The Voice

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

“You can’t do this,” whispered a malevolent voice in the dark, a sound Amanda hadn’t heard in years.

She gritted her teeth, dug in her heels and tried to stand her ground. But it was persuasive, and Amanda didn’t know if she was strong enough to defy it.

The voice had been with her from birth, a dry hollow rattle that only she could hear. Its jealous strains had always tempted her to doubt, but the successes of her youth had made her confident, perhaps overly so, and for decades, the voice was little more than a nuisance, a background static in a constellation of accomplishments and accolades.

She’d conjured whole worlds ex nihilo, populated an entire cosmos in the realm where reality and conscious thought were one. Still, the voice was persistent, pointing out the flaws, the imperfections in her work.

“That world over there,” it would say, “Look how it wobbles and tilts on its axis.”

And Amanda would see it as if for the first time and realize the voice was right.

“And that world over there,” the voice would continue, “Look at its bulbous, oblong shape. How can you call yourself a professional?”

And Amanda would look again and once more realize the voice was right.

On and on the voice argued, and no matter how long Amanda honed the finer details, no matter how long she strove to satisfy the exacting requirements of perfection, she always fell short, and the voice was always there to remind her.

Amanda’s final attempt had been almost ten years ago, a tiny desert world that had come to her in a dream. In her eyes, it was a possibility for redemption, an opportunity to reduce that awful voice to silence at last, and she labored for the better part of a year, drawing on every resource left at her disposal.

When at last she was finished, sweaty and short of breath, the voice offered a terse appraisal.

“A good idea that suffers from a lackluster implementation.”

Amanda withered. A few weeks later, she retired.

But the urge to create had proved too strong to ignore. She’d tried, of course. For years she’d tried. She’d worked other jobs, and when she got home she would occupy her off hours with various unrelated hobbies, all in the vain hope of drowning a desire that had only ever lead to heartbreak and frustration. But the old dreams refused to die, and though Amanda had found some temporary respite from the voice, she knew it wouldn’t be long before she would have to try again.

When that time finally came, when the need to create grew into an all-consuming fire that threatened to scour her soul to the bone, she locked herself in her basement, where she’d covered over her old workshop with a faded dusty tarp. Now, taking a deep breath, she swept the tarp aside.

“What are you doing?” asked a familiar voice. “You’ve been out of practice for years. What makes you think you’ll succeed now?”

Amanda trembled. She knew it spoke the truth. Even during her peak, the voice had found plenty of flaws in her work. What made her think she could do better now?

Still, the desire to create overwhelmed her. It was an ocean of power held back by only a single floodgate, a force of nature that would destroy her if she didn’t channel it properly. So she ignored the voice. She picked up her old tools, dusted them off beneath the dim illumination of a nearby desk lamp, and after a shuddering, rattling breath, she got to work.

“Didn’t you hear me?” asked the voice, incredulous at her determination. “You’re going to fail. You’re going to fuck this up just like you fuck up everything.”

Amanda hesitated. She tried to focus on the nascent world in front of her, tried to shut out the voice’s spiteful remarks, but it was hard, it was so hard. The tools slipped in her fingers, and she wondered, not for the first time, if she was making a mistake.

But that urge, that need to create, it burned, it burned so much, and every moment she spent second guessing instead of working was a moment of torture and almost unbearable agony. So in spite of the voice’s constant rebukes, in spite of her own crippling doubts, she kept at it.

On and on she toiled, for hours or days, she couldn’t say, and as the rusty hinges and squealing iron gears began to turn as they once had so many years ago, the pent up magic burst inside her like a grenade, a shower of bright, coruscating sparks that filled Amanda with almost euphoric joy.

When at last she’d finished, the voice offered a scathing critique.

“That world,” it mocked, “Look how crude and simple it is. Hardly your best.”

Amanda considered its remarks. “You’re right,” she said, but after having released a decade of frustration, after having poured her soul into the project, she discovered that was okay. She’d learned that through the lens of imperfection, beauty could only be magnified.

The voice sputtered and could offer no reply. For so long, it had used the truth as a weapon. Now, that weapon was useless. Deflated, it fled into the darkness and was silent at last.

