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Posts Tagged ‘Lloyd Alexander’

Today is the National Day of Writing, so this is a tribute post to Writing, my trouble-making, soul-inspiring companion throughout life.

“Words are sacred… If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.” ~Tom Stoppard

Love is a choice. You feel a spark with a person and you choose to embrace it. Even with family–the biological club you are born into–love is a choice. You have shared experiences and a mutual spark and you choose to love them–for better or worse. And as my recent posts on the value of friends like Naomi and Sister Kate might lead you to believe, I have been made much better for loving these people.

Love is such a profound word to tie to something like coffee (which I adore) or ice cream (which is also pretty much the best) or even a concept like baking (which is one of the most relaxing things I have ever done). Really, the term ‘love’ doesn’t belong with any of those things. I crave coffee; I enjoy coffee; but I don’t love coffee. Writing, on the other hand, I do indeed love.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” ~Flannery O’Connell.

There are times that writing is hard, grueling, painful work. I get headaches from craning my neck at my computer screen (or maybe those headaches come from banging my head against my desk in frustration). My characters can be as illusive as my own thoughts. And writing becomes a chore, something I have to work at instead of enjoy. But I stick with writing because I love it. Every day I choose not to ‘have been an author’ but to ‘be an author’; to put one foot in front of the other and stay faithful to one of the greatest gifts God gave me.

“This is how you do it; you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy and that hard.” ~Neil Gaiman

“Create: verb. The act of banging your head on the desk until something interesting pops out.” ~Unknown.

Writing is the way I discover what is going on inside my own head; the way I decide on a future course of action; and one of the pivotal ways I learn about God’s nature. It has been my faithful companion on late nights and early mornings; in lonely airports and crowded coffee shops; in times of joy and times of abject grief. God put writing inside of me and He lets me use it to connect with the world around me. If I could only tell you all the stories of the impact in my own life and the lives of others…

In July I shared this post on why I choose to write. “I think story-telling, with its power to embolden the hearer and enrich the speaker, is one of the greatest gifts God gave us. Stories… provide a context for situations that would otherwise overwhelm us… (They) are a medium worth a life’s work.”  I still feel the same way. And it is worth noting again this line from Westmark:

“I make nonsense of the world to help others make sense of it.” ~Lloyd Alexander.

It’s only fair this post is wordy–after all, it is a post about writing. So I feel I can sneak in one final quote:

“But whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it.” ~John Piper.

I don’t know whether I was born to be a writer; but I do know that I choose–now and forevermore–to be one.

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I’m trying to decide what parts of the last few weeks deserve mention. A return to song writing, the beginning of a new novel, a cartoon-ish fall, unexpected opportunities, or more words about my beautiful niece… I have been here, there, and everywhere, coming face to face with new realities and critical decisions. And now the best words I can find to describe what I’ve learned were not penned by me, but by Grandmaster Writer Lloyd Alexander.

“I make nonsense of the world to help others make sense of it.”

This quote (found in Westmark) is the very essence of why I write fiction. There are enough things I want to say and teach that I could very well litter the shelves with instructionals, self-help books, and devotionals. But the deepest things I learn in reading are found in the struggles of fictional characters, struggles deeper than the words used to describe them. These characters wrestle with things on paper as I wrestle with them in my mind–sometimes unaware that the battle even rages. I take shelter in fiction, daunted by even the task of blogging fact. I can describe the lives of others, but not my own.

“I make nonsense of the world to help others make sense of it.”

There is a truth that rings out in fiction, clear if you open your ears to hear it. Sweet and bitter at once. In the same breath, bold and understated. And it is this truth that keeps me writing, keeps me reading, keeps me searching. I think story-telling, with its power to embolden the hearer and enrich the speaker, is one of the greatest gifts God gave us. Stories make us laugh and weep and celebrate and grieve. They provide context for situations that would otherwise overwhelm us. And, in all things, if you look beneath the surface of a good story, you’ll find a clear pointer to the eternal God who laid the foundations of the Earth and crafted each soul. So if the last few weeks have helped me rediscover anything, it is that stories are a medium worth a life’s work.

“I (will) make nonsense of the world to help others make sense of it.”

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Let me preface this blog post with the comment that I am not just in Virginia to play with a newborn and love on my friend (though those are good parts of this trip). I titled my desire to leave Maine behind for a few weeks “walk-about”, not because I would actually be walking much, but because the concept of “walk-about” is soul-searching and place-finding and self-discovery and, importantly for me, listening to God’s Voice as I process my past, deal with my present, and plan for my future. So if I sound a bit melodramatic in this rather lengthy post, know (1) that it is because I have been thinking a bit more than is perhaps normal and (2) that my melodramatic side is already fading.

During my time in Virginia I have been re-reading my favorite series: The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander. They are the tales of the life of a very ordinary Assistant Pig Keeper (Taran) making mistakes and discovering life. Alexander has a unique ability to offer books full of rich moral lessons paired with fast action and loveable characters. He is the author I have learned the most from in my journey as a writer and a person.

As an introduction to The Book Of Three, Alexander writes, “Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared. To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart.” In all honesty, I have been feeling much like an Assistant Pig-Keeper completely outmatched by the vastness of life. And I mimic Taran’s words, “At home nothing ever happened. Now, everything happens. But somehow I can never seem to make it come out right.” This latest journey, and indeed much of my last couple of months, appear to ‘never come out right’ by my own doing.

There are some bittersweet moments for Taran, our young Assistant Pig-Keeper. At the end of his first adventure he says, “And I am troubled, for I wonder now if I am to be a stranger in my own home.” I guess I am somewhere in the middle of my latest adventure, somehow still pining for home and longing for a change simultaneously, unsure of myself and my own judgment, not at home at home and not at home away. There is comfort in the advice of Adaon in The Black Cauldron, “I have marched in many a battle host, but I have also planted seeds and reaped harvests with my own hands. And I have learned that there is greater honor in a field well plowed than in a field steeped with blood.” So through prayer and discovery and some bumps and bruises I have learned a bit more that both tasks (steady work at home and the labor of adventuring) have an importance place in my life. Each offers challenges and victories that should not be overlooked, leaving me with discoveries and memories I would not go without. I think part of my frustration is that I have been trying to find a home in one or the other. Now I think I see that it is the plowing and the adventuring together in which I find the direction of my life flowing. It is a unique life, full of challenges and misunderstandings on my part, but that does not make it any less right or wonderful for me.

As a summation of The Book Of Three, Taran is admonished that he has been just as impetuous and full of self-pity and a longing for the impossible as his friends have been. I must confess I see myself in this as well. On an adventure we all wish we could be the perfect, patient heroes we dream of; but truthfully, adventures are full of knee-bumps and blows and quarrels and pain, but also of joy and learning and excitement and victory. Summing it all up perhaps better than I could, Alexander writes in his introduction to The Black Cauldron, “humor and heartbreak, joy and sadness, are closely interwoven.”

So, no, walk-about has not showed me exactly where life is going, but it may have made me a bit more receptive to the concept that difficulty does not deplete the worth of something; it may, in fact, enhance it. Signing up for a life that is daunting is so much better than cowering in the shadows.

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