Stumble Inn

Looking back on how Blood for Blood went sideways, I am struck by the fact that it ended up with a nihilistic “message” because I had no clear, overall vision in mind when I started writing it.

What a shock!  You mean how something begins affects how it ends?  Who’d have known?

Seriously, though, I found that I stumbled into a nihilistic worldview by not having a clear vision for the novel as a whole when I started.  I was just so glad to be writing something that I didn’t exercise any intentionality when creating the work.

And it occurs to me that I live my life that way, too, sometimes.  I get going, doing my job, doing the work for my classes, hanging out with my wife and friends, going to church on Sunday (and sometimes on Wednesday), writing my aimless fiction, paying my taxes, living respectably … and utterly selfishly.

I never meant to be the kind of person who’s only worth a damn to his friends and family (okay, students and coworkers, too), whose goodness is measured primarily through not causing disruptions or unpleasantness for those around him.  Sure, I’d give a dollar or two to homeless people when they asked, but if I could make it across the parking lot before they got within earshot, I would.

As humans, we are, by nature, selfish creatures.  The vast majority of our time, thought, and energy, by default, turn towards meeting our own needs and avoiding pain and loss.  We are, to borrow a concept from Henri Nouwen, addicted to ourselves.

Without an intentional vision, Blood for Blood stumbled into a nihilistic, even cruel ‘message.’

Without an intentional vision of how to live beyond the four walls of my life, I stumble back into the small circles of my consciousness, myself, my closest friends and family, and the rest of the world fades to gray.

So I’ve started to move beyond this a little bit.  My wife and I volunteered at a local charity that does Angel Food Co-op distributions (and we’re on their list to contact every month to help) and we’ve started making Kiva microloans every month.  These are small things, baby steps, hardly Mother Theresa stuff, but I believe small, systematic changes can add up over time, both in changing myself and helping other people.

As far as writing goes, I’ve written a lot of what could best be described as journal entries, essays to self, or pensees.  They’re not really worth publishing at this point, even on a blog. Every time I sit down to write fiction, I freeze, which sucks.

I think I’m going through a bit of a paradigm shift, personally (a needed one), and I’m trying on my new ways of being.  I may not be able to write fiction until I settle back into my skin.  But I have confidence that I will get started again, and this time, I won’t let myself stumble into writing something that so diametrically opposes everything I actually believe.  And I’ll be writing from a slightly different perspective, one that is, I think, more mature, thoughtful, and empathetic.

And I, for one, am looking forward to it.

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5 Comments

  1. At least you are high enough on Maslow’s hierarchy to be looking for self-actualization. As a “pre-published” writer, I can offer you no help in that department, but I love your mention of Kiva loans and charity work. I recently started volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, thrilled that they have a place for volunteers to work retail who don’t know which side of the hammer hits the nail. I exaggerate slightly. I wish I could do more financially, I used to sponsor a kid through Food for the Hungry, but then college loans piled up and I’m now working to pay those off first.

    Good for you for doing something for your community, the writing will come I’m sure.

  2. Thanks! It’s weird, because I think so much about self-actualization in my personal life, but then I write something at a much lower rung on the ladder, so to speak.

    Although to some degree, I think I was unconsciously subverting the “redemptive violence” archetype (I’ll talk about that in my next blog post).

    I’m really finding that it feels good to help, and to make the focus of my life a little less selfish.

    And it’s funny that you say that the writing will come – because it just started rolling out yesterday, just like before.

    Thanks!

  3. Ermi and I just posted our “Community Involvement” page today because as authors we want to make sure we don’t sit back with our laptops and watch the world. Money is great, especially if you can make it doing what you love and we hope to get there eventually. We quote Richard Branson that “[t]here’s only any point in becoming an entrepreneur if you’re going to make a difference in people’s lives.”

    If you read fantasy, we have a unique writing style and hope you’ll check out the book once it’s published.

    • I do read fantasy, and I’ll keep an eye out for the book. Will it be called “Ediaon,” or is that just the series/setting name?

  4. […] of what I’d written so far.  You can see that in the previous posts, The Distance to Here, Stumble Inn, and No Innocent Use of […]


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