Amanda knew it would return, that in the fullness of time it would make her doubt again. But instead of shrinking away from the inevitability, instead of hanging up her tools for another ten years, she decided she would face it head on.

Subscribe to receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.

Illustration #1 for “Rite of Passage”

I have great news! The artist I’ve been working with to illustrate my soon-to-be-published short story, Rite of Passage, is nearly done with the first picture. Above is a partial reveal to whet your appetite.

Want to see the whole thing? Join my mailing list by submitting your email address directly below this blog post. I’ll be sending it out in the monthly newsletter the first week of June. I’m really excited about this project and can’t wait to share it with you! ūüôā

Subscribe to receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.

Creator of Worlds

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

I see it, glimmering beneath the surface of the universe in an unformed realm that precedes creation. It is primordial, a complex composition of ageless utterances transcending language, space and time. I hunch over a stack of paper with my pen in hand, ready to surround it with a net of words. They are crude in their expressive power, yet capable enough to capture its essence, trap its soul so I can slowly reel it in, a whole new world, young and still crackling with wild newborn magic.

I am thought of by most as a creator of worlds. But I am only a lowly fisherman, trawling an insubstantial ocean in search of worlds half glimpsed, eternal mysteries even to the likes of me. I make my modest living on the few small worlds I’m strong enough to catch. I glimpse larger ones, great hulking cosmos buried deep beneath the depths. But even as I reach for them I know that I am too weak, that my net is too shallow to ever catch them.

That is perhaps the most frustrating part of what I do, to spy so many nascent worlds flitting through the ether that will forever remain unexpressed, doomed to an everlasting half-life in the shadow of non-existence. I weep for them, but there is nothing I can do.

I turn away from such thoughts to gaze at my latest acquisition. It is beautiful, resplendent. I love it like a newborn child.

Then I catch another glimmer.

Subscribe to receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.

Why Is Imagination So Important?

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

This is the final installment of my four-part weekly series, Ex Nihilo.

You were born a philosopher. As a child, you spent hours beneath the stars, hypnotized by the transcendent mysteries of the cosmos. But with age came the people who told you it was time to grow up, that it was time to shed your imagination like a used skin so you could focus on more pragmatic concerns. You always secretly thought they were wrong, that you should never trade your fantasies for an ordinary life. But the world would always bear down on you with its facts and figures, wearing away at your soul like a grinding stone until you began to crack and buckle around the edges.

You never stopped using your imagination, but you did begin to keep it to yourself, afraid there might be something wrong with you, afraid you might be defective simply because you’ve always managed to see the world differently. A part of you wondered if the world had been correct, if you would have been better off abandoning artistic pursuits for more worldly endeavors.

You probably asked yourself, “Why is imagination so important?”

Imagination is a lamp set before us to light the way.

The universe is a mystery. Most of its secrets remain untouchable, impenetrable, making it a frightening place where all we can do is stumble around half-blind in the dark. Imagination is the light that dispells this darkness, making the cosmos accessible. It’s a mental framework, a way of perceiving the world. It doesn’t claim to know the answers, but endows us with the creativity necessary to discover them. Through fantasy, the enigmas of life and existence are revealed, making us better equipped to relate to reality.

Imagination is a covenant between the Universe and Man.

It hints at what lies beyond the horizon and assures us that all the universe has to offer can be ours if only we have the courage to pursue our dreams. It’s a promise made to us by a faithful cosmos, and through the years, this promise matures into a confident trust in the unknown, a sure belief that the world is fundamentally ordered and that one day we will know the answers to our deepest questions.

Imagination is a mentor.

It precedes every great discovery. It teaches not through rote memorization or blind adherence to established doctrine, but through hands on experience, passion and dedication, instilling within us a profound yearning for the Truth. It teaches us how to reach beyond the obvious to grapple with things we don’t fully understand, enabling us to cast our minds into the darkness like a fisherman’s net to capture something new.

And once we’ve hooked a mystery, we can use logic and systematic thought to reel it in, for imagination and reason are not contradictory but complimentary forces. Like the synthesis of body and soul, the fusion of imagination and reason is a sum much greater than its parts.

Imagination teaches us to love.

