So you can read my books

Monday, July 2, 2012

ARE WE KIDDING OURSELVES? Insecure Writers Support

To be a poet and not know the trade,

To be a lover and repel all women;

Twin ironies by which great saints are made,

The agonizing pincer-jaws of heaven.

—“Sanctity,” by the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh, who died on this day in 1967;

the poem surfaced in the news when read by Russell Crowe when he accepted his BAFTA award for the movie A Beautiful Mind.

(We pause for this interruption:

Denise Covey has written an engrossing post on passion in writing and mentioning my contest, whose deadline has been extended to July 15th:

Many of you poured your creative energies into a month-long gauntlet of a June version of NaNo.

In that time did you create something worthwhile or just throw together the lumber of your minds in a hodge-podge of slapped together verbs and nouns?

A month is a long time to spend on words that were not distilled and carefully crafted according to a thought-out blueprint.

Would you buy a house built without a blueprint?

We write, as Van Gogh painted, with little indication that we will ever be appreciated. He, himself, never felt appreciated in his lifetime.

Very few of us who are not published in our lifetimes will ever be "discovered" after our death.

So are we wasting our time?

C. S. Lewis was born on this day in 1898 in Belfast.

When young Jack was six, the Lewis family moved to a large house which his father, a solicitor, had built on the outskirts of the city.

In Surprised by Joy, his 1955 autobiography, Lewis describes the new family home as “less a house than a city,” and fertile ground:

"I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles.

Also, of endless books….

There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcases on the landing,

books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic….

Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. "

Before long, and partly to compensate for having lost his only brother to boarding school, Lewis turned from reader to writer.

At a desk his parents had made for him, in “the little end room” of the attic, he began to write and illustrate stories of “dressed animals and knights-in-armour” —

tales of “chivalrous mice and rabbits who rode out in complete mail to kill not giants but cats.”

Soon the knightly bunnies needed a home and a past, and Lewis turned “from romancing to historiography.”

He created “Animal-Land,” complete with maps and family sagas, and situated it on an island near the Himalayas, to be proximate to his brother’s India-Land.

"My brother rapidly invented the principal steamship routes" betweeen the two countries; eventually, the two worlds merged into “Boxen,” now published as the Lewis-world that predates Narnia.

Those stories never saw print in his lifetime.

Were they a waste? Are our dreams? I think you know the answer to that.

The pursuit of dreams is never wasted. If the dreams never seem to come to pass, the journey has been one of magic and renewal --

the renewal of that intangible, but essential, human element :

our soul.

A dream discarded never leaves us. It slowly decomposes in the attic of our being, slowly poisoning our zest for life.

To nuture and cherish a dream is to have perpetual Spring in our hearts.

We may be Don Quixote, never vanguishing the windmill but somehow the stronger and truer for the effort.

And to end with a nod to an old friend of mine :

Mark Twain's seventieth birthday celebration was held on this day in 1905 at New York’s Delmonico’s Restaurant.

One hundred and seventy-five of Twain’s distinguished friends were there, to HEAR WHY HE LIVED SO LONG

(the headline in the NY Times report of the occasion), and to take home a foot-high plaster bust of the author.

In his speech, Twain attributed his health and longevity to several hard-earned (and oft-repeated) principles —

"to go to bed when there wasn't anybody left to sit up with," and

"never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain when awake."

Here is a bit of the ghost of George Bernard Shaw's introduction to Victor Standish's latest narrated adventure, THREE SPIRIT KNIGHT:

"I hasten to protest at the outset that I have no personal knowledge of the incorrigible Super-tramp who wrote this amazing book.

If he is to be encouraged and approved, then British morality is a mockery, British respectability an imposture, and British industry a vice. Perhaps they are: I have always kept an open mind on the subject…."


  1. I'm far out of the writing blog loop these days. Didn't even know there was a June NaNo.

  2. Wonderful post. I agree it's always important and never a waste to follow a dream. And one can never have too many books!

  3. The Happy Whisk:
    I only knew of it from visiting the site of one of the originators of the June NaNo. I believe there is to be an August one as well. The ghost of Ernest Hemingway is grumbling again!

    Thanks for the anthology links. Alas all of my short stories are not so short! I will try to widdle them down a bit!

