Tag Archives: creativity

Not What She Deserved (Spoiler Alert)

My friend Julia and I have been watching a series called Once Upon a Time for a while now. I watched it for the first time with my friend Nick, and it was totally necessary to share. Eventually it becomes evident that the series follows a pretty basic good versus evil scenario, typical of any fantasy series, and rather apt, considering all the characters are, in fact, from fairy tales or Disney movies. Over and over again, the heroes are faced with a villain or several villains, and several problems that have to be solved. What’s great about the series is that it sometimes changes the nature of characters, so, for example, characters that were heroes in the original telling of the story, are villains in the “real world,” and characters that were once villains become heroes.

One might think that a series that follows a basic good versus evil plot like this where the situations simply get more and more difficult to handle might get boring. It doesn’t. Just when you think the heroes have won and it could never possibly be worse, it gets worse. From a writer’s perspective, it’s fantastic to see just how creative these writers are.

There is one part in the series where the heroes actually get sent into the Underworld–where the Greek god Hades lives. The afterlife system in this series is actually pretty interesting. Basically, one goes to the Underworld if one has unfinished business, and one has to stay there until one has taken care of whatever that may be. Once it’s finished, one moves on, either to a better place or a worse place; in other words, Heaven or Hell. There is one character in particular who definitely does not get what she deserves. She plays a significant part in the series, and she is utterly detestable, but because of something she does for her two daughters while she is in the underworld, she moves on to the better place.

I mention this because Julia and I had very different reactions to the scene. I found it rather satisfying, while Julia was thoroughly displeased. I don’t know all of Julia’s reasons for her reactions, but I could likely guess a few. I do know my reasons. To be sure, there is nothing redeemable about this character. However, she has a brief moment when she realizes how awful she is, and she freely and honestly chooses to help her daughters. I like it when people are given the gift of redemption. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they’ve done. This character didn’t have a long, drawn out redemption story. She simply saw reality for what it was, acknowledged that she deserved the worse place, and was given the better place because of it.

In real life that’s called Grace.

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Things I’ve Learned From Playing Minecraft

Interpret as you will.

1: You can’t create something from nothing.
2: People need other people.
3: When building something, make sure it’s fire proof.
4: You don’t have to fight the monsters if you have plenty of light and good defenses.
5: Starting over is often the best option.
6: Boredom feeds creativity.
7: A world needs a story.

Holy Week (Tuesday)

What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of life? People generally ask these questions, or some variation of them, explicitly or implicitly. Some will assert that life has no purpose or meaning, and will therefore live and act according to whatever seems most pleasing and/or convenient. However, others will assert that the actual purpose of life is to live in the very same way to attain the maximum amount of pleasure, or what have you. The purpose of using this kind of philosophy is to illustrate that though people often have different ideas about what the meaning or purpose of life is, they often can reach the same conclusions.

I found an article today that grouped various ideas about the purpose of life into several different categories. In short, they all tended to be relational. Some find meaning in life by focusing on themselves various ways: to live as long as possible, to get as much as possible, to experience as much as possible, to reach one’s full potential (in general or at something specific), or to survive, seeing the world and life as a challenge that must be constantly overcome. Others find meaning in symbiotic relationships, meaning that these relationships cannot be entirely altruistic. There must be give and take. Still others find meaning in altruism, which may or may not be connected to spirituality. Finally, some find find meaning in worship.

Still, this may only generally help some in discovering their own life’s purpose. It begs the question, does everyone have a specific purpose in their life? Is there one particular thing that everyone is meant to do or meant to be? I think I would have to say yes and no to that question. As intelligent, thinking beings created by God, we are meant to grow in holiness; i.e. to become more like him and get to know him better. The Catholic Church also asserts that everyone has a primary Vocation and a secondary vocation. One’s primary Vocation has to do with how one relates to God and the Church, while one’s secondary vocation has to do with how one relates to other people and society in general. Ultimately, though, both relate to how one is meant to live before God’s kingdom comes.

