Wandering the savage garden…

February 2016Monthly Archives

The end of the streak

I’d been riding a twenty-two day streak in my “five hundred words a day” challenge, including some days when I found it really hard to sit down to actually write. That streak is over, unfortunately, although it’s “sort of” and “not really” and “darn it, I was doing so well.”

It’s not really over, because I actually did write more than five hundred words yesterday, and published them, too; I just didn’t publish them here, and I didn’t record that I’d published them, either. I remembered too late; I record that I’ve written my five hundred words as part of the publishing process, and since I didn’t follow the publishing process here, I didn’t record that at least I’d written enough to fulfill the challenge.

So: the streak is dead, officially, even though I actually did fulfill my writing assignment for the day (and, at word one hundred and fifty or so in this post, I’ve actually exceeded my assignment by a lot for today, too.)

In a way, this is actually a good thing. I didn’t even think about having written at least five hundred words, because it’s been pretty normal for me over these last few weeks. Sure, I didn’t fulfill my own rules concerning the assignment (publish, publish here, no editing except for inline mistakes caused by poor/rapid typing, record the publication) but that’s okay.

I’m not a slave to the assignment, I hope.

And it’s nice to think that it’s become normal enough again that publishing isn’t much of an event. I used to publish three or four things a day – shorter things, I guess (averaging around two hundred words each), five days a week, fifty plus weeks a year (I occasionally took a week off or so), but over the last few years I’ve been in a sort of resting state.

I wish I could edit that last sentence! I’d rewrite it as “I’ve been in a resting state over the last few years, after publishing multiple pieces every workday for years, with only occasional breaks.” Wait, does this count as “editing?”

I guess I felt like I’d more or less done my bit for creating content for a while, and it wasn’t really important for me to be heard, or read, all that much. So publishing light content every few months was enough to satisfy any need I had to write for public consumption. (I still write a lot for my own enjoyment, but much of it’s for internal interest only.)

So the writing challenge – which continues, by the way, for at least another few days – has been very, very useful. It’s kickstarted me back into writing regularly, and even if the writing isn’t stellar or particularly topical, at least it’s writing – you don’t ride a horse like a master on day one, you have to ride every day.

And that’s what this has been, and what it remains. It’s a lot of fun.

Making it matter

Today’s writing prompt is to avoid adverbs. I think I can do that – but what I want to write about is a little darker.

I want my writing to matter. I don’t want my writing to be pretty, or fun to read – I want it to matter, with italics and everything.

There are a lot of challenges for that.

For one thing, finding a topic that matters isn’t trivial. In the grand scheme, the Sunday School answer of “Jesus” comes into play; the one thing that really matters, more than correct metaphysics or epistemology or theology or anything else, is whether the reader is saved or not; I can’t save the reader (duh) but what I can try to do is glorify the Name of God, and if I do that with consistency and honor, then maybe God can use that as a way to shine His light on the reader’s soul.

Truth: I edited that sentence to remove the adverbs.

That’s God’s to do, not mine. I can try, and the trying is what matters – but God has to do the work. (That’s a good thing: He’s a lot better at being Him than we are.)

Another barrier for making my writing matter is the removal of myself. One of the things that’s really been difficult for me in the five hundred words challenge is the use of “I” and “me.” I originally started this site as a site for exposition, not as a “Christian blog” and certainly not my blog.

I already have a blog, after all (and I maintain a number of other sites as well), so adding another stream of content to manage, without a distinct focus, is unwise.

But I needed a place to write from a Christian viewpoint (inappropriate for my other sites, including my personal blog) and given that Christ is pretty relevant to my daily life, a daily challenge for writing would have to incorporate Christian views. Otherwise the edict to avoid editing would have to be avoided (to remove Christian markers from the content) — and a lot of what I’ve written about uses Christianity pretty heavily (or so I would hope.)

But I still write as if I am writing, and my writing is hallmarked by the removal of me from a lot of content. I’m uncomfortable writing “I” and “me.” It causes a focus on me that I’m not comfortable with, and which isn’t relevant, and exposes my inner thoughts.

Not only are my inner thoughts mine and not yours, I think they’re likely to be confusing (and confused) – and might actually cause more harm than good, either to me, to my readers, or to those about whom I am writing.

Lastly, making my writing matter is difficult (I hope I don’t have a challenge ahead that mandates I avoid the use of gerunds) because when it comes down to it, I would rather communicate “real” things to the person to whom they’re addressed, and writing is indirect. Writing for a general audience is tough… and it descends to self-indulgent puffery.

Which is how I see a lot of my writing for the challenge.

