All writers are trying to relay a message; this is nothing distinctly religious. However, Buddhism expresses that the mode of doing this, the ability to do this well, is a key characteristic of a Bodhisattva. In The Lotus Sutra, the Buddha says to his disciple, Shariputra,
Shariputra, the Buddhas teach the law with accordance with what is appropriate, but the meaning is difficult to understand. Why is this? Because we employ countless expedient means, discussing causes and conditions using words of simile and parable to expound the teachings. The Law is not something that can be understood through pondering and analysis. Only those who are Buddhas can understand it. Why is this? Because the Buddhas, the World Honored Ones, appear in the world for one great reason alone. … They wish to induce human beings to enter the path of Buddha wisdom, and therefore they appear in the world. 
So, it would seem that the Buddha, a being more enlightened than anyone on Earth at the time of this speech, cannot succeed at fully explaining himself—what it is to acquire enlightenment to the point of Buddhahood. All he can do is guide us along the path so that we can, on our own, become enlightened. Buddhist writers must see themselves as guides who lead their audiences toward a message.
The Lotus Sutra is full of thoughts on the necessity for a speaker or writer to gauge his or her audience and speak or write accordingly. The chapters titled “Expedient Means” (a synonym for rhetorical skill) and “Simile and Parable” express this point explicitly.
So how should this inform us as writers? A writer with a Buddhist sensibility will consider his or her audience first and foremost. The message one wants to convey must be shaped and tempered by this consideration. For example, if you want to convey the message that xenophobic tendencies are more detrimental to the xenophobe than to the objects of his xenophobia, but you feel your audience may consist of people who are not even aware of this concept or that relating to the “Other” is even possible, you must start with a story, essay or poem that relays the definitions of this concept in understandable and retainable ways. Your initial message about xenophobia must be put on the backburner, saved for another literary endeavor.
The Buddhist writer, then, must have sincere compassion for his or her audience, even if that audience is dastardly and blindly prejudiced toward anyone different from themselves. The Buddhist writer must know that every person harbors a Buddha nature and must attempt, to the best of his or her ability, to reach that Buddha nature. The message, in a sense, is secondary to consideration of the audience one is trying to reach.
So, Buddhist writers should always ask themselves this question before they write: “How can I best convey my message without alienating my audience?” This is not an easy task, but what in this samsara world is?
Watson, Burton (Trans). The Lotus Sutra. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. Print.
Erec Smith is a college professor and author of the novel, Creamy Nougat. His scholarly and literary interests revolve around the confluence of Buddhist philosophy, teaching and rhetoric. Follow Erec on Twitter»