God created us each differently, though. Some of us are good at writing or public speaking. Some of us are good at teaching. Some of us are great artists. Some of us are highly successful at whatever we do for work, and are therefore very altruistic. It seems that part of our life’s purpose is to discover what it is we love and what we’re good at, and figure out how God might want us to use these skills and knowledge. It seems, then that the purpose of life is, in part, to find God’s purpose.

Of course I am answering this question from a Catholic standpoint because I am Catholic, and I believe in an absolute Truth that I am striving to reach and understand. However, the same question could be answered from the perspective of anyone who strongly believes in any faith or philosophy. Interestingly, it would seem that, according to different faiths or philosophies, it would be easier or harder to answer this question. I would imagine that to someone who believes life has no purpose, it is easy, provided this is satisfying to them. At the same time, it is easy for me to say that my life’s purpose is at least in part, to worship God and enjoy his presence.

I would ultimately have to say that finding life’s purpose is a process. Do I definitively know what my ultimate purpose is? No. For all I know it changes over time and I’ve fulfilled one and am working to discover the next. It wasn’t until I graduated college and wrote half of a novel that I could comfortably say that I am not just a writer, but a good writer. My suspicion is that I am meant to write. Right now I write about personal stuff, spiritual stuff, and (not on this blog), a mythology. By the time I’m forty that could change drastically. What I write about is less important than who I write for, though. I do what I’m good at, and I do it for God.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

 

Kids And Stories

Last week my year with the fourth grade CCD kids ended. On Sunday I’ll be finished with the high school Freshmen. I think the break will be nice. This was my first time teaching younger kids, and next year I want to have a better idea of how to manage things, so I’ll take a couple of days, or maybe a week or so this spring or summer to figure out a good plan. I’ll be teaching the fourth graders again next year, and I’ll also be teaching fifth grade, so I might have some of the same kids. I’ve decided to move on to tenth grade, too, partly because my cousin will be in tenth grade, and I think I’m his confirmation sponsor. Honestly, I forget if that’s what we’ve all decided.

A couple of days ago a little boy and his friends across the street saw me coming home from my CCD lesson, so I went over to say “Hi.” I don’t know how it came to it, but we ended up talking about an imaginary world my friends and I invented when we were in middle school. We didn’t have time to “go there” on Wednesday, but I promised them I’d come back over as soon as I could and we’d build a fairy house so the fairies could take us there. So today I spent about an hour playing in an imaginary world that I haven’t visited in nearly ten years.

It was an odd experience because their idea of Mythic Island is not what my idea of Mythic Island was. Granted, my friends and I had six years on these kids when we came up with the idea, but it’s like I’m blind there now. It’s sort of disorienting. It’s not that my imagination’s going. I can proudly say that I have more imagination than most people can handle. I guess maybe part of the issue is that when we were there, there was a wolf demon to contend with. Part of it, too, is that these kids don’t understand that co-mingling stories is a bad idea, and they want to bring Star Wars into it. The writer in me cringes at the thought.

Anyway, all that aside, we had fun. We ran around, found some dragon eggs, and I told them some stuff about magic I made up off the top of my head. The weather should be nice this weekend, so they’ll probably want to play some more. I’m hoping this doesn’t become an every-day thing, though, because I’m going to get nothing done. At the same time, having to come up with stories and ideas for these kids on the fly might prove to be helpful in coming up with stuff for my Mythology.

Speaking of which, This past week, I finished one story, and am getting a lot done on another one. The one I’m working on now is pretty dark, but certainly not as dark as the next one I’m going to do. I’m realizing that several of my stories are darker than I had originally thought they were going to be. It seems like a lot of mythology is like that. Still, I’m going to try and find ways to get some happier stuff in there, and some of my darker stories do have happy, or somewhat happy endings.

The kid who I was playing with earlier and his mom actually watched my bird while my family and I were in Florida last month. His mom is friends with my mom, and she told my mom earlier that her son keeps asking her for “bear stories” every night, and it drives her crazy because she feels like she’s not very creative. Stories have always come fairly easily to me. Sometimes I get a little stuck, but something always comes along. I’m not sure what it is.