It sparks in our hearts a curiosity that drives us to learn about other people, and it gives us the unique perspective necessary to discover in an ocean of differences all the things we have in common. This understanding blossoms into empathy, so that it becomes possible for us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Imagination facilitates creation.

It allows us to picture things not just as they are, but as they might be. Guided by this internal vision, we can shape and mold the universe according to our designs, so that we become manufacturers as well as consumers of reality.

Imagination is life-giving.

It’s a wellspring of potential energy, a supernova of the heart, an explosive force that illumines and breathes life into the cosmos. It transforms us, orients us toward a more perfect union with the world and its creator.

To turn our backs on fantasy and the imagination is to turn our backs on the Universe, to slowly wither and die, cut off from the cosmic vine that sustains us. We must not let the cynical voices of the world discourage us. Rather we must venture forth into the dark unafraid, so that someday, we can find the answers we seek, so that someday, at long last, we can discover the meaning of our existence.

Subscribe to receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.

Ex Nihilo, Part 3: The Rough Draft

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

Part three of my four-part weekly series, Ex Nihilo.

Almost there.

Finally, after a ton of freewriting and brainstorming, after racking my brain for hours trying to conjure up enough relevant ideas to cobble together a blog that will hopefully interest and inspire my readers, this is where everything comes together.

I admit, I’m a little embarrassed to share an early draft with you. As I mentioned in the introduction to the series, these are the things you were never meant to see. This is the rabble I quietly brush aside backstage when nobody’s looking. I felt all right sharing my freewrite and organizational notes with you, because those were far enough removed from the final result that I wasn’t afraid of being judged negatively. The rough draft, however, is something else entirely.

Rough drafts are bad. Really bad.

They always are. Even in the exceptionally rare case where I feel utterly inspired, where I’m able to go from start to finish without feeling like a complete fool, I’m soon humbled when I review my work a few hours or a few days later and realize how poorly executed it was on the first go around.

This is normal. Writing the rough draft is like forming a pot out of clay: you can’t make it pretty until you’ve captured the shape. Only when you have a rudimentary structure can you begin to iron out the lumps and the creases.

But the potter doesn’t share his half-baked pots, and I don’t ordinarily share my poorly written rough drafts, which are so crudely constructed that they could have been written by a second grader.

Anyway, here it is, in all of its flawed and imperfect glory.

Enjoy, and try not to think me too daft…

Does Imagination Matter?

We live in a world of data. We exist cocooned in a nest of numbers and formulas, of figures and facts. We’re often taught from an early age that our world view is worth nothing unless it’s rooted in fact, that imagination has no place in our minds, that it displaces other more noble and worthy endeavors. We look around at the world around us, so hostile to the internal force we yearn to satisfy, and we shrug our shoulders, wondering if perhaps they were right, if we might as well pack up our artistic pursuits for more worldly endeavors.

We gaze about us, and we ask ourselves, “Does imagination matter?”

Imagination is a lamp set before our feet.

The universe is a mysterious place. Many of its secrets remain hidden and unknown, untouchable, impenetrable. It’s subsequently a dark place, and we’re left to stumble around half-blind, with only our limited perceptions for a handrail. Imagination is an illumination reaching out into this darkness, showing us a way forward. Imagination provides a framework, a way of perceiving a world filled with mysteries. It doesn’t claim to know the answers, but provides the creativity necessary to discover them. Imagination is a unique perceptive power that allows us to see what isn’t there, giving us the ability to make sense of the inexplicable.

Imagination is the impulse that drives us forward into the dark unafraid.

It teases us with promises of what may lie ahead, assuring us that all the universe has to offer and more can be ours if only we have the courage to pursue it. It’s a taste, a hint of what’s to come. It’s a way of looking at the world, a covenant between the Universe and Man.. It is our motivation and our inspiration, a confident trust in the unknown, a faith that the world is fundamentally ordered and that we can understand it if only we dare to reach out.

Imagination is our guide.

It bridges the gap between what is and what may be, leading us to new life. Through fantasy, mysteries that hitherto held little interest captivate us, forcing us to give chase, and thereby ultimately leading us toward a love of what’s real. Through our imaginations, we find that we’re better equipped to relate to reality.

