Friday, August 24, 2012

Who In The World

"Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day." ~ Ernest Hemingway

Don't listen to him. Remember that Hemingway took his own life. Trust me: a writer can palliate her loneliness and feel just fine about it.

I remember too well how it felt, in those noble, lonely days. I had a few encouragers, but they faced formidable foes, both inside and outside my skin.

You've heard the inner voices: "Look at your work: it's amateur stuff. Why waste your time on it when you could do something useful? Something profitable? Something practical? Something normal? 

Then there are the outer voices, notable not so much for what they say but for the way they say it. I remember telling people I wanted to be a writer, and they'd get this wonky look on their faces and say, "oh, really?"

To be fair: those folks may have been giving me encouraging looks. Perhaps it was those voices, those endless voices in my head that turned the whole thing ugly.

But it was ugly. I faced eternity, or the lack of it, each day. And nothing got written.

Then I met a miracle: one dear friend who talked about literature and thought as though they were the most important things to talk about. One day I ventured six timid words: "I want to be a writer." She took me seriously, urged me to attend my first writers conference, walked with me my first steps toward publication, and dear writer friends - toward you.

And what is the good of writer friends? Please take out your Bibles, and turn to Hebrews 10:24: "Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works..."

That's what we're here for, all of us friends. To urge one another on to good writing. To provoke each other to love for our readers, for our craft, for the God we write for.

For further reading: Garrison Keillor has a great page about famous literary friendships.


Anonymous said...

I love this, Katy. It's why we're here. And we are encouraged.

Lori Benton said...

Yes. Great verse for this post too. I want that to saturate my soul when it comes to encouraging the writers God has linked me with. Thank you! And thank you Katy and the rest of you for all the encouragement and provoking to good work you've channeled my way over the years, from posts to contests to emails to face-to-face visits. You have made such a difference in my life.

Megan Sayer said...

Yup!! : )
What Lori said.

Kathleen Popa said...

Lori, it was wonderful for us too, to see you at Mount Hermon, and I loved that I got to do coffee with you that time.

Megan, look forward to seeing you in person, soon.

Sharon - mwhah!

S. F. Foxfire said...

Thanks for that. I really needed to read that tonight. :*D

Recently I've been going through a hard faith time, where God is very still and silent, and my writing has been . . . well, let's just say it HASN'T been. Period. I have a plot I'm working on, but I'm so scared to start it because it's something I've never done before (even though it's the fourth book in a series).

The military campaign and different character storylines happening simultaneously freak me out. Oy. I know God will help me, but having you guys to talk to really does help, too. My mom's the biggest supporter of my writing, and she's been such a peach about my--and mine and her--hours whittling away at the keys and pen. I thank God for her, and for you. Thank you for encouraging us, because I've had run-ins with professionals before, and the reception was barrenly cold.

Thanks for your warmth.

Megan Sayer said...

I've had a thought...
I read that verse in Hebrews, and I kept on going (as one does) to where it talks about the people who did what they did because of faith. The two passages are completely related - we spur one another on to good works because we believe what we don't see. That's such an allegory of the writer's life - we have no assurance at the end of our writing day (or year, or years) that the book we've been so passionately slaving over will ever be published, but we do it because of love, and because of faith.
And...this is where the end of that faith passage leads...those faith guys only ever saw the tiniest beginnings of the things they'd hoped and dreamed of, and then they died.
I'm reading two books at the moment, both by dead people. Both are exceptional books. One was never published in the author's lifetime.
I can get how discouraging that must have been. Especially at the moment. I think that discouragement is common to all of us. Yet this is particularly why we need to keep encouraging one another, and encourage one another to keep writing despite what we see around us. We don't know when our words will have a life-changing impact on someone, or whether we will still be alive to see it, but we do know that we must strive to be the best "us" that God has called us to be, and if that means honing and strengthening our writing despite what we see, then that's what we must do. Because we just never know.
And that's faith.

Kathleen Popa said...

Foxfire, I know the place you describe. Please do trust that it is holy ground, reserved for times when God changes the chemistry of things. He is wise and good, and more right than we ever understand.

Megan, yes, you're absolutely right. You mention authors whose work was recognized only after they had died. It brings to mind the painter, Vincent Van Gogh, who never even saw a glimmer. And yet, his work and his life touch me deeply. Hard as his life was, as much as he suffered, and as much as he longed for a success he never saw - part of me thinks he didn't get a bad bargain, to have seen the way he saw! And perhaps it was because of the pain, that he had eyes to see.

Holy ground.

Want to see something really good? Watch Andy Serkis portray Van Gogh on The Power of Art:

V. Gingerich said...

Kathleen, usually Novel Matters inspires me to be a writer. This post, especially the last two paragraphs, inspires me to be a good writer friend.

Megan, good thoughts! "...because we believe what we don't see." And "because we just never know."

Anonymous said...

Where is the "like" button :)

Camille Eide said...

Yes. What Lori said.

And yes to both "provoking" (I KNEW it was a spiritual gift, I KNEW it!!) and being iron that sharpens iron (to add another scripture). Yes to writers who, whether or not they are a friend in the 'normal' sense of the word, are a friend like no other because they GET IT. I can write alone as long as I know I'm not really alone.

And yes to Megan on faith in the unseen and perhaps unfulfilled in one's lifetime. Faith that God will water the seed we've planted is the heart of Christianity, of being a creature after His own heart, gifted for his purposes and glory.

And one final Yes to the challenge/reminder to take the encouragement received and pay it forward to writing brothers & sisters. It's a kind of grace, and for it, I'm very grateful.

Megan Sayer said...

Katy the youtube clip you sent is WONDERFUL!!!! I've watched about half an hour already, and am still going.
No van Gogh though (incidentally I was thinking of van Gogh when I wrote my previous comment, too). It's an episode about Rothko, but I ADORE Rothko...he's my all-time favourite American artist, so this show is quite a find. And as soon as I can I'm going to invite the host, Simon Schama, for dinner. AMAZING!!!
So...yes this is totally off-topic...thank you so much for the link. I'm sure if I watch enough episodes I'll get to van Gogh eventually.

Oh, and another cool thought...none of those artists worked in a vacuum, either. They didn't have the internet, but they had cafes and manifestos, and they bounced ideas off one another constantly, which is where such amazing new art movements were generated. We can learn from that as writers, I feel.

Kathleen Popa said...

Wanderer, I'm so glad we inspire you!

Ashten - you made me smile.

Camile, yes, yes, yes, and YES!

Megan, I chose the link that said it was the whole play list, thinking that would get you all of Van Gogh. Oh well - the whole Power of Art series is great, and Rothko is one of my favorites. But wait till you see Serkis doing Van Gogh - it really takes the whole series to another level. You'll feel you've met Vincent for real.