Life would be so boring without stories. When I was a kid I wanted to be anywhere but the real world. I feel differently about that now. The worlds of my favorite stories are a lot scarier than the real world. Harry Potter has to deal with Voldemort almost constantly. Frodo has to deal with the Ring of Power and the Eye of Sauron constantly. The Jedi have to deal with the power of the Empire and then the First Order, and the overwhelming power of the Dark Side.

Granted, we probably have some pretty freaky stuff going on in our world that we don’t even know about, not to mention the spiritual warfare that’s often hard to see. The thing about those other stories though, is they don’t have God in them–not just a god, but the God. They don’t have the God-who-is-Love who’s got our back no matter what; who’s willing to go as far as to die for all of us. I’ve thought about that a lot as a writer. Every time I start to think I’d rather be anywhere else but the real world because something bad happened or I might have more control, or something, I realize, “Yeah, but in that other world I wouldn’t have God.”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Valentine’s Day

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Earlier I found myself almost reverting back to my automatic bitterness about it, which is obviously silly. I love it when people are in love. I have turned into a sucker for corn. It’s kind of pathetic, actually. I’m not lonely anymore. I haven’t been for a long time. I have no reason for disliking Valentine’s Day, other than bad memories from when I was in high school and the first couple years of college.

I got my sleep schedule out of wack again because my friend was over and we stayed up late last night. Luckily, I think I still got some good stuff written on my Mythology today. That project is still a baby, so it’s a little early to be thinking about a title, but I kind of can’t help my mind reaching in that direction. I can’t just keep calling it “My Mythology.” I’m taking a bit of a break from that right now. I’m going to stay up late again tonight, so I’ll work on that some more once my family has gone to bed. I’d like to work on my mosaic with my dad. I started it yesterday, and I think it’s going to look great.

It’s interesting to think about working with broken glass as an art form. It seems kind of counter-intuitive. How could all these broken pieces turn into something so nice? I just like to pick each piece up and hold it and look at it and put it exactly where I want it, and even if I have a picture in mind, the pieces may not fit exactly how I want them, so I have to rework my idea very slightly, or I have to reshape the pieces, and sometimes the misshapen pieces inspire me to come up with something better than what I originally had planned anyway.

I’ve been waiting to hear back from a woman who I was in touch with a while ago because she is a consecrated virgin. We were thinking about meeting the day after tomorrow. I haven’t heard back from her, and earlier today I had kind of a funny thought. I thought, “She’s probably been planning something for Valentine’s Day.” Then it occurred to me that she’s not married. Then it occurred to me that, actually, she is–just not to a “regular” man.

I was sitting in my kitchen, looking out the window, maybe drinking coffee or something and thinking about the whole thing the other day. As part of the ceremony, like in a “regular” wedding, a woman gets a ring, and I realized I want that. At the same time I found myself asking, “Am I allowed to want that?” And then of course I realized that was a stupid question. I think sometimes, in fact, probably more often than not, God wants me to be bolder than I am. Wanting to be that close to God could never be a bad thing.

So tonight and tomorrow I’ll write and pray like I always do, and I’ll work on my mosaic like any other day, and I’ll probably watch 24 with my dad. We do that, too. It’s not very warm and fuzzy corny, but my bird is warm and fuzzy. Anyway, my mom was going to make heart shaped chocolate chipped cookies for my CCD students on Wednesday. It’s a day late, but who cares.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

New Mythology

When I started this blog, I wrote a short, seven-part mythology that somewhat followed the creation, fall of humanity, battle for dominion, redemption narrative. In hindsight it wasn’t very good, but it was fun to write. Mythology and fantasy stuff in general always is. I mentioned in a previous post that my friend and I are going to be working on a fantasy podcast together. That still hasn’t got started, which is a bit annoying because neither of us are overwhelmingly busy; we’re just on different schedules. While I’m waiting for that to get going, I’ve had an idea for another project. I think college made me used to working on several projects at the same time, and quite frankly, sometimes writing my novel is tedious. To be completely honest, it takes place too much in the “real world.”

