Leigh McLeroy is an author, speaker and “everyday theologian.” She earned her Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University in journalism and her Master of Arts in Apologetics from Houston Baptist University. That is how I came to meet Leigh. She and I had several classes together, and we graduated together in May from HBU as the only two members of our class.
She has published four solo books: The Beautiful Ache, Treasured, The Sacred Ordinary and Moments for Singles. Overall, she has collaborated on a total of 22 books, and she is also the author of a weekly devotional, Wednesday Words.
Because of her experience in the publishing industry and her excellent perspective, I asked Leigh if she would be willing to come on the website to talk about writing and creativity. She graciously agreed.
Thank you Leigh McLeroy for joining me on Entering the Public Square!
ZS: First of all, can you please tell me a little bit about how you discovered your love of writing? Has it been a lifelong passion?
LM: Every writer was and is a reader first. Period. I began reading at 4 and have been in love with books ever since. I started writing when I was eight. The best part of school for me was the day in late summer when you got a new Big Chief tablet to write on, or spiral notebooks to fill with notes. I was published for the first time in elementary school when a teacher of mine sent a poem I wrote to a scholastic magazine. I had more poetry published in college, where I was a journalism major. (Because I was only ever really good at one thing--writing!) I've made a career of writing from my 20s on, and since then there's never been a time I wasn't writing--for love, or money, or, best-case scenario--both.
ZS: You have written several books already. Where do you find your inspiration for the topics you choose? Are they relevant issues in your life that you want to explore that then grow into books, or do you see a perceived need in society for someone to speak to certain issues?
LM: I'm thankful I don't have to go hunting for inspiration--it almost always finds me. Some books are related to felt needs. My first published book of my own (I'd already ghostwritten six for others by that time) was a NavPress devotional for single adults. Someone gave the publisher my name as a good "voice" for that space. But my second book, The Beautiful Ache, began as a series of essays about longing--all kinds--and how they point us God-ward. It took me months to realize it was "asking" to be a book! The essays were inspired by C. S. Lewis's words: "If I find in myself a desire that no earthly thing can satisfy, the most obvious explanation is that I was made for another world." That's the beautiful ache of our now-and-not-yet Kingdom.
ZS: As a Christian author, you naturally write from a Christian worldview. However, how would you define a Christian worldview? I have made some attempts on this website, but I would like to hear your thoughts.
LM: A person who has chosen to follow Christ and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit will have a Christian worldview. It's simply a way of seeing, recognizing and interpreting the world around me through the arc of the gospel story, from end to end-creation to re-creation. This is the mindset by which we as believers interact with culture, with our world. (See this video interview with Leigh, "How should Christians engage with culture?")
ZS: I assume you would agree with me that creativity is a gift from God. Do you think that there is any difference for a Christian author for instance who utilizes that gift with an understanding of where it comes from than for a secular author who might have that gift but not a true appreciation for the source? Does that cause you to approach writing in a different way?
LM: Creativity is most surely a gift from God. But it is quite possible to enjoy and employ a gift without awareness of the giver. Sadly, much of what passes for "Christian art" is often not done with excellence--and as a result does not authentically mirror the Giver in its goodness, even if it names Him by name. And conversely, excellent writing, excellent painting, excellent dance or music or architecture may mirror the beauty and excellence of God without naming His name. (Common grace, perhaps?) I do believe Christian artists who strive for excellence have the best of both worlds: they may create good, true and beautiful things with the awareness that they do so through the gifting and for the glory of God the Father.
ZS: It seems to me that many creative people feel that the quality of Christian art, Christian music or Christian literature is somewhat lacking. I would be interested in your thoughts about how we go about changing that trend if you feel the same way. Do we simply need to hold Christian creatives to higher standards, or is there a more fundamental change in approach that needs to take place?
LM: Those of us who are Christians and artists of any kind must, as Dorothy Sayers once said, "Serve the work," whatever that work may be. We must, because of our faith, do work that honors both the gifts we employ, and the Giver we serve. That may mean surrendering a didactic tone or an insistence on a single, rigid interpretation to a willingness to serve an idea or medium as an act of worship, and let the Holy Spirit handle "results." I have this quote tacked in my office where I work: "I am sure no crooked legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter's shop at Nazareth. Nor, if they did, could anyone believe that they were made by the same hand that made Heaven and Earth. The worker's first duty is to serve the work." (See this video interview with Leigh entitled "What is Christian art?")
ZS: I hear you have a new book coming out. Can you tell me a little bit about that project and let our audience know when we will be able to read it for ourselves?
LM: Sure. The new book is a 365-day devotional published by Tyndale and tentatively titled A Minute of Wonder. It's scheduled for release in the Fall of 2017, which means I am scurrying like mad right now, curating LOTS of material. For the last 14 years, I have written and distributed a weekly devo titled Wednesday Words to an audience of a few thousand folks. I write, and they read--and then a lot of them write back to me. It's become a long and loving conversation, and I'm thrilled that Tyndale saw the work and wanted to put some of it into print. The idea behind Wednesday Words was that I would observe what God was up to in my world, and report what I saw back to a few friends each week. And since God is always doing something new, I've never stopped writing it. He really is a wonder-working God in things large and small, if we just pay attention. It's a very Ignatian idea--even though I'm a Presbyterian ;-) Anyone who'd like to receive Wednesday Words can, for free, sign up on my website, www.leighmcleroy.com. Or, you can follow me on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/LeighMcLeroy. where I also post it each week. You'll be getting a preview of the book's flavor!