Thursday, December 15, 2011

We Are The Writers

Maybe you're looking for another funny post. Maybe there'll be a few funny bits in here, but I can't guarantee anything. This post is born from philosophical writerly musings at midnight, and who knows how it'll end up. These are the deep musings of Jake of the Sadaar, and, like a wandering pen, they might just wander into something meaningful. I'm writing as me, in a Chesterton-esque manner.

But I assure you, it's the whole and honest truth as I see it. The true form of a writer. And to those of you who actually know me and saw that video that I made with Millard, these are the words to accompany the face.

All right. So, my last two posts may have put my sanity in question. And, by the reception of the latter post, it wasn't taken seriously. That's okay; I'll write a counter post anyway.

Let me set you straight.

Fiction writing is, quite possibly, one of the most amazing careers one can take on this earth. Especially for Christian writers.

So many of us call ourselves insane, I've noticed. And, perhaps, by the rules of logic and imagination alike, I can show you the truth of this statement:

I'm convinced that those that call themselves insane (namely, Christian fiction writers) are some of the most sane people in the world.

Let's go.

1) Writers are Sane

All right; all things considered, many people would probably argue with this statement. From an outside viewpoint, Christian writers have some of the weirdest personalities and occupations in the world. Torturing characters with sadistic laughter. Making weird videos. Writing posts on philosophy to follow up a post about why you shouldn't write.

But there are so many paradoxes in the world. Christ died so that we could live. The things that make us happy make us cry. The intangible can cause tangible things.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that writers are walking paradoxes.

Forgive me, but I'm going to repeat myself and quote G. K. Chesterton.

"The poet only asks to to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits."

Writers and poets are very much similar. Some writers are poets; some poets are writers. We are interlinked. So, on that basis, I think it's reasonable to say that you could replace "poet" with "writer" and get the same result.

We are people of imagination: we imagine things, and write them down. We want to get our heads into the heavens.

And, conversely, those that try at logic are, very often, insane. As Chesterton said, "The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason."

Could it be possible - dare I say it - that WE are not the people who are insane, but rather, the rest of the world is insane?

We call ourselves insane, but WE are the ones that are sane.

Another Chesterton quote: "To be sane is more dramatic than to be mad." And, are not writers dramatic? We have to be. We write romances and adventures and fantasies. Drama is an integral part of that.

Remember that post? Writing is a trap, get out? See, I thought I was losing my sanity. As I wrote more and more, I thought I was losing it.

But, as it turns out, I wasn't losing my sanity. I was losing my insanity. As soon as I reached insanity, I realized that I was the sanest I've ever been.

2) The Paradox of a Writer

Paradoxes are wonderful things. Being warm in cold weather, cool in hot weather: wouldn't that be a gift?

And, as I will show you in a moment, writers seem to be paradoxes in themselves.

We write away our insanity through the drama of the written word. And yet, the very best writers are logical AND imaginative.

For those of you who edit and revise a lot: doesn't telling just kill you? Don't weak verbs make your head hurt? Synonyms? Internal monologue? It takes a lot of mindpower to work on writing mechanics. And somehow, the writing mechanics are what make the drama of words possible.

The very thing we rebel from - I'll call it "sanity" for the sake of keeping the traditional words - is the very thing we need to convey our insanity. Or, if you'd like, we must use insanity to keep us sane.

We may use structure to make the unstructured more meaningful.

We are paradoxes. And maybe that's what makes us awesome.

3) The Meaning

All of these musings, this point is what it builds up to. We are not only insane, we're sane. And, on top of that, we use insanity to keep us sane, and thus create a paradox.

And I think this somehow unlocks something else.

Because there's another paradox I see.

As Christian writers, we are striving to make our writing beautiful. Meaningful. Christ-filled; glorifying our Lord so that all can see the light. We're pouring all of this into our writing, and I think that, in pouring out ourselves, we fill up again.

I've been musing over this a lot. Here and there, there are little things that are different. When I was younger, it was hard for me to be moved. When I heard the news that my great-grandfather had died, I didn't shed a tear. (That may sound callous, but it's not. I genuinely missed him, but I didn't cry. As it was a long while ago, I don't recall if I cried later on or not.)

And it hit me, that I can be moved. Maybe it's just because I'm growing stronger as a Christian; and I know that's a good part of it. I think, though, that part of it is being a writer.

Because my heart soars when I listen to Jon Maiocco's "Ever After" Celtic song. I want to have an adventure, to fight on the side of good, when I listen to "All The Strange, Strange Creatures" (a Doctor Who soundtrack). When I read the stirring climax of "Return of the King", I feel as if I'm riding with the Rohirrim, and my pulse accelerates.

Because we strive to move others, perhaps it gives us a greater opportunity to be moved. When we strive to make a reader cry, maybe it lets us cry ourselves.

