward-Bailey
Writing a testimony or an article for the Christian Science Sentinel or Journal can be a lot of fun — because you’re sharing a healing that really made a difference in your life, or a spiritual concept that has spoken to you deeply. But it can also be challenging to feel like you’re describing your inspiration accurately, and in a way that will be easily understood by other readers.
I’ve been working as a staff editor at the Sentinel for a little over four years, working with authors — everyone from long-time Christian Science teachers to new Christian Scientists writing their first articles — to publish in print and on the web. I do a lot of work with teen authors, as well, and as you might imagine I sometimes get submissions from Principians sharing their experiences! I’ve found there are a few elements that really make articles and testimonies sing. So if you’re struggling to write about a healing, you might find these points helpful:
- It’s okay to sound like you! It’s easy to assume that “writing spiritually” means “writing in the style of Mary Baker Eddy” — using flowery language, liberally sprinkling phrases like “malicious animal magnetism,” and employing words like “illume” and “infinitude.” There’s nothing wrong with these conventions per se, but a testimony or article is often much clearer if it’s written in a more straightforward style. Think of the way you’d describe a healing to a friend who isn’t familiar with Christian Science. You probably wouldn’t drop a buzzword like “chemicalization” without explaining what it means, right? Simplifying your writing — and not feeling the need to conform to 1880s-era literary conventions — often makes for a stronger piece.
- There’s no quota on quotes. Sometimes people assume that there need to be a certain number of quotes from the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in their piece. By all means, if a certain passage jumped off the page at you, you should talk about it in your article! But you should never feel pressured to shoehorn a quote in to your piece if it really doesn’t apply.
- Try to strike a balance. Many successful articles and testimonies include both a narrative (a healing or experience) and solid metaphysics. If your piece has both these elements, think about using the narrative as a framework and weaving the spiritual details in — in other words, maybe you could talk a little bit about a healing or experience you had, then use the spiritual lesson you learned from that experience as a jumping-off point to make a broader metaphysical argument. Feel free to include whatever details you want to communicate with the audience!
- Don’t sweat it! All the editors at the magazines are happy to hear from contributors. You shouldn’t feel nervous about sending in a piece, even if you don’t feel that it’s perfectly written. The editors are happy to work with authors one-on-one to get a piece sounding just right. And you wouldn’t believe how many strong pieces I’ve received from people who really didn’t think of themselves as writers!
The wonderful thing about Sentinel and Journal articles is that they’re all written because the author had an amazing experience or insight and wanted to communicate it with others. If you let that desire to share be your guide as you’re writing, you can’t go wrong.
This guest post is from Jeff Ward-Bailey, who was a Principia College writing tutor before he became a staff editor at the Christian Science Sentinel about four years ago.