Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Try This At Home

I'm a writer. I have been since I was a little kid. I love telling stories and I'm obsessed with legends and mythology. When I'm bored, or when I'm excited, or when I'm tired or wired awake, I'm thinking of stories. I have three or four in my head right now - a young woman find a ventriloquist's dummy in her grandmother's attic that looks just like her husband, only it's actually him turned into a dummy and her mother's a witch; three hundred years in the future, everyone works dead-end jobs in cubicles, but at least it's Friday and the weekend's coming soon, only it never does because we were all hollowed out and replaced with robots and our mindless tasks are really just the sub-routines of a planet-sized super computer and the weekend's never coming; a minotaur and elf queen have fallen in love.

It's quite possible that none of these things will every end up written down in a meaningful way. I'll write a couple of lines of dialogue, maybe a description or two. In some way, shape or form, though, those stories are going to keep playing in my head. Bits of them will ooze out into other stories, some of which I'll finish and post somewhere online or maybe send them into some small journal somewhere.

When people find out that I'm a writer, but I haven't really published anything, they have one of two reactions. They either tell me that they're glad that I've found a healthy creative outlet (I love it when people say this) or they act like my lack of publication is a horrible thing, and don't I feel bad that I'm not a great crashing success.

I dislike this very much. I write because those three stories you read about up there? They've vanished, for now, and new ones are in their place. At some point, the brain, it just can't fit any more and some of what's up there has to get out onto a page or I start losing sleep, get seriously distracted and, quite frankly, really cranky. It's a outlet in the same way that venting an overheated radiator is an outlet, it's just that creative writing is less likely to scald your hand.

Huh. That metaphor sounded a lot better in my head.

Anyhow, I write because I have to, and I write because I enjoy it and, quite simply, that's enough for me. Maybe some day I'll get published, but I'm not going to live my life in anticipation of it. Frank Turner sums this up for me in I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous.

I am sick and tired of people who are living on the B-list.
They're waiting to be famous and they're wondering why they do this.
And I know I'm not the one who is habitually optimistic,
but I'm the one who's got the microphone here so just remember this:

Life is about love, last minutes and lost evenings,
about fire in our bellies and furtive little feelings,
and the aching amplitudes that set our needles all a-flickering,
and help us with remembering that the only thing that's left to do is live.

So, that's my piece. Enough with that. The rest of this is for the rest of you.

Some of you love to sculpt, but you don't feel like sculptors. Some of you love to draw, but you don't feel like artists. For Pete's sake, stop that. A writer writes, a sculptor sculpts, and an artist, err, arts. Okay, so maybe you'll never actually be good at it. Do you like sculpting and painting and writing? Then that makes it a worthwhile endeavour.

Keep doing it. Don't let the "professionals" tell you that it's complicated stuff best left to them. They're either protecting their paycheck or their ego, and you're ultimately responsible for neither.

Now, to my Christian brothers and sisters. If you were raise in a church like the one I grew up in, you were told from a rather young age that, "Everything you do, you should do as unto the Lord," and that this meant that you shouldn't spend too much time at artistic pursuits that produce things that aren't praise to God.

Well, meet Heman the Ezrahite.

That's his one psalm. Describing it as "bleak" doesn't quite do it justice. It's painfully, almost ornately mournful. I've had days like that, though, and if we're honest, most of us have and it's nice to have this psalm in the Bible - a reminder that sometimes all you have in you is despair, tempered by hope, and that it's expected. It doesn't always provide comfort, but it's good to know you're not alone.

This is Heman's legacy. This is it, those 18 verses ending with his "praise" to God, "You have taken from me friend and neighbour—darkness is my closest friend." If you want to spend an hour or two using your God-given imagination writing a mash-up of My Little Pony, Doctor Who and Big Bang Theory, go for it. God loves you with all your faults and failure. I'm pretty sure he can love you with all your hobbies as well.

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