Imagination is our mentor.

It precedes every discovery. It teaches not through rote memorization or blind adherence to established doctrine, but hands on experience, through passion and dedication and a profound desire for the Truth.

Imagination teaches us to love.

By dreaming about other lives, we become curious. By becoming curious, we become driven to learn more about others. By learning more about others, we foster understanding. By fostering understanding, we develop empathy. And by developing empathy, we learn to love.

Imagination teaches us about reality.

It allows us to reach beyond the obvious, to cast ourselves out into the darkness like a net to grapple with things we don’t fully understand. And once we’ve reached out and hooked a mystery, we can make use of logic and reason to slowly reel it in.

Imagination and reason are not contrary but complimentary forces, each of which must be given equal weight. Imagination is the fire that drives our pursuit of the truth, while reason is the vehicle that gets us there. Like the synthesis of body and soul, the synthesis of imagination and reason is a sum that is much greater than its parts.

Imagination facilitates creation.

We not only discover reality, we manufacture reality. Imagination allows us to picture things as they might be, and by shaping and molding the things around us, we alter the universe to match the pictures in our heads. It is through this creative power that we play the rather odd role of being both subject to the Universe and its author.

Imagination is a supernova of the heart.

It’s a wellspring of potential energy, an explosive force that illumines and breathes life into the cosmos. Imagination transforms us, orienting us toward a more perfect union with the Truth, and through this union we find the source and summit of our life.

That’s it. Next week, I’ll conclude the series by posting the final version of my next blog.

Subscribe to receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.

Ex Nihilo, Part 2: Organization

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

Part two of my four-part weekly series, Ex Nihilo.

Disclaimer.

Ordinarily, the steps between my freewrite and my rough draft are an indeterminate blur. I don’t sit down to write a formal outline, nor do I adhere to any specific method to get the job done. I prefer to mold my words like clay, gradually transforming bits and pieces of my freewrite and the emerging structure inside my head into a comprehensible whole. Nevertheless, for the sake of illustrating (however imperfectly) what I go through during this process, I’ve decided to try and condense my intermediate thoughts into a tangible set of notes.

Reviewing and organizing my ideas.

In last week’s installment, I told you that I like to flesh out a new blog by writing down as many associations as possible, regardless of how they relate to each other and regardless of whether or not they make sense.

Once the dust settled and I was able to come back to my blog with a fresh perspective, I reviewed what I’d unearthed, taking survey of the raw literary ore that stood before me so that I could figure out how to transform it into precious metal.

Finding a theme.

I always search for some fundamental concept that unifies the majority of my thoughts, giving my embryonic blog form, purpose and direction. I sat down at my desk with my freewrite in front of me, banged my head for a while in frustration, and eventually came up with some ideas. Here are a few of them (not an exhaustive list):

  1. Imagination is a necessary and indispensable part of the human condition.
  2. Imagination is the force that drives progress.
  3. Imagination is how we make sense of the world.
  4. Imagination described as a magic power.
  5. What is imagination?

I wanted a theme that would 1) give form and substance to my freewrite, 2) be interesting, and 3) relate directly to my readers as individuals. I considered number five, as it easily satisfied the first condition. But I thought about it for a bit and decided it would be too easy to create a bland point-by-point description that would bore my readers and send them away to the next thing. I wanted my blog to develop. I wanted to lead my readers down a mystical road that would ultimately end with some kind of explosive climax.

Then I considered combining five and three, and came up with the idea of presenting imagination as a launching point, the beginning of a journey that culminates in a greater understanding of reality. I thought that by leading the reader along this journey, I could create the kind of developing topic I was looking for and satisfy the second condition.

That left me with the third and most difficult condition. I needed to tweak my theme so that it would speak personally to each of my readers, then distill it down to a single title that would jump out from a person’s newsfeed, demanding to be read.

Satisfying that third condition is exceedingly tricky. I still haven’t found the solution for my upcoming blog, and I’ll most likely have to figure it out as I’m writing the rough draft.

The outline.

In the end, by cannibalizing my freewrite and combining it with my emerging theme, I cobbled together the following rough outline, which I’ll refer back to when I work on the rough draft for Part 3.