My newest project idea is another book, but it’s not a narrative. It’s a book of mythology. I’m going to split it up into several parts. Today I wrote out a table of contents, which is by no means complete, to help me figure out exactly what I want to do. So far, my idea includes: something along the lines of my original seven-part narrative, a section on Realms, a section on Spirits, a section on Creatures, a section on People, and a section on Places. This is the kind of project I’m best at, and I already have several ideas to start filling in a few of these sections. In particular, I want to use this to figure out who in the world the Falcon of Destiny is. Whenever I play D&D with my friends I request the Falcon of Destiny incessantly just to be a nuisance, but I have no idea who or what he is. I just like to call my bird the Falcon of Destiny because it sounds cool.

I also have a vague idea for a character simply called The Tree. Like the Falcon of Destiny, I’m not exactly sure what she does, but what I do want to do is make sure that all the characters in my mythology are at least somehow interconnected. They all matter to each other. The Tree wouldn’t be The Tree without the intervention of the Falcon of Destiny who charged her with the protection of (what I haven’t figured out yet). He did (whatever he did) to spare her from Fearolf who wanted to kill her (for what reason I don’t know). Like i said, I have to fill in the details, but my characters all mean something to each other.

The hardest thing for me will be making the map. I already have one significant description of a specific place, and once I have several significant places figured out, I’m going to have to explain how to get from point A to point B and what mundane things are between these places. I’m not good at figuring out reasonable distances compared to travel time, in particular. With this in mind, I’m thinking once I’m done writing all the descriptions and stories, I want there to be illustrations. It don’t want to just tell people who the Falcon of Destiny is, I want them to be able to see him. I don’t think finding an illustrator will be too hard for this, though.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The Language Of Love

Words are very powerful. They can change our entire outlook on life. They can inspire us. They can make us feel good. They can change the world. Words spoken with authority make things happen. Words spoken with love can make you fall apart. Words can move us even if we don’t understand them initially. Still, sometimes words cannot express the beauty or tragedy of certain situations or artistic expressions.

I spent four years of my life essentially studying words. I learned how to write poetry and stories. I learned about the difference between heard and read language, and its emotional impacts, as well as its artistic value. I learned that words really can make someone immortal. I discovered my love for Seamus Heaney the year he died. His poetry is perfectly put together, even when its subject matter is ugly. It isn’t always fluid, but even when it seems stylistically cold or even rude, there’s some kind of life in it. I still find it beautiful.

I’ve been trying to make sure I work on my novel every day now, and I’m getting a lot done. I like what I’ve been coming up with, both in terms of where the plot is going, and in terms of style. There are parts of my novel that are intentionally very technical. Admittedly, I like sounding smart, but these very technical explanations are also simply necessary for the potential audience to understand what’s going on in the world and how things like psychic abilities work. I’m very grateful for what I learned at school, through practice, and for all the great writer’s I’ve been introduced to. Not all of them are well known. These include fantasy writers, movie script writers, and songwriters, as well as some of the “greats” I was exposed to at school. As a science-fiction writer, some of my greatest influences have been amazing, underrated movies.

As a songwriter, poet and composer, I’ve also come to realize that sometimes words have the most meaning in their absence. In my latest musical composition, there’s a lot of silence, but it’s certainly not dead space. The meaning is in the silences. Truthfully I haven’t thought a whole lot about it, but I think it’s evocative of the idea that we don’t realize how much value something has until it’s gone. The leading part of it is the violin. There is a part of this piece that is meant to be uncomfortable. All other instruments cut out and the violin part seems almost faulty, like a flickering light that could go out at any moment. The point is that the light doesn’t go out. The piece is called “Love For You.” True love doesn’t die. True love is immortal.

Over the past year I read the Bible cover to cover. From an artistic standpoint, it’s not pretty. From an artistic standpoint, it seems downright chaotic. If one were to put it into musical terms, it might turn out to be something like free form Jazz with lots of augmented and diminished chords. It would probably sound rather jarring. This is according to a strictly aesthetic reading. Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God. This is particularly important for someone who calls herself an artist and a writer. Quite frankly, I can’t stand Jazz, particularly free form. I don’t read the Bible from a strictly aesthetic standpoint. If I do, it sounds like free form Jazz. However, the Word of God isn’t simply what’s written in a book.

