Tag Archives: Musings

Writing Takes Writing, Faith Takes Faith

In order to write about writing you have to actually write.

This may seem like a bit of an obvious statement, but one that I’m reminded of as I’m working through a slightly drier period of working on my books. I’m not speaking specifically of the act of creating (though creating does have its own special joy), but simply of doing anything productive toward the writing goal, whether it is looking up literary agents, writing query letters, revising drafts, or even reading.

Put another way, in order to gain insight on something, especially insight worth sharing, you need to get around to laborious doing of that thing once and a while.

I think this applies to all apsects of life, but another area where I feel challenged by this idea is my faith.

I don’t read the Bible every day, nor do I do some other sort of quiet study on a regular basis. I pray a few times a week, usually in life group or form prayers before meals. I believe, but when asked the question “how is God working in your life right now?”, I’m really not sure how to answer it. I call myself a Christian much like someone who starts the first chapter of a novel and then puts it aside for months calls himself a writer. Technically it’s true, the writer did write something, but there’s a substantial difference between someone who practices the writing or the Chrisitan life, and someone who dabbles.

I do feel God challenging me in different ways in my life (writing this blog post is part of that), as well as giving me a passion for various causes, like labor conditions in China. These are good things, but they require a good grounding as well. Just as the writer reads other authors to gain insight on the writing craft, so should I as a Christian read the Bible, and make myself aware of Christian thought throughout the centuries, not just my own perceptions in the now.

This blog is a good challenge as well. I want this to be a blog about writing, and on the way faith impacts my writing and other things I care about. If I let the blog lay stagnant, if I don’t post new ideas or new thoughts for a couple of weeks, then readership begins to taper off. Having a group to whom I speak 4-5 times a week requires that I have something to say.

I’m not sure if today is the day I’ll get into better regular habits with the Bible or with writing, but it is something I’m praying for.

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Why Is That Man Running Through The Street Naked?

“Loafing is the most productive part of a writer’s life”  – James Norman Hall

I stayed up too late last night playing video games. I don’t do this very often anymore, as most of my time that isn’t spent at work or with my wife is spent working on THE NOVEL(s). But waiting for “the next save point” may actually help my creative process, at least according to Jonah Lehrer.

Lehrer’s latest book, Imagine: How Creativity Works  explores the different ways in which innovative thoughts originate, and the ways some companies are trying to adapt to the ways people really create.

Creative thinking seems to come out of two kinds of activity, rest versus rigor. There are times when we are beating our heads against a problem and are unable to come up with a solution until we take a moment to relax (say like Euclid in the bathtub). Other times our best and most refined work comes out of the discipline of doing a thing every day.

For me, blogging has been a good example of this second kind of creativity. I try to post four times a week at the same time each day. Some days, like today, I really don’t know what I’m going to write about until an hour or so before (sometimes only minutes). The discipline of writing every day gets me in the habit of creating something every day, and in turn seems to make coming up with ideas easier.

For a while.

I definitely fall more into the rigor camp of creativity. I don’t like to “wait around for my muse to speak to me”, and I think most productive writers adopt similar habits. But rest can be just as important for coming up with the big ideas. Lehrer’s Fresh Air interview sites numerous examples of creative people “burning out” for a while, then suddenly having the insight that made them famous. Thus, I’m not just playing Anachronox, I’m giving my brain the space to come up with new ideas.

Riiight.

But the thing I agree with Lehrer on the most is the importance of letting yourself go. Whether it’s the “punch the keys, damnit!” line from Finding Forrester, or thinking about how a child would solve a problem, or simply getting a little drunk or tired, removing your inner censor can often help you to make connections you wouldn’t otherwise make. Some of my best (and my worst) writing has been done when I’m tired. Even the good stuff is in serious need of revising of course, but I might not have come up with the idea at all if I hadn’t allowed myself to be in a little more flexible state of mind.

How about you? When do you get your best ideas (in the shower? on your commute? etc.). Do you find yourself more inclined to rest or to rigor?

(A bit of an aside: Though it’s a rough read, the Calliope story from Sandman’s: Dream Country explores some interesting ideas about sources for inspiration, and what can happen to a person if they get too many ideas at the same time.)

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Life’s Simple Answers

“We want an answer to Life, The Universe and Everything. Something simple.”

A few weeks ago the republican candidates for president were asked to define themselves with one word. Their choices were Consistent, Courage, Resolute and Cheerful (I’ll let you guess who said what).