1. Our vision of the universe starts with a spark, a lamp set down at our feet to guide the way.

  • Imagination inspires us. It’s a fire in the soul, burning. Radiant. Irridescent. Yearning.
  • Imagination is a light reaching out into the darkness, giving us hope and light.
  • Imagination provides a framework, a way of perceiving the world. The world is full of mysteries. Through imagination, we make sense of the inexplicable. A framework. A bulwark. A perceptive power. Imagination, like love, is a unique kind of magic (can link to “How is Love like Magic?”)

2. Imagination is not only the lamp set down at our feet, but the impulse that drives us forward into the darkness unafraid.

3. Imagination leads us through the dark, guilding us.

  • Imagination is our way to make sense of the inexplicable. Imagination is the ability of the human mind to assign meaning and understanding to the unknown. Imagination is a way of looking at the world, a confident trust in the unknown, faith that the world is fundamentally ordered, faith that the world can be made sense of if only we try.
  • Imagination gives the unknown new life. Imagination helps us to relate to reality. Through the fantasies that we imagine, we find that what was previously ignored because it was unknown has suddenly captivated us, and we want to learn more. Therefore, our imagination is what leads us to a love of what’s real. Imagination is the front door, the gate by which we enter a world of knowledge, for without imagination, where and how do we find the inspiration to move forward through the dark?

4. Imagination precedes every discovery. It is the mentor who teaches not by rote memorization of facts but through hands on experience, through passion and dedication and a profound desire to discover the truth.

  • Imagination is a taste, a hint of what’s to come, a promise, a covenant between the Universe and Man.
  • Imagination allows us to reach beyond he obvious, to make a wild leap of faith, to reach out into the darkness and grapple with that which we don’t fully understand. And once we’ve reached into the darkness and taken hold of something hitherto completely unknown and unexplained, we can use reason and logic to follow its trail, slowly approaching it while we continue to grab ahold of it with our imaginations so that eventually we can fully illumine it and more completely understand the Truth.

5. Imagination does not operate counter to reason, but as a complimentary force, the passion that drives discovery.

  • Imagination is not opposed to cool-headed reason: the two are complimentary forces that must be given equal weight. Imagination is what provides the fire and the passion behind our pursuits; cool reason and logic are the vehicles by which we make our dreams come true. Together, the soul of imagination and the mechanics of logic and reason, we do wonderous things. (Can probably link to “How can I rediscover the magic of childhood blog.)

6. Imagination brings fulfillment to the human experience. It gives us the passion we need to pursue the truth in a creative way. It inspires us to live. It inspires us to love.

  • Imagination makes us able to love. How does it make us able to love? Imagination helps me to love by…I don’t know, but helping us to imagine what the lives of others must be like. Yes, imagination helps us to discover what another’s life might be like. It makes us empathetic. Imagination gives us a foretaste of what life is like for others, making us want to reach out to ask more questions, which in turn leads to a greater understanding, which ultimately¬† leads us to love.
  • Understanding and empathy

7. Imagination inspires us to create, to play a role, however small, in the making of the universe. In this way, we find ourselves both subjects of the Universe and its authors.

  • Let there be light. Light, the creative force behind the making of the cosmos, which exploded into life from nothing, the ultimate act of imagination, the most abundant use of this magical force. We are imitators in this sense. In this sense, we literally reach out into the void of nothing and come back with something. Imagination is the extraordinary power that can transform nothing into something, that can fabricate entire lives, landscapes and civilizations ex nihlo. – Imagination then is a constructive force, a power by which creation is achieved. – Imagination is a well-spring, an inexhaustible source of transformative and rejuvanitive energy.
  • Creativity and imagination: acts that come from these are a mini creation. Just as God created the universe form nothing, and just as it subsists in itself, so too do our stories come from the ether of our minds, and subsist within us. Quote from Tolkein about writing being an act of mini-creation.

Conclusion: “Becomes a supernova of the heart.”

Next week, I’ll talk about the rough draft.

Subscribe to receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.

Ex Nihilo, Part I: Conceptualization

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

Part one of my four-part weekly series, Ex Nihilo.

