Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Vagabonds With Sticky Feet

“So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt,” so writes God when giving the law to Israel.  Peter changes it up a little in the new testament, addressing his letter to ‘aliens and strangers.’  The word vagabond carries the same idea. Webster defines vagabond as one that goes from place to place without a fixed home.  The funny part is that Christians have a fixed home—but not here.  The Christian has a home in heaven.  In our body and skin we get stuck here and lose sight of our ‘fixed’ residence.  The alien gets stuck to the earth; call it vaga-bonding if you will.

We have sticky feet with toes like Gollum that cling to this earthly soil.  That’s the curse of our flesh.  Peter tells his readers to ‘abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”  “Unstick your feet,” is what he’s saying.  Which is incredibly hard.

We live in this solid, visual, tactile world and it certainly feels like home.  Most of the time.  It’s like Turkish Delight in Narnia, 

“Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking; for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves. But she did not offer him any more.”
 We go on and on trying to sate our stomachs with what we see with our eyes.  We’re supposed to focus on what we don’t see though---to walk by faith and not by sight.  So hard though to taste Heaven.  So difficult to be satisfied in Christ.  It’s a struggle, it’s a war to choose to walk in those things that are true but unseen and turn from what we can strike with our hands.

To make the tension all the worse there are those connections we have with humanity.  These are good, solid, God created relationships.  It is good to love one’s wife, to find joy in one’s child, to smile when you connect with another human being.  Who hasn’t felt the security and affirming love in a real hug?  It’s like you could stay in that embrace forever—like going home.

One gets the idea that this life is all about the tasting but not about being full and satisfied.  We are told to ‘taste and see that God is good.’  We are fed on tales of a Promised Land which is far off.  Then Peter tells us about “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven.”  Until then we wander as aliens walking in the tactile and  looking forward to that which will truly feed both senses

Sunday, December 21, 2014

NaNoWriMo- 3 Things I Learned

“Like a body rising to the surface from great watery depths so Kendall began to wake up,” is one of my favorite lines I wrote for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year.  The challenge is to write a small novel, 50,000 words or greater.  I wrote 25,000 words; my first attempt at a lengthy story.  My novella is called, “The Making of Clay,” and it follows Clay and his wife Kendall through a character arc involving fracking, kidnapping, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), guns, drugging, and a small deli.  In the process of writing for NaNoWriMo I learned (at least) 3 things.
Writing is hard work.  It’s a cliché for a reason.  On the one hand the process is engaging, engrossing, challenging and soul-stirring.  The meat of the process involves hammering out a story with plot, characters and setting---all that stuff we learned about in elementary school.  For myself that part of the process was the most difficult.  For example at one point I had all the characters established along with how they were connected to each other.  The problem was that the storyline necessitated them coming together.  I wrestled for days before I came up with a device that would motivate them to be in the same place at the same time.

My appreciation for professional writers greatly increased in this process.  As did my questions about how they write.  In a tome of say six-hundred pages; such as a Ken Follett novel,  do the writers keep a chart of characters physical traits: eye color, type of lips, body shape?  Do they map out intersections that characters will go through?  I can’t comprehend that they would keep all that info in their head. 
Anything can be found on the internet.  I investigated wheat farming and found that much of the world’s wheat is produced in China.  I researched rape drugs (ala Bill Cosby) and even found sites that described the best way to kick open a door.  A believable story involves some aspect of research whether it be via interview or internet. 

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying. (Steven Pressfield, The War of Art).”  My daughter said to me, “Dad, I feel like you and Glenn (a close friend) always choose these high goals and then you don’t finish them!”  The point I told her is to have the goal and go for it.  The sad thing would be to never dream the dream or set the lofty goal.  This process reaffirmed for me that anybody can write the novel, travel the world or paint the painting.  The problem is that most people don’t do the work.

I will participate in  NaNoWriMo again next year.  I’m shooting for 50,000 words.  I’ll dig in on November 1st and push hard til the 30th.  It was a disciplined challenge.  The process and fruit of the process were well worth it.  I’m already wrestling with story ideas.  The process continues---the work goes on.

            “This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” ---Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles