12/8/2016: To Teach Or To Learn

The desire to write something that someone learns from, in an abstract sense, seems as steeped in pride as anything else in my life. I want them to learn because I want to be mighty enough to teach.

The true teacher doesn’t want to teach in an abstract sense. They want to help those whom they see as not having learned. I have felt that at times. And when, at my best times, I speak with someone who needs information I have been given, I try to give it, and I do so with as much grace as I can so that 1) they learn and 2) they aren’t belittled by not knowing. Typically, only when it seems like reasonable teaching has not led to their learning (and without an apparent, valid reason for it not doing so, like age) do I become annoyed.

The desire to impact persons seems similar. Is it? Do I desire to impact them with my profundity, with my wit and craft? Or do I desire to explore God and his cosmos with them, that it might impact us both? To subcreate, that it might enrich our common reality—that is, theirs and also mine, but not as individuals but as the community of man.

Should I then seek to be taught in my works as much as to teach others? It would seem so. And at my best times, I feel like this is the case. But just as we are simultaneously sinner and saint, the other side sits at the same table.

This made me think of something else, though it’s just a breath in my mind. I thought of it while doing dishes, forgot it, then remembered fragments of it. The reason the separatist church cannot create art is because they do not see themselves as a part of greater humanity. They see themselves only as teachers of humanity. As Not Humanity but something greater. Not part of the community of man, and perhaps even its enemy. Not someone who walks beside man and seeks with him the truth but someone who has it and speaks it down to man.

True teaching is not the desire to share one’s own greatness, insight, information, wit but to help an ignorant person (in the neutral sense, not the pejorative sense) or persons in need. I feel I should correct this. “True teaching” is not enough. The pursuit of truth, perhaps. Perhaps that is enough. And not just the pursuit of truth but the pursuit of moving the community of man toward the truth. We teach, and we listen to teachings, as long as both move us all—all whom we can—toward truth. As long as they move us toward faith and hope and love and toward God most of all. (1/19/2017 It’s relational, as I’m reminded again and again all good things are).

Likewise, art, as the desire to express oneself and to further the progress of the community of man, cannot come from a place of superiority. It comes from a place of communality and vulnerability. Tolstoy says, “…the purpose of our human existence is to afford a maximum of help towards the universal development of everything that exists.” I agree, and I believe God does as well.

By grace through faith.

The production of writing can become its own idol. I have written all this about how writing is basically an act of love, an interrelation between me and the world, and I have failed to connect the progenitor of love with writing’s production.

2-26-2017
Found this quote somewhere. Seems to fit.

“When I teach my brother it is not really I who teach him, but we are both taught by God. Truth is not a good that I possess, that I manipulate and distribute as I please. It is such that in giving it I must still receive it; in discovering it I still have to search for it; in adapting it, I must continue to adapt myself to it.” – Henri de Lubac

 

9/30/2016: When To Edit My First Draft

Stephen King recommends stepping away from your first draft for at least six weeks. And in the meantime, go write something else. At least until you forget about the first thing. So that when you come back to it, it is an alien thing, and something to whose parts you have little emotional attachment, should you need to alter or remove them.

Would this be the best route for me?

I worry that if I step away, I may forget what it has become in my mind. I have spent all this time developing these characters, these metaphors, these plots, and they are fresh in my mind. What if time-away drops them from my head, and I am not able to pick them back up from a read-through later on? One might suggest that such would indicate that my first draft didn’t communicate what I thought it would. But one could also say that I simply suck at reading.

Also, this is the first of several books in a series. What if starting over causes me to lose my place (see the first point), and I’m not able to progress? At the same time, what if going on without a break leads to a dead end, when I go back and find something that absolutely needs to be removed from book one but upon which a second-book part (or the whole thing) is based. It seems like I’d either need to write all parts and then go back and edit them all or else write them as individual units—finish one before starting the other.

What do I know from experience? A good night’s sleep does wonders for an edit session. There’s something about coming back to it the next day that allows you escape whatever blinders had been developed during its writing—or at least that particular writing session—that you otherwise couldn’t possibly notice. And I have written things and come back to them after quite a while, and it didn’t seem so foreign that my ideas were hard to grasp.

But at the same time, all of those things had been polished before I set them down. I may have made mistakes by not stepping away, but the works benefitted from me being fresh on everything when editing, to be sure.

And maybe that’s the key. Read through it right away, edit it until you’re happy with it, put it away for a while, then read through it again and edit it again. It seems like I’d get the best of both worlds.

I definitely don’t feel ready to let go of the writing process yet—I know, at the very least, my ideas have progressed since my earlier sections, and those sections will need reworking. I know that it’s not unified yet, and I don’t want to lose what I have now before making it unified. Else, I might read it, get the idea I had in the beginning, and then change the ending rather than vise-versa. I would otherwise have to read the end first, almost…

I think I am decided. I’ll go back through it as soon as I have the energy and time to, and I’ll edit it until it’s got a decent polish. Then I’ll set it down and come back to it after six weeks or so.