The Idea

My blogs typically begin with a single thought, some feeling or sensation that I want to cultivate and grow. It’s not usually well defined, only an abstract vapor meandering through my mind without form or substance.

For this particular blog, I had the sense of something magical, something mystical and otherworldly, something that evoked a primal sense of awe and wonder. The emotion captivated me, and I wanted to go deeper.

Freewriting

When an idea takes me, my next step is usually to sit down and freewrite. Freewriting is a way of loosening the mind, of bypassing the filters that ordinarily get in the way of ideas so that you’re free to make associations. It’s like dynamite. It rocks the foundation of the mind, shaking loose a bunch of intellectual ore that can be sifted and refined into polished writing.

I began by typing a series of words that I associated with my initial feelings. Gradually, those words began to coalesce into sentences and paragraphs. I eventually connected everything to the power of the imagination, and used that final association as a launching point for generating ideas.

Freewriting is a messy process. There’s no structure, and things don’t always make sense. It’s only literary precursor, and is ordinarily a private endeavor. Today, I present the freewrite for my next blog, whole and unedited.

Fantasy. Bizarre. Strange. Wonderful. Vibrant. Irridescent. Luminescent. Bioluminescence. Shimmering. Shining. Bright. Star. Burning. Nuclear explosion. Supernova of the heart. Mind. Eternal. Shadows. Ethereal. Darkness. Good vs. evil. Plight. Benediction. Worship. Fire. Burn. Blaze. Cosmic flames. Tongues like seprents, licking the sky. Candle. Fire. Flame. Sparkle. Gold. Glitter. Gold. Silver. Ore. Platinum. Precious metals. Gems. Jewels. Prize. Imagination. Flicker. Sputter. Cough.

Imagination. Imagination is a fire in the soul, burning. Radiant. Irridescent. Burning. Yearning. Imagination. Beautiful imagination. Imagination is our way to make sense of the inexplicable. Imagination is the ability of the human mind to assign meaning and understanding to the unknown. Imagination is a way of looking at the world, a confident trust in the unknown, faith that the world is fundamentally ordered, faith that the world can be made sense of if only we try.

Imagination is a light reaching out into the darkness, giving us hope and light. Imagination makes us able to love. How does it make us able to love? Imagination helps me to love by…I don’t know, but helping us to imagine what the lives of others must be like. Yes, imagination helps us to discover what another’s life might be like. It makes us empathetic. Imagination gives us a foretaste of what life is like for others, making us want to reach out to ask more questions, which in turn leads to a greater understanding, which ultimately leads us to love.

Imagination provides a framework, a way of perceiving the world. The world is full of mysteries. Through imagination, we make sense of the inexplicable. A framework. A bulwark. A perceptive power. Imagination, like love, is a unique kind of magic (can link to “How is Love like Magic?”)

Imagination gives the unknown new life. Imagination helps us to relate to reality by…by what? Imagination inspires us. Through the fantasies that we imagine, we find that what was previously ignored because it was unknown has suddenly captivated us, and we want to learn more. Therefore, we imagination is what leads us to a love of what’s real. Imagination is the front door, the gate by which we enter a world of knowledge, for without imagination, where and how do we find the inspiration to move forward through the dark?

Imagination is a taste, a hint of what’s to come, a promise, a covenant between the Universe and Man. Imagination is…imagination is…Not sure. Must think some more.

Imagination is not opposed to cool-headed reason: the two are complimentary forces that must be given equal weight. Imagination is what provides the fire and the passion behind our pursuits; cool reason and logic are the vehicles by which we make our dreams come true. Together, the soul of imagination and the mechanics of logic and reason, we do wonderous things. (Can probably link to “How can I rediscover the magic of childhood blog.)

Imagination gives fulfillment to all of our human endeavors. Imagination allows us to reach beyond he obvious, to make a wild leap of faith, to reach out into the darkness and grapple with that which we don’t fully understand. And once we’ve reached into the darkness and taken hold of something hitherto completely unknown and unexplained, we can use reason and logic to follow its trail, slowly approaching it while we continue to grab ahold of it with our imaginations so that eventually we can fully illumine it and more completely understand the Truth.