To let a reader live a rich life through a novel is to make life all the richer.

And that's why a writer's life is so brilliant and colorful. We're not afraid to laugh and do silly things; but we're not afraid to be passionate about things, either. We pray for one another and we debate one another: we write alone and war together.

And, out of it all, are forged friendships as strong as steel, and truly meaningful novels that set out to change the world.

(Thank you very much to G. K. Chesterton for his writing style and some of the material in this post, even though he's dead; and a huge thank-you to Pathfinder, who talked with me late into the Liberian night and gave me much of the inspiration for this post.)

So, to sum it up:

Writers are awesome. Period. Exclamation point. More specifically, you guys are awesome.

Over and out.


Squeaks said...

Jake, this post has truly touched my heart and spoken to my muse (although I'm not entirely sure if my muse was listening, they happen to be that way).

I felt like waving a katana in the air and shouting "hear, hear!" for the entirety of your speech. Ever line, the very syntax of this piece, has crashed upon my mind like the ocean itself -- in a fullness and with a depth that renders me nearly speechless.

You have hit the proverbial nail on the head. In our insanity we are actually sane. We strive to move and thus we can be moved ourselves.

I honestly believe this literature is worthy of any writer's journal or newspaper. It should be released to the world -- we are not the insane ones!

Perhaps the part I found most intriguing was how you mentioned how it was hard for you to be moved when you were younger, yet music calls your soul now and makes your heart soar.

I am currently at a point in life where, to be moved, is entirely impossible. I simply ride these waves as though I am but a skiff with no rudder or sail -- aimlessly bobbling about on this sea of life without much ado. Yet I so desperately wish I had a sail and rudder so I could tilt my face to the salty breeze and become moved once more.

Your mention of music moving you has peeled back my blindfold, even if just a bit; music still moves me. In that I am assured and heartened, for it proves that I am yet capable of feeling.

I've had an epiphany -- yes, indeed, right here and now -- perhaps it is because I have withdrawn from writing for the past year (has it really been a year?) and this withdrawal has lead to a suffocation of my creative spirit. This suffocation, in turn, has become a damper to my ability of being moved (I should like to call it "feelings" or some other term of similarity, however I feel that may implicate other areas which I intend not to discuss).

(Have I even made any point thus far?)

Let my final statement be this: your prose is lovely and of good repute, your statements are crisp and clear, and I am going to read "The Man Who Was Thursday" and other such books by Chesterton, starting today.

God bless,


Hannah Joy said...

Wow. You were right about this being an epic post. It is.

"The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason." SO true! I've never, ever thought about it that way.

Reminds me of the Alice in Wonderland movie quote that hit home, yet in a way that I couldn't understand until now:

The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?
Alice: I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are.

Not exactly in the sense that the best people are insane, but that the people considered insane are the sanest, most beautiful people. People that write, that pour their hearts out onto a page because they are not afraid to like so many others are. It is us writers that strive to bring beauty to a page, to form words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into chapters, and chapters into novels. We throw out our hearts and feelings into the world. We are honest.

And then we come to the part about being moved because we are in the attempt to move someone else. I know that during my writing, I try to write something that could mean something to someone. That could take their breath away like so many things I have read. And in that process, I have noticed more and more things in writing that have moved me. You hit the mark there, Jake. Puts me in mind of yet another quote, but this one from a song, "Everything" by Lifehouse:

"How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?"

I used to be...well, not hard-hearted or anything, but I just wasn't moved to tears very easily. But as I grew up and discovered writing, I have noticed that so many more times I am moved to tears. Not just in the sad parts, but in the parts of books and movies that are full of truthfulness, honesty. The moments of truth. The moments of grace. And then music. Music can be so powerful, can blow my mind and raise the hairs on my neck.

And then I realize that God put stuff like this here. And that boggles me. Sweeps me off my feet.

I find it so awesome when someone else voices thoughts that have echoed in my head for a while, even if at that point, I didn't understand it.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” -- C.S. Lewis

What an amazing post. Could I even say that it was THE BEST post you have ever written? It was exactly what I needed at this moment.

And great comment, Squeeks! I enjoyed that immensely. taught me somethings too. After NaNoWriMo, I kind of took a break. Just yesterday, I wrote again, in the book I was writing before I started NaNo. It was like a breath of fresh air! It made me realize why I'd been so grumpy lately, for sure...

In any case, awesome, awesome, awesome, AWESOME post, Jake. Thank you SO much for writing this.

Anonymous said...

Whoa. As Emma Woodhouse would say, "I think I need a good half day to think that over."

Amazing post, Jake. It really moved me and was very eye-opening to me.

It's neat just how much writing changes us. I mean, I've found myself changing as my writing improves - being able to 'be moved' easier, like you said. Writers ARE paradoxes. (Reminds me of that song from Pirates of Penzance... lol.)