A lot of things about God, and quite frankly, about life in general are paradoxical. For one thing, spirituality is both objective and subjective. It is an individual striving for objective Truth and Beauty. In a Christian context, we believe that Jesus is alive and that he is the Word of God, and we believe that the Bible is the Word of God. We also believe in the Holy Spirit who works in us individually and collectively. God is one nature in three people: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Church is the body of Christ, so ideally, it’s one nature in a heck of a lot of people.

What does all this mean for an artist, particularly one whose main medium of artistic expression is written word? What does it mean in a broader context? Language matters. There’s no way around it. We can’t relate to the world outside of language. We can’t really even think outside of language. I’ve noticed that Saint Paul emphasizes the impact our use of language has when relating to other people. We’re meant to speak wisely and not offensively. At the same time, we’re meant to relate to other people in order to teach by example who Jesus is. This presents an odd dilemma when it comes to writing my novel. Most of my language when I speak is pretty mild, depending on who I’m with. I hardly ever swear, and when I do, it’s because I’m making a joke and I know the person I’m with will find it funny. On the other hand, some of my characters have very dirty mouths.

In some ways I find myself in my characters. It’s probably impossible not to. In fact, I initially intended to model Kithryd, my first character, very much after myself. However, I think she had absolutely no intention of being me. At some point, probably even earlier than I could identify, she took on her own identity. She’s very assertive and vocally bitter about things, but she is like me in that she’s introverted. I find myself more in another character I had not even entirely intended to create. Iris has a great love for her friends and her little brother, and she greatly desires to work for the greater good. However, she deals with a lot of mental illness, which simply isn’t a problem for me. I find myself least in Tabby. Tabby has no real love for the world as it is, but does keep the greater good in mind. However, she’s a generally angry, pessimistic person. She’s also very impulsive and does not care who she offends. For some reason I find her to be one of the easiest characters to write.

I created Tabby. I created an angry, offensive woman. She came from me somehow. She is somehow part of my soul. All of my characters, in one way or another, represent some part of my soul. They’ve all lost someone or something very important to them. They’ve all been shunned for one reason or another. Some of them are angry. Some of them are scared. Some of them, like Aven, are peaceful and unafraid. My novel as a whole presents the world as a dark, scary, Godless place. I don’t view the world in this way, but I know a lot of people do. I’m writing this for a few different reasons. I’m writing because I can and because my parents told me to. I’m also writing because I think God wants me to, though why he wants me to write this particular novel I don’t know. “Why” isn’t a question he often answers. In some ways it’s a thought experiment.

I don’t know if we become our words or our words become us. Maybe it’s both. The same could be said for any art form. Jesus is the Word of God in the most literal sense. This means a lot. For the record, I’m stealing several of my next points from Bishop Robert Barron because he’s smarter than me. Jesus is alive. In other words, he is active in the world. What does it mean for the Word to be active? It means he is causal. He is authoritative. He’s making stuff happen. Two points that Bishop Barron brings up are that God’s Word is active by nature. God creates simply by speaking things into being. He also emphasizes the opening lines of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” This means that whatever Jesus does and says is necessarily true in an active sense.

Words, like music are significant and often causal in their absence. The absence evokes ideas and emotions. In fact, we can’t have language without the absence of words. The Word of God is living language. It is the Language of love. What is significant about this is that a language can only be “alive” if it is shared, i.e. spoken among living people. Jesus said that after he went up into heaven he would send his Spirit. Bishop Barron suggests that the best way to understand the Holy Spirit is that it is the love of God, both between the Father and the Son, and between God and humans. This love can never die because it is shared in the Trinity. We don’t have to participate for this language to live. Jesus allows us to participate when he introduces the Eucharist. John 6:56 says, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me and I am one with you.”

Just before this, he talks about how one has to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. God is eternal and infinite. Jesus is God. If we share in the Eucharist we are one with him. We become one with him in the way that a family can be seen as a single unit, for example. If we are one with him, we have eternal life. If Jesus is the Word of God, i.e. the Language of Love, then by extension, the Eucharist is the Language of Love. I said that words can make a person immortal. The words of Shakespeare endure to this day. The difference is that Shakespeare’s words are not truly “alive” in the sense that they do anything other than entertain and perhaps inspire good writing. However, Jesus invites us to speak his language.

