Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Sunday Wind Down

As I sit here nursing a warm cup of coffee, it occurs to me that I have nothing typewriter related to speak of this week.

That's ok. I've got something else I'd like to share with you.

My finace says that I worry too much, and I've gradually come to accept that. I love history, and I love studying the lives of real people that shaped our world. But I also love writing. If you read A Steel Symphony, you'll know that I really really love writing. When I spend too much time away from my typewriter or the dozens of novel outlines that I've been wanting to update, I go through a miniature crisis.

No, I don't have legitimate panic attacks. I'm using "crisis" in the lightest, benign sense of the word.

It's never a good idea to dwell on the past. My lovely lady will probably smack me after reading this. I can't help but wonder how much I could have accomplished in the four years of lethargy I wrote about in my essay. True, it was a learning experience, but at times I think I took the wrong lesson from it.

When I go into crisis mode, I try to allocate all of my available free time to writing and reading. Right now that's ok, because all I have to do is edit my current WIP. I finally finished reading the Mistborn trilogy last night. My next book will be a long one, and I've already promised myself that I will only use the Royal KMM for that project.

In short, when I go into crisis mode, I essentially think that I'm an old geezer who'd better crank out as many books as he can because, dang it, that clock sure is ticking.

When I was young, I very badly wanted to be published before I was eighteen. Now I would really like to break into the market before I am thirty. Statistically, most writers aren't published until they're in their thirties, and I finally realize why.

A writer needs several things to be good at his work: skill and experience. You can only get skill by practicing and you can't get experience unless you live your life. They are two halves that directly compliment each other.

But I, however, fall into the trap of obsessing about skill and forget the part about living. But the biggest gripe I get into with myself is what kind of author I want to be known as, which brings me into conflict with some pre-concieved notions about the industry.

I want to write entertaining fantasies, but I also like the idea of stories in contemporary settings that highlight various social issues. The next thing I know, my brain is spinning its wheels trying to figure out how to accomplish all of this.

And then, last week, I found some words of wisdom from one of my all-time favorite cartoonists:

Bill Watterson

The above link is a condensed, illustrated version of a speech he gave back in 1990 called Some Thoughts on the Real World from One Who Glimpsed it and Fled. That title alone is brilliant. The full text can be read here.

Watterson was a true artist in the sense that he treasured his work as something more than a paycheck. It was a fulfilling occupation, something that satisfied a deep longing every human can identify with. Unfortunately, we live in a society, particularly the United States of America, that pushes money and material possessions above all other forms of achievement.

A consumer economy will not survive if the people aren't buying things, so the advertisers have to keep pushing the people to keep buying those things. Often, this results in a grand misdirection: that buying those things will somehow satisfy the longing in our souls.

It just ain't so.

Brian Jaques, author of the Redwall series gave a talk to some kids in Austin, Texas not long before he died. His call to pick up the pen was after a time spent reading to blind children. He was disgusted with the books that were available, and asked, "What happened to the magic? Where were the stories I used to love as a kid?"

Indeed, what happened?

Sometimes it's hard to practice what you preach. I wrote in my essay that doing something for the sheer pleasure of it is, perhaps, the best reason of all. The world will try every dirty trick in the book to make you think otherwise. In my case, it'll try to make me think that I'm really interested in selling millions of copies, earning awards, and becoming the subject of academic lectures.

And that's not even close to why I began writing in the first place.

But I'd also forgotten something even more important: I serve a loving God.

How does that relate to the subject? In every way.

There are three Bible verses that stand out to me in this moment. The first, Psalm 139:14, "I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." The second, Psalm 46: 10, "Be still, and know that I am God." And the third, Matthew 6:34, "Therefore, take no thought of tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Friends, when it comes down to it, we're all going to die. But the single most encouraging thing about the Christian faith is that death is not the end. I serve a loving God, who brought me through ten agonizing years of arthritis and obesity. He surrounded me with people who loved and cared about me, which enabled me to have the confidence I needed to choose my current career path, and a whole lot of confidence I needed to propose marriage to the woman I love.

It hasn't been without sacrifices. Christianity is not a faith that can do done haphazardly, and not without denying oneself, but that's a topic for later.

I serve a loving God, and He promises me eternal life. My writing, my work, that all came from something inside of me. In that sense, it will never die, so long as I live in Him.

Power to the pen, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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