Friday, October 22, 2010

Time to Get Real?

Let's review the week, shall we?

On Monday Patti revealed that even she, a multi-published author with a gift for writing straight to the heart, even she worries that no publisher will buy her next novel or the one after that. Even she is out there looking for a day job.

Even she finds it hard to write sometimes.

Then on Wednesday, Latayne detailed for you just how long it takes to get a novel published - if it gets published - and just how many obstacles there are along the way.

And then you checked your bank account, paid what bills you could. And asked yourself, perhaps, if it wasn't high time you got real about your chances of ever being a published author.

No. It's not.

It's never time to get real until you understand that "real" is not the materialist, worldly ethos that places a dollar sign at the bottom line of everything. You've got to remember that any God who would be born in a feed trough and die on a cross for us is capable of anything. He's certainly capbable of asking you to lavish your creativity - if only for a time - with no promise of reward beyond the satisfying click you feel when you place the right word in a good sentence.

Will you indulge me? May I share something I wrote five years ago, titled, "What I Really Think"?

Because it still is what I think.

There’s a message hid inside of you.

In fact, the world’s jam-packed with meaning. It’s no accident that butterflies and eggs and seeds make such fine metaphors for rebirth; that wind and fire, water and wine are apt images of the Holy Spirit; that the ocean brings to mind the depths of our own souls. Even the giant water bug Annie Dillard writes of in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, the predatory insect that poisons its prey and then leisurely sucks it void – well, you’ve already thought up a connection or two for that one, haven’t you?

God is the original artist. He hides terror in a beetle, and crystalline beauty in an invisible jellyfish. The more you look at anything, the more you see–any child or scientist knows that.

And this artist God, who saturates creation with metaphor and meaning, this God made you in his image. Certainly you’re not the lone exception in all creation. There is meaning, too, in your soul.

Grasp this. If you don’t, no matter how many words you put on paper, how much paint on canvas, no matter what you do, your message will die with you. You will borrow the message of another and make a dime store copy. You will discount the images, words and phrases that burn in your gut day after day, because they don’t form themselves into something you understand, they don’t fit any outline you can explain.

You will above all suppress the struggle raging inside you, because – well, who knows where that will go, if allowed to run rampant?

“Nothing important is completely explicable,” says Madeleine L’Engle in A Circle of Quiet. That’s because, frankly, you and I only understand small things, like the recipe for green bean casserole.

Big things, like messages in our souls? We don’t comprehend those any more than we know how the bumblebee flies. To excavate that message and expect it to fly–that takes faith.

In The Elements of Style, E.B. White says, “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar… Let (an author) start sniffing the air, or glancing at the Trend Machine, and he is as good as dead, although he may make a nice living.”

Or he may not.

In your comments, why not share a line or two where you felt that click, that right word in a good sentence. Then read your lines to yourself again. The secret no one says out loud is that those are the moments that make you a writer.


Latayne C Scott said...

Katy, what an insightful post. And as I concluded reading it, your question at the end brought back a memory, of the first time I knew I could actually write a novel. It was 20 years ago, when I began my first (and still unpublished) novel about a man who lost his wife to cancer the year before the novel begins. He has become somewhat accustomed to his grief, which he describes as something akin to "having your house occupied by a mild-mannered enemy soldier." Here's the passage that grew a mouth, that let me know I could write fiction:

And now all the pain came back, as he remembered the night Michaela died, and how he had said her name, over and over again, even after all his hope had seeped out of the room where people watched him with downcast eyes, waiting to rob him.

But he couldn't bring Michaela back. She was gone, like his hope, like the warmth out of this September room, like an emptied-out bed, like lost, locust-eaten years.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

That click I feel placing a word in the right sentence is like resetting a bone. Or shoving a shoulder back in its socket.

In my first blog post I mention how the Holy Spirit is described as water and fire, etc. I love that about our God—how He moves.

Latayne’s story (love it, especially that last line) reminds me of my first novel. A friend watches her mentor die of pancreatic cancer and as her friend sleeps the only song that comes to mind is a song you’d sing to a child. Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word…

(keep in mind this was my first novel that didn’t get the editing it deserves)

I inched near Saranna and started to hum, then sing the one lullaby that always did the trick with my girls. Her eyelids remained closed, revealing only faint blue tracks of veins. For some reason the right thing to do at that moment, the only thing I could think to do at that moment was to sing to her as if she were a child I were tucking into bed.

I began, “Hush little baby. Don’t say a word. Mama’s gonna buy you a rocking horse.”