Language is not simply expressed in what we say or what we write. Ideas are conveyed through body language and actions. A principal I learned at school is that in good writing, less is often more. In order to convey an idea, we should show, not tell what a character is feeling or what’s going on in a particular situation. We know that certain facial expressions, for example, can be understood and translated into actual words, but they are not needed. Love is like this. A feeling or a spiritual prompting turns into an art piece or an act of charity. Love has no reason. It just is. Because of its nature it cannot simply be expressed in words. Love in words alone is empty. It isn’t love at all. True love entails action, and on some level, it always entails sacrifice. To truly love someone one must give one’s self to the other. This always means different things to different people at different times. John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Jesus is referring to his very literal sacrifice of love for all of us. However, because God’s Word is eternal, he is also telling us what we must do as his friends for the rest of humanity. Love entails some kind of sacrifice. Maybe it means sacrificing some comfort. Maybe it means sacrificing some excess money. Maybe it means sacrificing time we could be spending having fun. Maybe it means sacrificing our pride. As I said, it means something different for every person.

Love and life are synonymous. Without love, life is not worth living. The fact of the matter is that everyone is loved, and this is why it’s so important that people know Jesus. It’s not about where we end up when we die. It’s not about judgment. It’s not about religion or where we’re supposed to be on Sunday morning. That stuff is secondary. It’s about knowing that we are loved. When Pope Francis was visiting the U.S. a little kid asked him, “What did God do before he created the world?” He answered, “Before God created anything, he loved.” God created the world because he loved the world. He created each of us because he loved us first. That’s the message Jesus wants us to tell the whole world. That is the most important thing in the Christian faith. Without love, nothing else matters.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Red

My favorite color is red. I mean bright, LOUD, obnoxious RED!!!! It’s followed by blue-purple, then black. Apparently only 10% of women in the U.S. say their favorite color is red, which I thought was cool. I was bored one day, so I looked it up. If you looked at all the stuff I own, you’d know my favorite color. My mom got me a new bag for my birthday, and it’s delightfully red, and significantly bigger than my old one. I was running out of room.

I was thinking about why my favorite color is red the other day, and I think I have an interesting reason. I’m just one of those people who have to have a reason for everything. Generally, I think, most colors have at least vague connotations for different people. To me, red exemplifies power and energy, but also love. Of course it’s also the color of blood. Interestingly, I got into an argument about this with a friend on Facebook. Red has negative connotations for him because it mostly represents blood and, therefore, death. For me, it can also represent blood, but I generally associate this with life.

At various times in my yet short life, I’ve been obsessed with things. When I was a little kid I was obsessed with dragons. When I was in middle school I was obsessed with a mythical world my friends and I created that, of course, we had to rescue from Agorauth, the evil wolf demon. When I was in high school I guess you could say, in a sense, I was obsessed with myself–or rather, the fact that I was “alone.” When I was in college, for the most part, I was obsessed with school, partly in the pursuit of Truth.

These days I think it would be accurate to say that I am obsessed with art; with creating things. I feel like my art–in whatever form it takes–has to have a reason behind it. I don’t think you can create art for art’s sake. At the very least, artists create because we want to. Even if one isn’t trying to say anything in particular, there is something of the individual in every created thing.

Most of my art isn’t visual. I mostly work with music and written pros. I don’t create in color per se, but I definitely live in color. Everyone does. How we dress, how we decorate, and what we carry with us say something about who we are. Most of my important stuff is red and, in some cases black. These color choices have musical, not just visual connotations. I grew up on 90’s punk and alternative rock. From the age of eight I wanted to be in a band, and when I started guitar lessons at fourteen, I knew I specifically wanted to be in a punk band. That didn’t happen, but it translated to how I carry myself. Red and black are very 90’s punk.

As I said, I don’t usually work in a visual medium, but about a year ago I designed a piece that, until recently I didn’t do anything with. I can paint, though not incredibly well, and it takes me forever. The design I came up with was complicated, so that was out of the question. I thought about getting a tattoo, but no one would see it, and it’s important to me. Finally I was able to create a digital version of my design and I’m having it made into a pendant. I’m rather proud of that. The design is a butterfly on top of a rose that is being held by two hands clasped together. The butterfly is supposed to be white and the rose is supposed to be red, but I’m having the whole thing made in silver.

