Why I Gave up on Platform Building as a Christian Author
After spending thousands of dollars on an education in English and Creative Writing I thought I had all the tools I needed to make it in the real world as a writer. I had read contemporary literature, wrote a senior project I was proud of, and entered into the real world thinking someone, somewhere would notice I could write and my career would begin.
I entered into the world of blogging and writing and started to hear this term "platform building" for the first time.
As a writer, I was confused and frustrated when I found out I had to be a marketer too. As a Christian, I was conflicted with this new idea that felt like I had to make an idol out of myself.
I shifted my personal instagram account and began devoting it to this thing called "platform building" and people actually started to make fun of me. I had people tell me I was a wannabe influencer and somehow the message would get back to me that I was trying to be famous.
It was never about fame for me; it was about faithfully pursuing a calling on my life to write that I now knew had to coincide in a world with "platforms."
Writers have found ways to work around this. Some buy followers which might get you a book deal but won't sell books. Some post controversial content like clickbait, but with the moral compass of a follower of Jesus the only kind of "platform building" I'm at peace with is the kind that requires diligent hard work and slow growth.
And even with this kind of platform building, I find myself asking, "Why am I doing this?"
I heard one Christian writing organization share that platforms are so that people who need to hear your message can hear it. When you get on a platform to speak, it was to increase your ability to project, not to put you in a spotlight. Somehow, this feels a little self-righteous to me...assuming people need to hear from me.
Another writing organization says to think of your platform as a bench. You're creating conversations and sitting side-by-side with your readers. My question for this comparison is why then, do platforms often feel so one sided and why do we try to fit a hundred thousand people onto one bench? I think the authenticity of the conversation can be lost in the amount of people and the noise.
My solution? I stopped building a platform and I started building an altar instead.
Here'e the difference...
A platform is about me. An altar is about God.
Building a platform feels like building a stage. It feels like building a space where we can speak, and in the online world that's what it's all about. You know when you follow an account what their "niche" is and you can see exactly what they're about and what kinds of things they'll post. Building platform feels like this, building ourselves up and speaking on what we're passionate about hoping someone will listen.
Building an altar is about connection and communication with God. Building an altar isn't about getting on a stage, it's about sacrifice and exchange instead. The biblical definition of an altar is literally "a place of sacrifice"(BibleStudyTools.com). Building an altar in the social media world can be sacrificing for God. It's presenting our gifts and words back to Him in a place of expectant exchange.
A platform is to make me higher. An altar is to get closer to God.
There is really no way to humbly want your following to increase. Even with the purest heart, in some way, your platform is about making you higher. It's about reaching more people, and it's about getting a message out. Even if that message comes from God and is beautiful and needed, platforms are literally about standing higher up than those around you when Jesus was someone who was washing people's feet.
Altars are places for communion with God and it's about getting closer to God. Being a writer is not an easy thing. Being a Christian isn't easy either. Both require continual communion from God. Both require sacrifice. Altars represent our covenant relationship with God, and when I think of my "platform" as an altar, I am reminded that's what it's really about for me.
I write because God made me a writer. I write because I'm giving it back to Him, and I couldn't write without my relationship to Him. Platforms require us to step up, making us higher than we are. Altars require us to bow down, posturing us in response to the holiness of God.
A platform is about reaching out, an altar is about offering.
Platform building is about getting your message out there. It's about trying to work as hard as possible to get people to care about what you care about, and it feels like continually reaching out as if you're handing out flyers on a busy street and watching people take them only to toss them aside a few steps down the street.
An altar is about offering. Offerings cost us something. Offering something up to God means giving something up, not giving something out.
It's not about creating something we can afford to lose, it's about building something based on our own brokenness and longing for an encounter with God. God responds to people wo build altars. Noah built an altar, and God found the aroma pleasing.
Altars were used to mark and remember encounters with God. They were made for worship. As a Christian, my whole life should be an altar; a place built for faithful obedience and worship to God. As a writer, I don't need a platform. I need to be continually working and sacrificing all that I can offer to God.