Let there be light. Light, the creative force behind the making of the cosmos, which exploded into life from nothing, the ultimate act of imagination, the most abundant use of this magical force. We are imitators in this sense. In this sense, we literally reach out into the void of nothing and come back with something. Imagination is the extraordinary power that can transform nothing into something, that can fabricate entire lives, landscapes and civilizations ex nihlo.

Imagination then is a constructive force, a power by which creation is achieved.

Imagination:
– Inspiration and passion
– Vision and ability to make new connections between non-obvious things
– Understanding and empathy
– Creation

Abstract.

Imagination is a well-spring, an inexhaustible source of transformative and rejuvanitive energy.

Ivory towers.

Creativity and imagination: acts that come from these are a mini creation. Just as God created the universe form nothing, and just as it subsists in itself, so too do our stories come from the ether of our minds, and subsist within us. Quote from Tolkein about writing being an act of mini-creation.

Next week, I’ll talk about how I sifted through my freewrite, searched for a unifying theme and organized my thoughts in preparation for the first draft.

Subscribe to receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.

Ex Nihilo, Introduction

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

Out of the unformed ether of the mind erupt peoples, nations, entire worlds of every kind. By unleashing the raw power of creation, we storytellers breath form and life into entire universes ex nihilo. It’s an extraordinary power, but like most practitioners of magic, we prefer to work in seclusion. We barricade ourselves in our ivory towers, huddled over parchments and keyboards in the dark, not because we’re arrogant or because, like magicians, we believe in closely guarded secrets.

Rather, we hide the details of our work because we’re scared.

We’re scared that if we let you in, you’ll discover the awful truth, that the handful of gems we’ve managed to produce after weeks or months or years is invariably preceded by decomposing mountains of dross, the inarticulate by-products of a creative process that reveals our numerous inadequacies in all their shameful glory.

We jealously guard these imperfect scraps and never allow them to see the light of day. We believe only in presenting our most polished work; we’re certain that to do otherwise would be intellectual suicide.

But today, I want to throw the doors open. You’ll notice I’ve already done a little of this in my Friday Freewrite series. I’ve come to realize that perfection is a foolhardy illusion, that if only I swallow my pride and allow others to encounter my flawed and imprecise methods, I can share a much more authentic, much more human story.

To that end, I’ve decided to post my next blog not in its complete and perfected form, but as a weekly four-part series of intermediate steps.

Below are links to each installment in the series:

Subscribe to receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.

How Can I Rejoice In Failure?

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

Oh, boy. You’ve done it now. You’ve failed. Absolutely spectacularly failed. You want to die.

How will you go on? You’re afraid. You might make another mistake. You might be misunderstood. People might even laugh at you. There’s no point. You should give up, cut your losses now while you still have some face left to save.

Sound familiar? Anyone who’s failed at something (in other words, all of us) has gone through a similar thought process. We imagine failure to be the worst possible outcome. We strive for excellence, and instead we nose dive on the opposite end of the spectrum. We ask ourselves how we could have been so bad. We’re embarrassed because others are watching. Sometimes, we conclude that it’s best to just move on, that we should forget we ever tried. Why bother, we think, if we’re just going to screw up again?

We think failure is a negative thing. If I were to tell you it’s actually the opposite, that you should be grateful for and even delight in your mistakes, you might understandably ask, “How can I rejoice in failure?”

Failure is your greatest teacher.

We humans have this peculiar belief that we should be good at something on our first attempt. It’s as if we expect to be infused with the whole of human knowledge and experience from birth. But the reality is that any time we try something new, we’re babies all over again, stumbling around with stubborn and incapable limbs.

You weren’t born knowing how to read. You had to struggle with the alphabet, had to painstakingly memorize each symbol along with the sound it represents. You then had to follow along in countless picture books, sounding out the syllables in simple words, stuttering as you stumbled over sentences that might as well have been written in a foreign language. Only through years of trial and error did you eventually achieve fluency.

As the old cliché goes, you have to learn to crawl before you can learn to walk. Each mistake you make is a rung on the ladder of success, another object lesson that will refine your process over time. Your mistakes are precisely what teach you to excel at what you do.