The colors were symbolic in my original design. The white butterfly was meant to represent redemption and change. The red rose was supposed to represent life and sacrifice. The two hands together represent togetherness with God. I think the design will look nice in silver, but I still think it would have been nice to find a way to make it into something with color.

I don’t think you can have too much of a good thing. We just haven’t found a thing on Earth that doesn’t end up being not-good after a while. Everything eventually ends up being boring or unhealthy. When I was in middle school I ate pickle-and-mustard sandwiches for lunch every day. Eventually I got sick of them and, to this day, I hate pickles.

During Lent I’ve been taking a class about knowing Jesus better. Last week we learned something interesting. People tend to replace God as a priority with four basic things: power, honor, wealth, and/or pleasure. The thing is, none of these things will ultimately satisfy us. We’ll just always want more. This is definitely the plight of the artist… or at least for me. It’s never quite good enough, so I keep creating, or I keep editing. Sometimes I hit a home run and I can consider a project finished, but it isn’t often, and I throw a lot of material away. Part of it is that I’m much more careful with my novel than I am with my songwriting lately. I haven’t written a really good song in a while.

It’s hard to write a really good song about a specific person or thing. I find it’s easier to write about ideas and invent specific details, or to start with something random off the top of my head and see where it goes. Some of my best songs have been the result of what started as “mind spew.” I have a new musical project in mind. It’s an instrumental piece because it’s supposed to convey something I haven’t been able to express in words (and trust me, I’ve tried). In a sense, it’s supposed to be synesthetic. You’re supposed to feel it as you hear it.

I find I can much more effectively convey emotion through sound than any other medium, whether it’s musical sound or something else. Specifically, I’ve only really been able to convey a sense of peace through music. A lot of my visual art actually tends to be angst-ridden for some reason. My favorite color is red, and while it represents love, I never really think of it as representing peace.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Follow Through

On Saturday I was having some issues with my epilepsy, which took a little while to fix, and then I went to a writer’s group, specifically for science fiction writer’s. They meet once per month in Newton MA, which is about half an hour from where I live. I was the youngest person there by 20 years, and the oldest person there could have been my grandfather. They seemed like a really cool group of people. The age difference didn’t bother me. I just found it kind of amusing. We met in a little cafe, and it was noisy, so next month we’re potentially going to meet at my house. It was nice to have a good, stimulating conversation about a genre that I enjoy and care so much about. I’ve really missed this because I haven’t been in school since this past spring. It was also kind of intimidating because, being so much older than me, these people have read so much more than me and their heads are full of so much awesome stuff. It was so nice, though, because they’re weren’t condescending at all. I think they’ll be great mentors.

I’ve been talking to a lot of people about my book lately. It just has seemed to come up a lot in conversation. Sometimes I feel awkward telling people that I just graduated and am now writing a science fiction novel because it doesn’t sound like a real job. It’s often difficult to treat it like a job. It’s not always fun, but it’s also very flexible in terms of when I work and for how long, and what I do while I’m working. Sometimes I research technology, sometimes I research politics, sometimes I spend an hour on Google maps just plotting out where specifically things are happening and how those things will affect my story, sometimes I just work on notes, sometimes I work on the timeline of events, sometimes I write a whole chapter in one go.

The more I talk about writing this story, the more interested people seem to be. Sometimes I find it difficult to just sit down and write, but lately I’ve felt more excited, partly because people want me to finish it so they can read it. I know it certainly won’t be for everyone. It’s a science fiction novel, which in the literary world is often disregarded as nothing more than entertainment. I’m trying very hard to make this story important and intellectually stimulating. I want it to matter. It takes place in a post post-apocalyptic society, which means the world has already fallen apart, but now people have started to figure things out, and they’re rebuilding. I’m using this environment to explore a few different ideas. One aspect of my story is essentially a thought experiment about what happens to war when the military becomes automated (i.e. what happens if we have robot, or in this case, super-clone soldiers). Another thing I’m trying to do is expose some stigmas and unfair ideas and policies surrounding people with disabilities. Thirdly, I’m taking a look at what the world might be like in the absence of any religion or sense of a spiritual existence. Obviously I’m a little or a lot bias, but I’m trying to let my characters take the lead, and they’re turning into some very interesting people.