For myself I’ve chosen three words: Writer, Programmer, Singer.

I think we like simple answers, but even with three times as many words there’s a lot about myself I’ve left out.

For starters I could add “christian”, as my faith informs all three of these passions in my life. Now that I’m married “husband” wouldn’t be a bad choice, and hopefully someday “father”.

But even with additions there’s a lot I’m leaving out. I used to sing, but I haven’t been part of a choir for over a year. I’m working as a programmer, but rarely create any programs for myself. I love to write, but there is still so much more I am striving to achieve before I feel I can change “writer” to “author”.

Something about life defies an easy answer. If it didn’t 42 would be as good an answer as any.

I like the complicated answers, the ones that take time and discussion to muddle out. My dad and I have been talking about classic literature and thought. There’s a conversation that’s been happening through human thought and literature from the days of Plato, Aristotle and Socrates to the modern thinkers of today. It takes place in styles of literature, in ideas, in science, in all areas of life.

I want to be part of this conversation.

Some fun in honor of this our 42nd post:

I had a little fun with Yahoo’s Babel fish doing some back and forth translation. I started with the following phrase in English, “Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy“, and translated it into a number of different languages and back again to English. Here are the results:

Chinese: The traveller guides to the galaxy
French: The hitch-hikers guide with the galaxy
German: Tramper lead to the galaxy
Italian: The Hitchhikers guides to the galaxy
Japanese: The hitchhiker leads to the galaxy
Portuguese: The Hitchhikers guides to the galaxy
Russian: Hitchhikers direct to the galaxy
Spanish: The hitchhikers direct to the galaxy

If you had some other words to describe the Republican candidates you are not alone. The Daily Beast posted some word clouds that sum up public opinion. You can see them here.

I’ve added a Blogroll to the site and have a few other updates planned. Stay tuned!

And finally

What one word (or three) would you use to describe yourself?

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Filed under Faith + Life, Round-Ups

Digital Materialism

I surround myself with a lot of things. In my case, it’s media of all kinds, books, games, CDs, DVDs, graphic novels, manga and comic books (Yes, I’m a geek, hadn’t you noticed?). In addition to my physical material possessions I have a vast digital library of eBooks, MP3 files, video files and digitally download games from GOG. I also pay for cable and a Netflix account, and have from time to time contemplated replacing the cable with Hulu+.

In other words, I’m a fairly typical middle class American.

My acquire-lust started in earnest when I got my first job working for the library as a shelver (some libraries call them pages). Not only did I have my own money to buy things with, I spent countless hours going through stacks of books, CDs and DVDs browsing as I shelved. I like assimilating new ideas, listening to different music, watching TV shows, and reading interesting books and the library accentuated my ability to acquire new things. This desire carried on after that job, and now manifests in me spending a lot of money at Half-Price Books.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the ways we acquire things now, and how the digital realm is shifting away from ownership. Services like Pandora, Hulu and Netflix provide streaming services for music and video, some paid some not. The library now lends digital books and audiobooks and most public domain books can be obtained for free. We’re moving toward a world where we can tap into anything media related, without actually owning it.

My question is this: If digital media shifts even further into this “library” model of listening to content, will we continue to be materialists with regard to content?

Let’s assume that tablets and computers are widely available to the point that 95% of the population has them (maybe 20 years from now conservatively). By this point, while there always be high end hardware, most people will have a device that works just fine for them, much like TV’s are now. Almost everyone has one (some have several), and while some are obsessed with getting a big screen, for most it is just a way to view content and thus not the object of material desire.

It’s this desire that I think is the key point. Right now I would consider myself to be just as much of a materialist with regard to my digital life, as my physical life. Though I have access to a vast amount of streaming content and games, I still desire to own certain things (preferably as DRM free as possible to allow me fuller and more sustained ownership). I curate a small portion of the vast sum of human pop-culture and call it my own. Thus, even if I owned nothing but the computers and tablets that access this info, I would consider myself a materialist.

But if I didn’t own the content, and everyone had access to everything, would my simple desire to consume it be enough to make me a materialist? The consumption of new ideas and thoughts in an of themselves is not materialism. I also think it is possible to own a lot of things and not be necessarily obsessed with acquiring more (I hover in this space now, trying to be content with what I have, and trying to remove some of the clutter.)

I think people will always want things, and even when things are freely available to all, there will be something else that fills the void. But I think it’s important to think about the ways our changing digital society will influence our ideas about those obsessed with materialism.

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Filed under Faith + Life, Trube On Tech