Fear, from a writing prompt

Today’s topic is “fear.” It’s another writing prompt day, because it’s Valentine’s Day in the United States and I have other things about which to be.

Reading the closing part of that last sentence makes me grimace.

Fear… I’m supposed to write about my fear, and what I plan to do about it.

My fear is about being seen.

I’m attention-averse, for a lot of reasons. I’m a fairly intense introvert, for one thing; I can’t prevent myself from writing (although I might not preserve what I write, which is one of the things the five hundred words challenge is changing for me), but I hardly ever want to talk to people. My interactions are always layered, with probably the worst layers being instant-messaging apps.

I find I’m most comfortable being asynchronous characters on someone’s screen somewhere.

I hide my emotions, which would surprise people who know me moderately well. They see pockets of emotion, often over silly things, and think that’s the depth at which I live.

I grimaced a lot less over that last sentence.

The truth, however, is that I do hide my emotion. I choose to show emotion in specific ways, because I don’t want to be seen as an automaton. I’m not a robot, after all; my emotions are actually intense and very deep (and very strong), and I’m rather mercurial, internally. My showing of emotion would not only be unnatural for me (as an introvert) but scary for the people around me, I think.

They’d prefer the stiff upper lip. They’d want the occasionally silly robot man. They’d want the creepy observer, instead of the angry idealist who cajoles them to be better, who expresses his frustration at inefficiency and doubt and sloth.

It’s crippling and angering for me to be this way. Yes, I make myself angry by being something that I think makes me more palatable for the people around me.

Why? Because it forces me into the same patterns I resent in other people. I hold myself back, I become lazy, because not being lazy on my own terms means I never, ever, ever stop.

I’d get a lot done. And the people around me would feel isolated and judged. (I have experience being me; it’s true, and it’s happened.)

So I shift down in my own life, and I slow down, and I watch the sands of my life’s hourglass fall, and fall, and fall, all as a service to the self-images of others.

And I’m afraid to change it, because it’s a delicate balance that I preserve between who I am and the life I’m in. I love the people around me, intensely. I don’t want to upset the balances of their lives, if they are happy.

What’s worse than being afraid to change it is the lack of knowledge of how to change it. How do I open my heart and life in such a way that the people around me aren’t swept away by the fury and energy I shutter away?

I don’t know. I may never know.

If I had a prayer about fear, it would be this: that God would show me a way that I could see would be safe for those around me, for me to be myself, without filters and restraint. And that I’d still be loved through it all.

I almost wrote a story today.

I almost wrote a story today. That’s… a loaded statement, in a lot of different ways.

First, the story: I actually wanted to write something cyclic, and the story started and ended with the wind ruffling the protagonist’s hair, which was longish for him (i.e., almost shoulder-length). I wasn’t sure what the journey was, but I thought of a few such things: a day at work (where he would endure his day, and start the next one in the same way), or an adventure.

I didn’t quite get that far. The image of the hero staring into the distance, wind insisting upon his attention and denied… that trapped my mind’s eye. I wanted to be that guy, no matter what he was about to endure (which was, in the end, oblivion; he didn’t even get a name.)

And that’s the sad part of the statement. I almost wrote a story. I actually went through the beginnings of the story; I had a protagonist, I had a location (in the western United States, somewhere in the Great Plains), I had the beginning, I had motion, I had the end, I had something actually visualizable… and it flickered and died.

The image remains, but nothing else. It’s really the sequence of the beginning of creation that matters now, not the story itself, and that’s rather sad.

This story is an almost-was, something that blinked in and out of existence, wore out its potential in a single moment and disappeared.

I do that a lot; I imagine fragments of song, of prose, of poetry, of moments and story… and I think “You know, I should write that down, so I can migrate it into a river of those other moments alongside which it lives and build something worthwhile.” (And yes, I do think that way.)

It’s particularly poignant for me because the visualization was actually fairly rare for me. Usually, my protagonists are Everyman, usually assigned a gender and a rough idea of age but little more. I don’t really describe my characters much; they are defined by what they do and say, and not by how they look.

I think that’s a weakness in my writing. Stephen King wrote more description (and with more skill than I) in one paragraph, describing a rabbit in a cage on a table – the rabbit had a blue numeral eight on its back. You and I are both now visualizing more in common than what you would see in most of my writing; I just don’t describe all that much in my prose. I don’t know offhand how I would have described it, but I keep thinking that I would have an animal on a surface … with a blue numeral eight, and little more. What animal would be up to you.

So I mourn my tiny vignette a little, because it was actually evocative – nothing specific, of course, because it didn’t last long enough, but it was more than I normally think of when I write.