Topic: “writing”

On Writing (and Missed Days)

Anyone who has been paying attention to my little experiment over on Ardent Fidelity will note that the header content (I am writing up reflections on my devotions every day for six weeks. This is one of those posts.) hasn’t proven to be exactly 100% accurate. I set out with the goal to actually write every day. The first couple weeks went all right, but the last two have been hit or miss.1 There are a number of reasons for that—most of them very good reasons, in fact, like spending time with old friends in town for an evening, or taking care of my wife when she had a particularly depressed evening. Most importantly, the goal has helped me be much more disciplined in my own personal devotions (which have happened much closer to every night than the blog posts have these last two weeks).

Maintaining discipline on any endeavor like this is tough, though. Writing takes mental energy that can be hard to come by at the end of the day, and doing this particular project at the beginning of the day has been a non-starter for me. I find it very difficult to transition from writing to programming (though not the other way around), and since I get paid to develop software but not to write, it only makes sense to start with the software work. Come 9 or 10 pm, though, when I finally have time to start on the devotional writeup, and it has sometimes been difficult to find the emotional, mental, and even physical energy to crank out 500 words.

It’s not that it takes a particularly long time to write 500 words—half an hour at most—but that careful reflection and writing well are simply hard. That, of course, is also part of what makes them so rewarding. Few things that are really worth doing come without some effort; this is no difference. I’m not sure whether I will continue shooting for daily posts when I finish this 6-week session. While I would like to, my family has to come first, and my work and schoolwork both have to get done before pleasure-writing. More, I have two other major creative projects on my plate at the moment, one of them announced and coming along, albeit slowly; the other still in the germination stage, but aiming for a January 2014 launch, which will require a lot of setup. I am going to make a point to write no less than once a week, though, because I have so profoundly enjoyed the discipline of writing regularly.

As I have often found throughout the years, writing helps me see my own thoughts more clearly; indeed, it often helps me forge my thoughts. At the same time, I am now often writing academically, and being “forced” (by my own desires) to write more simply for a non-technical audience is both good for me and pleasurable. In any case, it has been just about 8 years since I started blogging—on Xanga, of all things—and I don’t intend to slow down now.

  1. My respect for folks like Christian super-bloggers Justin Taylor and Tim Challies has gone up substantially, though of course more for their early days than for now, when it’s a part of each of their jobs. 

Writing: always something that isn’t finished yet

I sat down this evening and started working through James K. A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom again – I’d started in on it about a month ago, but have been very busy with my classes for school. In the span of about an hour, it prompted considerable reflection, the vast majority of which is not published below. (I’m sure you’re all thanking me.) There were a few thoughts that simply demanded to be let out, however – not least because the first one prompted me to actually write something again.

Late last year, I started working on the project that was to become – and then not become – The World As It Is, a book that I’m no longer publishing.1 Since that process came to an end, I’ve hardly written a thing. Oh, I’ve published a short post here and there on some technical things over at Designgineering, but I haven’t actually done any real writing to speak of.

There are, I think, basically two reasons for this. One is a sort of mental aimlessness that arose from no longer having that major goal to work toward. Combined with deadlines for work and class that simply made it easy to push that particular bit of writing aside, this malaise meant I simply stopped writing for the most part. An unfortunate turn of events, to say the least, but on my own head be it: sometimes writing simply requires discipline, and I have failed to be as disciplined as writing demands.

A second problem, however, was my lack of surety about where to go next. After reading another book on the arts (one I’ll finally finish reviewing for Mere O sometime in the next week or so), I found myself with a great many thoughts and absolutely no idea how to say them. More: I did not want to say them if I could not say them well and authoritatively. Saying them well is one thing; saying them with authority is another. There is, you see, always another book I could read, always another author with something to add to my perspective. The sheer amount of knowledge available on any given subject is humbling and at times overwhelming. How could I ever say something important without having read everything else others have said about it?

If the question sounds silly, it is – at least, in a way. It came home to me tonight, reading Desiring the Kingdom, because I consciously thought, “I need to incorporate this in whatever I make of The World As It Is.” A number of points Smith makes fit very neatly into some of the categories I was already developing in my manuscript, and his work is already prompting me to reflect in new ways on some of those existing thoughts. This is good.

