Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Readin' and 'Ritin' (But No 'Rithmetic)

Hello There! Yes, I know there's been some serious blog fade around here lately, but I am still alive and kicking, Thanks Be To God! I believe I'm finally over the consarned, goshdarned, !@#$%^&* medical problems that (sometimes literally) cramped my style for much of the summer. Now that I'm feeling more or less normal (whatever that is), I'm beginning to think again about serious questions, such as what I can do to support myself. I'm receiving disability payments and have some savings, but I'd like to be generating income as well as spending it.

Before I got sick, I was thinking about doing some fiction writing, resuming work on a project I had laid aside awhile back. I am slowly getting back into that. I'm a great one for thinking about writing, but not so hot on actually doing it. I have a pretty fierce inner critic who tells me that writing fiction is a waste of time and a way of avoiding reality (I think he's related to my Scottish Calvinist ancestors). However, when I can get him to shut up, I read and listen to other people's fiction. I've listened to two podcast versions of Treasure Island in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, and am currently reading Michael Flynn's excellent medieval Catholic science fiction novel Eifelheim and Phil and Kaja Foglio's "gaslamp fantasy comic" Girl Genius.

As if that weren't enough, I'm also listening to a  series of podcasts on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. In his introductory episode, the host of these podcasts, a professor of medieval literature, cites an essay of Tolkien's, "On Fairy Stories," that I just can't wait to read for myself. In it Tolkien argues that the urge to create imaginary worlds in fiction is a natural human desire since humans are made in the image and likeness of a God who is Himself a creator of worlds. Furthermore, the desire to create magical or fantastic worlds in which extraordinary things happen is not an escape from reality or a denial of reality but a reminder to humans that our world contains spiritual realities that go beyond what we can see or prove in ordinary day to day sense experience.

A Christian justification for writing speculative or fantastic fiction could be hugely liberating and could open up a whole new world of creativity for me. I have to ask myself, "Why shouldn't I try to create my own fictional worlds, worlds that could be every bit as exciting as the worlds I am currently visiting as a reader? Why shouldn't I find out if readers will enjoy visiting these worlds as much as I enjoyed creating them?

I am not suggesting that I will drop everything and try to become the next J. R. R. Tolkien, or the next J. K. Rowling, or even the next Stan Lee. I know that trying to make a living writing fiction is a long shot even under the best of circumstances. Most manuscripts are never published, most published books are never reviewed, and most reviewed books never sell millions of copies. Every author I've ever read who has written about the craft of writing, however, explains that real authors never write solely for the money. They write because there are stories that authors would like to tell, want to tell, and need to tell.

What I am suggesting is that I am going to see what stories I can tell, and see who else might like to read them. I'll probably never make a dime, but I might possibly make a few bucks and might even make millions, although I consider this last possibility highly unlikely. I just hope the journey will be fun. When I think about the situation in this light, the question becomes not so much, "What am I going to do to support myself?" as, "What can I do to keep the lights on and groceries in the fridge while I write?" The second is a far more interesting question than the first.


PaperSmyth said...

But you'll need the math to figure out how to keep the lights on. ;)

Keep the faith, and you'll be okay. And stay away from that Calvinist inner critic, hey?!!

K T Cat said...

That seems like a good idea to try, but I'd really recommend looking for an online tutoring job if you can find one. It might provide a stream of income that allows you to write as well. I don't know much about them, but it seems like something you'd be good at.

In any case, it's a testament to who you are as a man that you're fighting the good fight. Bravo!