What you said about friendships was exactly right, too. Some of my best friends are writers, and our writing makes a common bond between us in a strange sort of way. Maybe because we think the same way.

*sigh* Great post. Again, I think I'll need a little time to think about this. It describes exactly the way I feel about writing. Even though I haven't followed your blog long, I can safely say that this is one of the best writing posts I've ever read. Thank you so much!


Elizabeth Eiowing said...

This is awesome Jake! I am definitely insane and talk about it frequently. ;) And I love the end. I love it when things move me, and the end of Return of the King, the battle and the end when they are leaving, definitely move me. :) And I want to be a great writer that moves people like that, and to do that....well I have to be insane! :)

everlastingscribe said...

I agree, and I disagree. Oh, don't get me wrong--writing and glorifying Christ are amazing things in fiction. Moving people with words and stories is phenomenal. I love writing. But there is a danger in it too. The danger is the experience fades.

Yes, epic battles and last desperate hopes thrill and inspire, but thrill and inspire to what? To do what? To be what?

I would challenge any and all Christian writers to do a word study about what the Bible says about words. (And after you finish shaking all over and clutching your blanket and rocking back and forth in the corner with your favorite stuffed animal, come back here. I'll wait. :D)

Sobering, isn't it?

Words have power. In fact if you want to know how much, consider this: Yahweh SPOKE and everything (save Himself ie the Trinity) spun into being.

Words can move HUGE groups of people to tears, or to their feet, to worship, or to arms. But when the emotional high wears off and they come crashing down what are they left with? What did the story teller or song writer, or preacher leave them with?

Today, it's not much. The experience is over, and there's cotton candy theology in their mouths or between their ears.

I would challenge you to not be 'insane' ( I enjoy Chesterton's company but that bit always makes me roll my eyes-madman has lost everything but his reason-poppycock!) but rather to be rational, powerful, and grounded writers. You can write whatever you like, but write with purpose, and write with His passion. Leave your audience with questions as well as thoughts. Don't worry about uplifting the soul as much as you do feeding the starving spirit.

They get their cotton candy fix all day long. Serve them meat and potatoes through your writing instead. I know you have the ability to do so. Now, I urge you to CHOOSE to do so.

CHOOSE to give them truth and not just an emotional high

CHOOSE to write so sharp that the theme of your book hooks in their conscience

CHOOSE to wield your words so you bring them closer to Christ and everlasting life, instead of one more bought of entertainment

CHOOSE to challenge them to CHANGE how they live, instead of giving them a pat happily ever after.

And if you reach five with your work, then you reach fiveta immortal beings you will have forever with you in the halls of the King of Kings. Not bad, for a life's work with words.

Immortal Scribes with burning hearts and flaming pens I charge you to:

Honor your King, always.

Bring life to the perishing through your words.

Live and die for the greater glory of Christ Jesus.

Jake said...

I absolutely agree, Scribe. I'm not quite sure if I made any references to make you think that I just want my readers to feel good, because that's not what I want. It's never been what I wanted.

In this post, I made comments on the nature of a writer, from the experience I've had. It was in no way a post on the nature of writing itself, or the direction of a writer. I've given an overview, the beginning, if you will. The thoughts and emotions and musings of my mind come before I pour them on paper, for instance. And perhaps, to clarify, I should focus the concepts from this post into the writing itself.

In fact, I think I will do so at my next opportunity. :) Thank you though, Scribe, for your thought provoking post.

Hannah Joy said...


Great comment! However, I have to say I disagree with a bit. While it is important to write in a way that is glorifying to Christ (VERY important, might I add), it is not simply a choice per se. God works through people. It is not the writer bringing truth to the world, but rather God working through the writer. And not only the writer, but the reader. The reader can choose to be moved, or can choose to be indifferent. For example, just because I am moved by Harry Potter doesn't mean that everyone is. In fact, there are several people who find evil in them. I'm not going to contradict them. I am simply trying to show that it is the reader's perspective, and how God is showing things to them through what they other words, through what the writer has given them.

To be utterly honest, I write for very selfish reasons. I write because it keeps me, in a sense, alive. I have never published a book and have hardly let anyone read any of my stuff, so I really don't know if it would touch them. But what I do know is that it has touched me, changed me. God has taught me to write, and, so far, it has been used to teach me even more.

[Sorry, I had to post this in two comments because it is too long. So it is continued in the next comment!]

Hannah Joy said...

I'll admit, my books aren't entirely wrought with Jesus and His works. In all honesty, I don't know how to do that in a way that doesn't make it seem silly. I have always had trouble with writing down the spiritual world as my blind eyes see it. However, I will say something for my writing. I do write about things I believe in. Light and darkness. Good and evil. Sort of like that.