I was telling my dad about all of this earlier today and he told me that I just need to follow through, and that I often seem to have trouble with that. I start a project and then when things get too complicated I chicken out. I don’t feel like that’s entirely fair. He was referring to my musical endeavors, which have, at least for the time being, been put on hold. I’ve thought it through and a successful musical career doesn’t seem manageable. It’s not like I haven’t tried, but for one thing, it’s a colossal investment, which is something I presently can’t afford. Secondly, I can’t get gigs. I’ve tried. I really have. I’m just tired of being ignored in that department, so for the time being, I give up. Thirdly, I don’t think I can reasonably do it, physically. Say, theoretically, I became successful enough to go on tour. Right now I get tired after playing for an hour, so if I were to play longer shows, I would have to physically prepare for that, but beyond that, I can’t be having epilepsy symptoms in the middle of a song. It has occasionally happened at open mics, and it sucks. That kind of stuff would be way more manageable at book signings or what have you, assuming my book does well enough. Fourth, I already have connections in the literary world that I don’t have in the musical world, and I know more about publishing, etc. Lastly, I don’t want music to be work. I love it too much, I know I’m good at it, and I just want to share it; I don’t care if I get paid. I don’t want to treat it like a business because I want it to stay pure, kind of like this blog.

I will follow through with my story. I have thought it through and in so many ways it seems like a much more reasonable option, and it seems like I have a much better chance at getting noticed. I have until the end of next summer to finish it, which should be plenty of time. I know, at least basically, how the rest of the story is going to play out, and the later parts are going to be a lot of fun to write. I even have ideas for possible sequels. Even if this doesn’t do great in terms of payoff, it cost me nothing to make, and I will still consider it a success because this will be the best thing I’ve ever written when I’m done with it. It will need a lot of revision because I’m a perfectionist, but that just means it’s going to be great.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Where To Find God

Earlier today I read a short article that one of my friends posted on Facebook about why Christians should create art. The strongest argument, I thought, was that we are created in the image of God who is the ultimate creative force in the world. We’re not meant to just sit idly. We are meant to take care of God’s creation, but we are also meant to create. Another point that was made was that good art is a reflection of the goodness in the world, and the potential for the world to come.

The author also pointed out that the art we create doesn’t have to be Christian art. Painters don’t have to paint scenes from the Gospel. Songwriters don’t have to exclusively write worship songs. Good art amazes us and can even bring us to tears, and I think there’s spiritual value in that. We can pay homage to our Creator without being obvious. Good art brings joy to our lives, helps us relax, and allows us to dream and to wonder.

If God is meant to be like a friend, if we’re meant to have a relationship with him, then it’s important to actually spend time with him. On one level, yes, that means going to church and reading the Bible and praying, but I think it can also mean just being content, enjoying some good music, or playing a good video game by yourself. It means enjoying life and appreciating what you have. I think simply being content is a way of communing with God because the complications of life and the world around us aren’t getting in the way. I think that’s why a lot of people say that they find God in nature, as opposed to in a church.

It’s not easy to be content. I know I often find myself overly critiquing my thoughts and actions and coming to the conclusion that I’ve failed. I often find myself thinking that I’m doing something wrong or that I’m missing something important or that I’m wasting too much time. I’m very critical of myself, especially when I think I’m being overly self-indulgent. Trying to be perfect is a giant hassle. All this is to say that I am often the most at ease–the most content–when I’m playing video games in my bedroom. I’m not praying, I’m not reading, I’m not thinking. I’m just enjoying myself, and honestly, I think it’s really good for me. I get the same feeling out of reading fantasy stories or watching movies. It’s not a spiritual activity, but it lets me be at peace. Some people find God at the top of mountains. I find him in epic adventures through which I escape my own mind: through which I escape the complications of this world.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!