A moment later, I thought about the thought that had just passed through my mind.2 That experience was catalytic: it is always possible to read something else, always possible to understand more clearly. This is, in some sense, the final, humbling reality that any writer must face. Anything I can ever say will be imperfect, incomplete, insufficiently informed, and at least somewhere erroneous. Inevitably, I will find every piece worthy of modification (at best) or outright redaction (at worst) given sufficient time for reflection after the fact.

Is this not the human experience, though? Words are but a reflection of our lives, and our lives are always a work in progress. We are not static, but ever in flux, ever growing (or shrinking), ever changing and being changed. I know more today than I did yesterday, and will know yet more tomorrow. This post itself stands as a marker not of permanency but of precisely the ephemerality of our states that is intrinsic to our temporality. We are bound by moments.

Yet – and this is the glory of it all – we are also freed by moments. I cannot have the final word; but I need not have the final word. I need but to offer as wise a word as I am able from the vantage I currently hold. If, tomorrow, I may say it better, then I shall endeavor to do just that – but I shall not begrudge my past self his lack of knowledge, only strive to know more and do better the next time. I shall write, and be content not to have all the answers. There is nothing new under the sun, and if God is pleased to let his sun shine and his rain fall on the flowers of these words, that is his business and not mine. My job is merely to do my best to plant flowers and not weeds.

But that means planting, not wondering whether I might somehow first improve the seed.

  1. As it turns out, my work on The World As It Is began, in a very real way, exactly a year a go today. Odd. 
  2. This happens to me more often than is probably healthy for anyone. All too soon, I’m thinking about the fact that I’m thinking about what I thought, and you can see how quickly that heads down the rabbit hole… 

About that book…

So about that book I’ve been working on.

I’m still working on it. Whether it’ll be a book or not, when all is said and done, however, is a bit of a different question. A few things became clear in the last week as I continued discussing and working with the good folks at Cruciform Press — specifically that we had differing visions for the best way to approach the content of the book and the finances of publishing a book like this. (A lot of this falls on me, for not getting clearer details up front on all of the above.) As such, we’ve amicably parted ways. It’s been a pleasure working with their co-founder, Kevin Meath, and I appreciate his giving me a shot along the way.

As for The World As It Is, I don’t know exactly what it will be. What I do know is that I have about eleven thousand words done and a pretty solid plan for another ten to twelve thousand words, and that I’m going to finish writing what I had planned anyway. From there, many opportunities await — the publishing world has seen a resurgence of interest in solid long-form nonfiction essays, and this might slot nicely into that terrain with some revision and restructuring. In any case, it’ll be a fun ride. Of that I have no doubts whatsoever.

Announcement: The World As It Is

I’m writing a book. The kind that gets published, not just the kind that people talk about and then never finish. I’d better finish it: I have a deadline for the manuscript and a publisher who already has cover art done. You might call that pressure. (I do. But it’s of the very best sort: the kind that makes me buckle down and get things done.)

In which case, you’re guessing about the sort of book it’s going to be. After all, I’m posting it here, on Ars Artis—not on Ardent Fidelity—then it’s going to be about art. You’d be right, of course, though I had to think a little about where to post this.

It’s called The World As It Is: A Theology of Art. Read on, intrepid explorer →

The Return of the Shadow

Tolkien was, unquestionably, a master of his art. There has never been anyone quite like him – not before him, and not since. I have written about this at some length before, and I suspect I will again.

In reading Christopher Tolkien’s The Return of the Shadow: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part I, one salient point about artistic endeavors came into sharp focus: Tolkien’s remarkable self-discipline and work ethic. He just kept at it. Read on, intrepid explorer →

And the stew tastes good

Art is always a thing of its own moment. Not in a postmodern, deconstructive sense, but in the simple reality that it is created when it is created, and not at some other time. I first conceived this post walking home from Hastings last night – I’d spent the evening preparing to teach a class at church this morning. Ideation, then, happened in a particular environment (walking down a sidewalk beside a reasonably busy street) at a particular time (between 9:15 and 9:30 pm on a Saturday night). More than that, however, it happened this Saturday night after that study. Had I been thinking another night, or after some other study, I would have thought different thoughts. Read on, intrepid explorer →

that ragged edge

I lost, somewhere along the way, that ragged edge that adds such vibrancy to the color of words spilt forth like so much black and white paint— gray— on canvas. No matter how precise, the strokes remain monochrome and dull and I wonder if my soul is still intact?— hidden out amongst the wild weeds brown with winter’s death. Will I like they come once again— verdant— to life? Or will I wander always lost—no guide, no return to fervency in the way my fingers paint your mind with knowledge?