Story for story’s sake

Apologies for the quick post today. Haven’t much time.

But I found this post from Dave Long’s site (faithinfiction.blogspot.com) so intriguing, I couldn’t resist the chance to commandeer it and use it here. He’s talking about the state of Christian fiction, but he may as well be talking about the church, every Evangelical ministry in America, and anyone who’s ever picked up anything with a distinctly Christian flavor and sensed there was something rotten in Denmark:

“I hurt myself today, to see I still feel. I focus on the pain, the only that’s real…”

“All around gloomy guy Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails wrote that in his song, ‘Hurt.’ He’s on the other extreme of us, the guy who could use a shot of hope, a snug pair of fuzzy bunny slippers. We have to realize that we can become just as desensitized as Reznor if all we do is feed ourselves pablum endings. We need the good and bad. The yin and yang. The perfect sunsets and crappy, terrible days.

“We need, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, some folks to come to a bad end.”

Happy endings in your typical Christian fiction are emblematic of the smiling veneer that passes for Christianity these days. What is a story without truth? What good does it serve? What redemption can be found if it sacrifices reality for nice, neat, and comfortable. And what, for that matter, does any of our “thinking of things pure and lovely” do for people when to do it, we sacrifice relevance with the larger culture?

To write a story for story’s sake is to live your life in a such as way as to be truthful to the work and not sell out to the idol of comfort and tasteless “pablum.”

Greg talked about this in his editorial this month, which covered Paul Elie’s book The Life You Save May Be Your Own: www.imagejournal.org/current/editorial.asp.

The status quo can change, but only if you want it to.

Faith in Fiction and the Arts

Tonight I feel compelled to let my faithful readers (all two of you) know about two indispensible sites, from which I will be stealing (let’s call it “sharing”) much of my principled discussions and foundational ideas.

The first is Dave Long’s “Faith in Fiction” forum here: http://p220.ezboard.com/bfaithinfiction

The second is Greg Wolfe’s brand spankin’ new Image Journal Forum outfit here: http://forum.imagejournal.org

Though I don’t typically consider myself a raving patriot, both of these sites illicit a response in me along the lines of, “Is this a great country, or what?” Dave’s schtick is increasing the talent pool and expanding the literary sensibility of the CBA fiction market from his post as top fiction acquisitions dog at Bethany/Baker. Greg is a literal walking database of knowledge and insight into the larger world of working Christian arts (with a more decidedly acedemic/orthodox bent). Both get my vote for sites of the week/month/decade since there’s nothing that holds a candle to them that I’m aware of. And since I have no special award or grant money to bestow on either of them, I’m simply hoping that both my readers will consider them in their evening prayers and be encouraged that they aren’t alone in their desire to see more support like this in the much-neglected area of Christian arts.

Justify Yourself, Blog! 2

So I’ve been deliberating this blog for a while, not wanting to simply replicate or undermine (heaven forbid) any of the really impressive blogs out there (Here and here and here and here and here . . .). But I finally got over that.

The problem is that I am an editor at a publishing house and I write fiction and creative nonfiction in my “spare” time. I don’t have a lot of time to devote. I’ve found that it’s easy enough to say “just write,” but it’s really hard to do. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that was the reason I needed to do this. Have you ever considered what it really means: to “just write”? It means, “Beg, borrow and steal from all your other involvements—family, friends, full-time job, volunteering at the orphanage—and invest in this frivolous, unfounded, pie-in-the-sky, pipe dream of yours.” Writing may not be the most selfish, egomaniacal thing you can do with your time—but it probably is. And novelists? Don’t even get me started.

Aside from being someone who thinks the world is entitled to your opinion, to be a successful writer, you need contacts. For many who write, networking skill is not a shining strength. But the fact is, the writers who get published are often not as strong at writing as they are at selling and “performing” by the publishers’ modus operandi. Given the choice between a fabulous writer who doesn’t make deadlines, and a hack who consistently produces, guess who gets the cheese. Not that I’m against honing the craft and being the best writer you can be. But writing is merely the first thing you need to do well to be published.

And maybe that’s reason enough for a site like this one. An online writer’s group is just a natural use of the technology in my mind. So I’m glad you’re here. Let me know what you think of some of the other sites out there and how we might make this one the best it can be. Next time, I’ll share a little more of my “vision” for what we might accomplish here. Until then . . .

Confessions of a Shameful Time Waster

So, what kind of web experience have you had today? Mine has been long and laborious. I’ve spent 3 hours searching for houses online in my area. We need a bit more space. My wife and me and our 19 month old daughter, are very nearly being driven crazy in our 2 room condo. Of course, we have to sell the place before we can “actually” begin shopping, but as lifelong consumers, it’s so blasted hard to resist the urge to shop.

So totally useless. I hate the feeling of wasting so much of my day–especially when I could have been writing on the book.

It isn’t rare for me to waste time instead of write. Sometimes I wonder why I do it if I claim to love writing so much. Any little whim of an excuse not to write–this creative activity that occupies so much of my mind–derails my conviction and inspiration at the mere suggestion of a diversion. It’s as though since I’m thinking of writing all day long, when I actually have a chance to do it, I resist. Why?

And this evening, it’s the Olympics. I don’t usually watch sports, but the Olympics in Greece is not sports. It’s sort of history in the making, isn’t it?

Oh well. Can’t be helped, I suppose. Can’t spend all your time on the computer. Or maybe you can…

Behold! It is blog!

The reason it’s good blogs exist–besides all the great reasons we came up with yesterday–is that they provide an outlet for some of the less fortunate thoughts to be expressed. You know how you go through your day and don’t really keep track of the little things that pass through, the internal dialogue you never take time to give utterance to: your coworker’s strange habits, the unusual website you went to, the idea for a better particle accelerator you just didn’t stop to jot down. It’s all fodder for your blog! Nothing is wasted when you can blog it!

But the thing that came to me overnight wasn’t something I haven’t been thinking about for some time now. It’s just that as I was mulling it over again, it seemed to all coalesce into something of a “grand scheme.” And when that happens, I try to pay attention because it’s not often I get such validation of the evil genius my wife thinks I am.

The idea is this: “My Writers Group” is mine for now because it’s beginning as a group of one. Eventually, the idea is to increase that possessive “My” to include “Everyone” and then everyone who comes to “My Writers Group” will have a piece of it and a say in what goes on here. That’s my hope, anyway. It isn’t my intention to come here day after day and write something just to get it off my chest. I would hope all of us had a bigger purpose than that. We may be writers, but we live in community as well and we need constant support and feedback, maybe more so than others with “normal” jobs. We’re particularly prone to burnout and dissatisfaction and worry and all the other things that come along with the self-focused writerly personality. Without others around, we make rash, foolish judgments and lose track of reality rather quickly.

So when I say I hope to hear from you soon, I really mean, I hope you feel free to accept the “My” in that title as your invitation to join in the fray and add your lines. Writing can be a lonely, solitary experience. Writers groups are about coming together for recharge and renewal.

So have a search around and post some thoughts. We’re glad you’re here.

Editor