So. What I'm trying to say is that I agree with you that we write to glorify God. I agree that we writers have, for lack of a better term, a higher calling.

We can't choose to show truth. I find truth in emotional highs. I am reduced to tears because I see truth. I laugh because I see truth. When I read a book, I can see the truth, or I can't. When I write a book, I can write truth, but it is up to the reader to see that as truth or as lies. I will strive to write the truth as best as I percieve it. But whether or not it changes someone or challenges someone to change is up to God and them. And while it can be important to hook your themes into the conscience of your reader, it can be even more important to ease the truth forward. A wise person once said, "Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you'll feed him for a lifetime." Hook something into someone's conscience and they'll feel the tug. They'll feel the grating pain of it between their ribs. But put salve on the wounds and you will heal them, making them see truth at its finest. Jesus said to go into the world, healing the sick and preaching the Word of God. In that order. You cannot heal by giving more sickness. You can bait someone's conscience, but you have to reel it back in. You have to heal the wounds that hurt the souls of the unbelievers. You have to see a bit of their world before you can fully understand the fullness of their disbelief. Taking this in stride as a writer, you can't shove truth down their throats, or they will puke it up. YOU know truth. They don't, so how can they be expected to see it as truth? They see it as lies, just as we see that Jesus is not our savior as a lie.

But how, then, does a writer write truth? I write truth as I see it. I write stories in which good must face up against evil. I write stories of imperfect characters. I don't always write about God in the blatant, I'm writing about God sense. I write about God as best as I can. I don't rewrite the gospel because I am unworthy. I write about the struggles of relationships, because that is what I have with God. I write about anger and pain and sorrow. And then I write about joy and light and flowers. Because that is how, as best as I can say with words, I perceive God. That is how I perceive life. That is how I perceive truth.

I write life as I see it. That is truth, as best as, human as we are, we can tell.

And by doing so, by writing stories like that, by bringing dark and light in for an epic battle, I can hope that I will change someone's life. I can hope that by feeding them truth I have begun the process of healing wounds. But the CHANGING of it all is up to God.

Thanks for the comment, Scribe. You really got me thinking, and that makes me happy. I love to hear the thoughts of everyone and it inspires me to write about faith. Wholeheartedly, thank you so much!

Christopher said...


Can I, uh, think about this for like...a year or so? I'll need it.

But thank you for writing that. You need to get that post published. It leaves me speechless.

Writer4Christ said...

I agree. But I also know that the more you write, the more you learn more about yourself and the spiritual warfare within your mind. At least, that's what it feels like sometimes.
And in my opinion, when you pour out the writing within you, you have to read more to get ideas.

Jake said...

Some great thoughts. So glad that this got you all thinking. :) Questions are always good to ask.

And I shall hopefully write a sequel post soon.

Ninja Tim said...

Hmm... where to start?

First, I have enjoyed and been challenged by reading all this beyond words, both the original post and the responses (the one good thing about being late). Many thanks to all of you, especially Jake.

I echo the words of several who have already commented; I am not an easily "moved" person. I sometimes wonder why I am so... hard-hearted? Unresponsive? Stoic? I don't know.

Becuase Scribe is right, past experiences, by definition, will fade. And yet, God made us with both minds to think and hearts to feel, and He commands us to love Him with all of both. To neglect either is living less than what He intended.

And yes, one day, we will be judged for every idle word we have written or spoken. Every last one. And giving people fluff and cotton-candy and empty hope in the temporal is a fearsome thing to do.

But I believe that when we proclaim the truth - the real meat, the hope that does not disappoint, because it is in the eternal, not the temporal - where God is working, people will show it outwardly by being "moved." Having your starved spirit fed will generally uplift your spirit. God doesn't have to make our emotions go bang or use epics to work in us. Sometimes it is in the drip, drip, drip of each day, not the bolts of lightening. But when God chooses to move people in response to His truth, it's a pretty powerful witness to the world.

And I agree with Hannah. Truth alone is not enough; we're commanded to speak the truth in love, and to follow the Christ, who came full of both grace and truth (John 1:14). We lose sight of either, we're in trouble.

I suppose I'll end with a few paradoxes too, which came to mind while reading:

The sane appear insane to the insane. The selfless appear selfish to the selfish. The wise are fools to the foolish. Those who are right-side-up are topsy-turvy to the world when it is upside-down.

Any artist must first be a craftsman. To express the intangible - Truth, Goodness, Beauty - he must work with his hands in the tangible. A painter must use his paint properly before he creates anything worth looking at.

Those grounded the most deeply in reality can soar the highest from it without danger or fear. The greatest dreamers are also the greatest thinkers.

"The heart has reasons that reason cannot know." ~ Pascal

It is in giving we receive.

The unseen things are more real than what can be seen.