Failure encourages you to be better.

Often, you catch yourself in a mistake and look backwards. “Why do I keep failing?” you ask. “When am I ever going to get this right?” But the problem is not that you’ve made a mistake, but that you’ve used it to gaze in the wrong direction.

Failure should inspire you to look forward. It should not be seen as a roadblock, keeping you penned in to an inferior mode of existence, but as a stepping stone on the way toward something better. Failure should be a source of hope, a way for you to gauge your success over time.

The person who avoids mistakes stagnates. He never grows because he refuses to push forward. Mistakes indicate that you’ve entered uncharted territory, that like the world’s greatest explorers, you have an opportunity to navigate something that was hitherto unknown.

Failure makes you humble.

It’s easy to be arrogant when you’re good at what you do. You’re often tempted to look down your nose at others who haven’t progressed as far as you, to regard with disdain the works of your “inferiors.”

How humbling it is then when you’re forced to confront your own mistakes. They ground you. They remind you where you came from, that you’re human and that you’re no better than anybody else.

Failure makes it easier to relate to others.

The more you embrace your mistakes, the more you realize you’re like everybody else. And the more you realize you’re like everybody else, the easier it is to relate to everybody else. You begin to realize you’re only part of the whole, a single cell in the collective organism of humanity. The more you identify with others, the more you can operate in sync with them. This makes the world better, for how much more perfect is a body when all of its parts strive for the benefit of the whole?

Don’t fear failure. Revel in it!

Failure is a prize. It is our mentor and our encourager. It is the journey by which we can achieve everything we’ve ever dreamed of, limited only by how much time we’re given and how far we’re willing to travel.

Embrace failure. Revel in it. Make mistakes and make them often. Your future self will thank you.

Subscribe to receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.

My Mission Statement

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

I’ve spent the past few years thinking a lot about who I am and what I was made to do. It’s been a long journey, fraught with anxiety, self-doubt and confusion. I’ve traversed the desert of darkness and despair, have had to question whether or not I have a purpose, if I was meant to be a writer or if my art is just the accidental by-product of genes, passed on through countless generations, heralds of random chance and a fundamentally chaotic universe.

By attempting to comprehend my existence and its reason for being, I’ve come to a much fuller understanding of what it is I’m supposed to do.

It’s my sincere hope, of course, that everything I write will entertain and delight you, my readers. I want to make you happy. In a world filled with anxiety and despair, I want to give you leisure and rest.

But there’s more.

There are things I wish to communicate, themes that have surfaced over and over again as I’ve plumbed the depths of my imagination. Everything I write, while intended to entertain, also serves a higher purpose. What follows are three things I hope to accomplish as a writer.

1. To explore the entire spectrum of the human experience.

What motivates people to do what they do? Why do they feel a certain way? How do people react to the actions of others? These are just a few of the questions that fascinate me, questions that have set me on a path of exploration that’s taken me deep into the heart of humanity.

We are a species rich with depth and complexity. There are no simple answers; every question is answered by another question. Yet in the neverending process of asking new questions, we come to a fuller understanding of ourselves.

2. To discern and articulate the extraordinary that hides in the shadow of the ordinary.

As humans, we’re easily distracted by the everyday tedium of our existence. We lose ourselves in routine, becoming so absorbed in the doings of the world that we fail to see what lies beyond the surface.

I believe that beyond the thin veil of the ordinary lies something much more wondrous and strange than any of us could possibly imagine. I believe that once we train ourselves to see the world as something more, the cardboard superficiality of our dull surface-existence falls away to something much more rich and mysterious.

3. To demonstrate that life has meaning, that all of us have a purpose.

I firmly believe that existence has meaning. I will always believe it, no matter how confused I become, no matter how many times others may argue to the contrary. In the vastness of the cosmos, we are not alone. Each of us has been given a mission, some task to perform in love for the benefit of the human family.

Simply by being who I am and by writing what I discover hidden within my soul, I hope to convey this message to others, to give hope where so many have fallen to despair. I wish to show the universe for what it is, a cosmic framework in which everyone and everything are interconnected for an everlasting good that was made to be shared.

How about you? What’s your mission?

Subscribe to receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.