Relevance. Ah…it’s such a buzzword these days in publishing. Seems like everywhere you go somebody is altering themselves, their lifestyle and their message to try and be more “relevant” to the people they want to reach. Musicians do it. Comedians do it. Teachers do it. Authors do it. Heck, even churches are in the “relevance” game now.
And why not? After all, honing your delivery to be relevant simply means that you are “in-touch” with your audience, right?
Here’s the funny thing about pursuing relevance–if you’re trying to be it, you probably aren’t. Coolness can’t be faked any more than singing with Auto-Tune makes you a vocalist (sorry T-Pain), or growing a handlebar mustache makes you a man (though I envy any man who can pull it off).
The reason it doesn’t work is because people are smart. We can spot a fraud a mile away. Newsflash: the world isn’t impressed with your wimpy mustache and your auto-tuned voice. As a matter of fact, there is little in this world that annoys people more than a fake. It’s insulting to them, to you and to the God who made you to be so much more than a mere knock off of someone else’s “cool.”
Besides, relevance is fickle. What’s [insert latest word for “cool”] today may be totally [insert latest word for “lame”] tomorrow. A word of warning: If you’re reaching for relevance you’re likely to end up with a fist full of lame. Why? Because you’re going about it all wrong.
Here’s an idea for you: instead of forcing yourself to try and fit the illusive mold, why not try being authentic? (Wow, what a refreshingly timeless word.) Seriously, the word relevant sounds like a marketing push gone wrong, but authenticity? That’s a word that demands my respect.
Being authentic is something worth pursuing. My favorite people in the world are those who don’t pretend to be something they aren’t. I feel at ease around them, even if they are different from me. They live honestly, unafraid to let their “real selves” show. As a result, I never have to wonder if what they are saying is really what they mean.
One of the best examples in the Bible comes from the story of David and Goliath. Our little guy David had volunteered to slay the giant and somehow King Saul took him seriously enough to meet with the lad. After he realized this kid meant business, Saul did what every good commander would–he gave David his armor so that he would look like the champion he wanted to be. Trouble was, Saul’s armor wouldn’t fit our scrawny hero. It wasn’t his…and it wasn’t necessary. Pretending to be something he wasn’t wouldn’t have done him any good on the battlefield. And it doesn’t do us any good either.
As a writer of YA & children’s fiction I must admit I struggle with the whole wanting-to-be-relevant issue from time to time. I want kids to like my books, so I’ve been guilty of mixing it up a bit and trying out different voices that I’ve perceived are popular or successful. For example: Lemony Snicket had a very unique voice in his writing that captured the imaginations of an audience who loved his dry wit and melancholy humor. But if I tried to write in that tone in order to be popular too, it would drive me and my audience nuts. It’s his shtick, not mine. Like David, I’ll choose the weapons of words that fit my voice and let my stories resound with those who appreciate me for who I am.
That’s not to say I don’t take chances and stretch myself in my craft. The last book I co-wrote was about mice with guns, for goodness sake (which you can read for FREE).
I like this series because, like the Codebearers books, they’re the kind of books the twelve-year-old kid inside me would like to read. I write for him, because he’s easy to write for. I know him.
So the next time you’re facing a decision to change up your style to be relevant, pause for a moment and ask yourself it it’s being true to who God called you to be or if it’s playing to the crowd. Be authentic. It’s the most relevant thing you can do.