    And you should see my front room with its six book shelves! I love books! Then, there's my bedroom with two book shelves! LOL.

  4. Sometimes I definitely think I'm kidding myself, but I just keep plugging away. Ugh. I won't be quitting my day job any time soon. :P

  5. Ohhh... Roland... what a lovely post. I love things like this. I love feeling inspired and knowing that what I'm doing isn't a waste... because I know I've felt that in the past. But not anymore. And it's *such* a liberating place to be. It's nice to read posts like this and have the fire rekindled. Thanks for this!

  6. Hey Roland,I've been waiting for someone to post so I don't feel bad posting early. Happy Independence Day. I'll put my post up next.
    Yeah, I've completed three novels in three NaNos and are still editing them. I do go in with a plan, but admit most of the first drafts are shoddy. It is a wonderful motivation to write, but I think we write a lot of useless words too. Once a year is enough.


  7. Although I did not participate in the NaNo, I did write lots of words throughout June! I hope they turn out not to be useless! I don't think I could participate in the NaNo as I think if I was committed to writing 50,000 odd words in that space of time they would be rubbish!
    But I hope the people who did participate gain lots from their experience!

    I watched the preview of Epic, how awesome! I look forward to its release, should be good to watch.

    Enjoyed reading this post, thanks Roland.

  8. What a great post, and very well said. It's never waste to pursue dreams.

  9. We learn and grow while pursuing a dream.

  10. wow!
    i know the quickie 30 day novel will need tons of editing, but i love a challenge to spit out the majority of a new novel in a short time. its like funneling all the gagillion words out one at a time as coherent thoughts to sentences and paragraphs and chapters...

    i have to just do it! at least once.

    loved your post, sage, eloquent and twain!

  11. Alleged Author:
    JK Rowling toiled in that now famous coffee house, writing with no sure murmuring that she would succeed. The rejections that followed must have felt a mockery to her persistence in finishing that first novel. Never give up, for you never know how close you are to winning.

    All of us stumble in the darkness of our doubts when we ask if we are fooling ourselves. No dream is a waste if it sings of love and adventure and warmth.

    I'm heading to your post next. I just fear so many are reinforcing bad writing habits with the rush of words to hit a number goal that should be a quality goal. Hemingway just slapped me on the shoulder and shoved a ghost cigar in my mouth! (Word of advise: never smoke a ghost cigar!)

    Doesn't EPIC look intriguing? No words we write are wasted if we pause and reflect before writing them. I write usually in fury of inspiration, then have to edit and polish ... but I do so only after having plotted out the book and rolled the prose around in my head first. Great of you to visit and chat!

    We who live in the twilight world of the imagination roam such delightful hills and valleys, don't we?

    I couldn't have said it better. Ah, but the ghost of Mark Twain will probably appropriate your words!

    I just fear that the frenzy of writing so many words will rob the novel of its nuance and perhaps laying careful plot threads and plot surprises within the chapters.

    I believe most quickies lack depth and permanence. Ouch! Alice just whacked me on the shin!

  12. Congrats on your success with End of Days! I've I worried about wasted time and effort, I'd quit now. I have to put that thought right out of my head!

  13. What is life without dreams? I almost left dreaming until it was too late, but I'm making up for it now. Life's too short not to have your head in the clouds at least part of the time:)

    Love, love, love C.S. Lewis - I think I'll read some tonight.

    3/4 through End of Days - then I'll post about it. Haven't had much time since I was doing BuNoWriMo.

  14. I don't participate in these month long writing challenges because I know i'll fail. I'm too undisciplined a writer to stick to a plan. Not with all of life happening around me, anyway.


  15. I never participated in the NaNo events for the reasons you gave. I often wonder if I am postponing serious writing when I am blogging. Or am I honing skills as I blog. Or am I establishing a fan base. Or am I creating friendships across the countries.

    Truly a good post. And I am eager for "Epic" for it looks to be just that.

  16. Susan:
    You and I think alike in those areas. I try never to blog until I have written at least one page in the novel I am currently working on. That way I have done constructive work on my novel, while setting out to expand my base of potential readers and perhaps a browsing agent. LOL. We can hope about that agent!