9/6/2016: Loose Thinking on Writing

Schol! Whatever that means.

Is it a joy to write?

Joy joy joy joy.

Yoj.

Yooooj. Yojoy. Joyoj. Joyoi. Oi oi oi!

It’s a way of thinking. Of expressing thought. Of communicating.

Is it a joy to think, to express thought, to communicate?

It’s just life. For me, anyways.

Is it a cell to suppress thought, to hide it away, to remain silent?

Never done it. Not completely. It’d be annoying.

What is writing? Just a tool for creating. A craft. A skill. A practice. Keys on a laptop. Pixels on a screen (though very small pixels). Black on white. The canvas. A wooden post against my back.

A round-glassesed teacher in a white button-up and skirt, you in her 10th grade English class. Early twenties. Kind of cute. Kind of strict. Kind of tough. Kind of interesting. Annoys you one day. Coos to you another. Makes you jittery another. Not always in her classroom. And you seem to stalk her a bit—pretty sure she avoids you sometimes. Until you stop stalking. Then she comes back and teaches some more. Writing, the cute teacher. “Hey, you,” she says.

Writing is the dog that dug under the fence. Dang dog. Comere, boy! I have food! I have your ball! Is that a deer? Don’t run across the road! Come back! Come back! Where has he gone? Maybe the neighbors. Nope. Maybe the woods. Nope. Maybe my grandparents. Nope. Maybe the pound. Nope. I’m tired. I’m going home for a sandwich and a glass of ice water. He’s at the door? In the gate? Stop scratching on the glass! Hey boy. Good boy. Covered in sweat and thorn-scratches for nothing.

Coffee. More, more more moremoremoremormor. Gah. Less. Less. Less. Chill.

Is that perilous point—that magical, mysterious, mythical end—a place in which I write without loving my skill? Without caring so much about my craft’s perfection (or at least not for the same reasons)? If I am there, no doubt I will not care that I am there, as long as I can write and think and love. Sounds familiar. Perilous? Really?

The joy of writing vs. the joy of being good at writing. The latter doesn’t materialize for me when it’s my love and goal. Thanks to God, I assume.

7/15/2016: Write What You Want

You are not constrained to write anything other than what’s natural to you.

And what’s natural to you can be described as “what you want to write apart from external constraints.”

It’s the same idea as “be yourself.” You don’t want to act like someone else or like some standard or “what you should be.” You want to be authentic.

But what about meeting the standard? You want to actually meet the standard. You don’t just want to put on the standard. Thus you want to be authentic and good. And the goodness comes from God, primarily, and from practice and from learning and failing and starting over and getting back up and from being hurt and healing and all the other things that lead to growth.

Thus I write whatever comes naturally apart from constraint. I write what I want to write. And I accept my lack of goodness, to whatever degree I have it, and I enjoy coming up with stuff even if it sucks for the joy of learning how to come up with stuff better, for the joy of finding new connections, for the joy of playing, for the joy of exploring new territory.

I also need to qualify “external constraints.” I doubt it’s possible to be free from external constraints in this life. I will always be afraid to some degree of something. But like all things, perhaps, if God wills it, I will grow in this area as well.

And that’s one of the primary reasons to write this book. To grow in all the ways that I need to in order to create, to write, to be free to be myself. It’s not to write the perfect book. It’s just to write and to see what happens when I do. It’s to watch God work on me through the process of writing and working through all of the issues that surround being myself.

I am in my first draft in more ways than one. The obvious one, of course, involves my creation of a novel. The second one is my continued exploration of the process of creating a novel, and on top of that, the exploration of my own creative self. I am delving into the reaches of my creative side, which I have never focused on to this degree, with this intensity, with this drive. I seem to be moving toward making my natural self a disciplined natural self, which seems good to me (at this time).

It would be a mistake to forget this in any of the aspects in which I am first drafting, although, I should also expect myself to forget this. After all, this is my first draft. (1/19/2017 And true to form, I have forgotten this and have been reminded of it numerous times)

So yes, there are standards—even the ones that surpass the ones I currently know. And yes, it is good to know the standards and to always reach for them and to find the surpassing ones and learn and then reach for those. But that’s kind of the point. We never arrive. There’s always more for which we can reach. We arrive when Christ arrives (1/31/2017 At least to the degree afforded by our escape from sin; I think we’ll always have more we can learn). Until then, we reach. Sometimes in the dark. Sometimes in the wrong direction.

Moreover, it’s when we’re reaching that we tend to find new things. Hence, we create when creating.