She awoke, tunneling into consciousness like the Loch Ness monster surfacing the depths of murky water. “It’s mockingbird, not rocking horse. Rocking horses don’t fly.” Then she slipped back to sleep. The hum and hush of my mom singing the lyrics ‘rocking horse’ instead of mockingbird crept from the secret places in my mind. It’s how she’d always sung that song to us and then in turn, it was how I’d always sung it to my girls.

Not sure it’s my best example, but that scene has always had a soft place in my heart. Makes me want to go back and hack through the whole beastly thing.

Have a great weekend, ladies!
~ Wendy

Lynn Dean said...

This is one of my favorite passages from my first story:

They followed the little river and headed straight for the mountains, which seemed to rise ever higher out of the earth as they approached. Eliza wondered how they would get the wagon up and over such heights to Elizabethtown on the other side, but just as they reached what seemed to be an impenetrable cliff, a narrow canyon opened before them (...) If there was any place in the world more beautiful than Cimarron Canyon, Eliza had not seen it. The wagon ruts followed a rushing stream, full from the runoff of melting snow that poured from the white topped mountains. The icy water made blithe, earthy music as it flowed over moss-covered rocks, winding its way down to the mouth of the canyon. High above them the wind in the massive pines played a tenor harmony to the stream’s sprightly melody. Fallen needles and pine cones carpeted the forest floor and sunlight streamed in golden shafts through breaks in the verdant ceiling. Here and there, clumps of aspen were setting forth pale green leaves that flickered in the dancing beams of light. Eliza drew in her breath as every turn brought a change of scenery, painted by the very hand of God against a backdrop of towering stone walls. It was easier, now, to praise Him—to thank Him for bringing her here to this peaceful wilderness—a pleasant passage through her impenetrable grief and onto higher planes beyond.

Heidi said...

Thank you so much for that post.

sally said...

Wow! Wonderful post, Katy. Great thoughts, communicated in a beautiful way.

And I love the comments, too.

Jan Cline said...

"your message will die with you." This is a great motivator for me. I very much want my grandchildren to know the gifts that lie in their genetic code. Gifts that are imbedded in my DNA by God, and passed down to them. They may not be writers, but they will see by the words I leave behind that there is meaning to the gifts and talents God places in us. They are for his glory and if we use them wisely, they will go on forever. Deny the God given gifts and you will enter eternity without having left the best part of you behind.

Anonymous said...

Katy, what a beautiful post, what beautiful words. We are so much more than 3-dimensional, for there is an unfathomable depth within our souls that reflects the depth of our Creator. It's our job as writers to plumb those depths and share the stories that are birthed there. It's God's job to take our offering and do with it as He will.

The examples shared here are beautiful. Really beautiful.

Megan Sayer said...

Oh Katy. That was such a God-post. Thank you.

Here's my offering. I was trying to describe the personal ramification sin, of knowing you've disobeyed:

I picture myself, me and only me, avoiding his eyes as I tie his arms to the splintering wood, grab those fat spikes and the mallet and pound into his wrists, trying not to let the blood spurt on my face. I can hear him crying, laboured breaths through pain, and I'm glad to move away and nail his feet as well. I pull the ropes that hoist his stake into the ground. I don't want to stay and watch, but I am compelled to. There's nobody else but me.
The sky darkens. I obey the call inside and offer up vinegar on a sponge to drink, which I know he'll refuse. I don't feel hatred towards him, only shame at what I'm doing, yet I'm cold on the inside. I wait, and watch for hour after hour him struggling to take each breath.
And then it happens. There's no other sound here, even the wind is still, and I hear his quiet voice "Father forgive her. She doesn't know what she's doing", and he's gone.
Yes I do.
I am so, so sorry.

Kathleen Popa said...

Such wonderful passages, all of them. Thank you everybody, for sharing your passages. Jan, I love what you said about leaving your writing behind for your family. I have an autobiography written by a great great grandfather, who ran one of the first newspapers in Colorado. You can imagine how I treasure it. Little did he know.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

I very much enjoyed these extracts. What system can we invent that would see all messages reach their audiences? Surely one based upon money and cutting down trees is fatally flawed yet it lives on and on, the only casualties being the messengers.
Here is my humble offering:

Tense silence followed. Separated by a day and a half's transport journey, many years of antagonistic misunderstanding and rivalry collided face to face on an air wave. They were sworn to the same task, the same master. They strove with every cell in the same direction for the same surrogate mother. The contest eventually, resisted at all stages, taught them to be loyal and devoted even to each other and this is why Colin could speak one solitary word, a name, and be understood in volumes.

Steve G said...

The Psalmist says it well (25:11) -

"Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances."