Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: October, 2012

Fear and Breaks

I was thinking about taking a break from my book.

This is my third novel. The first one was practice. The second one was supposed to be a stand-alone fantasy. Then it got away from me. It crept toward 200k words and, as I was ending it, I realized it wasn’t ending. My book had turned itself into a series without my permission.

That scared me. I didn’t think I was ready to write a series. To go from practice to epic fantasy series in one book … terrifying. And the fear weighed on me. Hard. I felt like I needed to take a break. Needed to take some time out for, I dunno, training or something. I felt like I needed to stop writing the book and maybe do some blogging or write some poems. Or maybe throw together that cute sci-fi novella I have been thinking about. Or, since NaNoWriMo is nearly here, write up a crappy novel just so I could say I did it.

I was about to do it. I had basically decided on my way to work last night. I was going to walk away. Part of me silently wondered if I’d ever return.

Then I started asking myself what I still needed to do with this novel I’m working on. It’s already pretty big. More than 100k so far. What still needs doing?

I drew up a list.

There were four items on the list.

That couldn’t be right, I thought. It’s huge. It’s insurmountable. It’s terrifying. How could there only be four things left to do? Why do I feel so overwhelmed?

Maybe, just maybe, because fear is a dirty liar.

Maybe because fear whispers insidious words into the secret places of my mind. And those secret places spread the news: You cannot do this! And that news flows through my consciousness, taking away confidence. And they travel through my body, sucking out energy. And the words grasp at my heart, making me question my identity, my abilities.

Fear.

I’m not going to take a break. I’ve taken them before and I know what kind of damage they cause. Just like you never really hate your job until you return from vacation.

I’m a writer. It doesn’t matter that I’ve only written two books. It doesn’t matter that I’ve never made a cent from my words. I’m a writer because I write. I’m a writer because I choose to be one. And I have no need for breaks.

You know why they call them breaks?

They break things.

Writing Foreplay

No, not writing about foreplay.  That’ll be a different sort of post altogether.

You ever have a feeling of drudgery when you sit down to do your thing?  You love writing.  You always have.  But these days when you try to actually get down to work, you feel overwhelmed and utterly intimidated.  You can’t remember how you managed to write two and a half novels.  You feel like you don’t know where your story is going, despite your detailed outlines and plans.  You stare at the computer screen and feel such a revulsion toward your task that you are afraid you were never supposed to be a writer.

You’re not in the mood.

You have a headache.

You’re tired.  You have to wake up early the next morning.

You’ve forgotten how fun writing can be.  You need some foreplay.

Open a fresh document.  Write these words:

Writing can be such a drudgery.

And then write some more.  Tell the page what you think of it.  Tell the page how pissed off you are about your lack of inspiration.  Rail and complain.  Beg and plead.  Pour out all the negative feelings in your soul onto that page.  Don’t stop.  Don’t think.  Let it go.  Just let it go.

Until you stop.

Then open your novel again.  Go to the scene you have to write.  You’ll feel better.  You’ll be in the mood.  You’ve had your foreplay.  Time to take it home.

Discovering the Universe

I discovered the universe the other day. Ever been there?

Strange place, that. Full of tricks and lights. Flashing about with them teeth. With them claws.

“With them eyes?”

No, not with them eyes. I got the eyes. And the ears and the lips and the hands for touching and the tongue for tasting. That’s why I discovered the universe, not the other way around.

“What was it like?”

Son, it was like this.

I opened my eyes, and the universe fed me with photons. Some were salty. Some were sweet. Some were loud and shaking. Some were tiny and secretive.

I opened my ears, and the universe showed me her vibrations. Her churning and her pulsating. Her rhythmic, sexual dances that pulled and pushed on the drums within my head.

I opened my mouth and the universe cradled me like a child at the breast. The fruits of the earth, made from the same stuff as I. The fruits of the earth, slowly becoming I.

I opened my hands and caressed the universe, digging deep in the brown earth. Massaging the white clouds. Pushing at the crystal-clear waters.

I opened my nose and I drank the scents that flew off of the universe’s body. The harshness of fire smoke. The gentleness of lavender and sandal.

And then I opened my soul. And she spoke to me.

“What did she say to you?”

Are you awake?

“And what did you say back to her?”

I think I am.

Heroes and Villains

John Calvin was a hero, they told me.  I didn’t argue.  It wasn’t my place to argue.  It was my place to listen.  And so John Calvin was a hero.

He was clever, you see.  A pioneer of sorts.  One of the first and brightest to read the Book the way they told me it was meant to be read.  He was a hero.  Like Martin Luther.

It bothered me that he killed a man, though.  Bothered me that he thought folks who disagreed with him ought to die.  But he was a product of his culture.  He can’t be fully blamed.  He just used worldly weapons in a spiritual war.  When you put it that way, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal.

Though I bet Michael Servitus thought it was a big deal.

And, sure, Martin Luther was a misogynist and anti-semite.  Well, he was a product of his culture, too.  Can’t be too harsh on him.  Or on Jonathan Edwards for his owning of slaves for that matter.  Products of their culture.  Innocent, in their own ways.  Heroes still, I suppose.

Mother Theresa, on the other hand, was not a hero, they said.  Sure she poured herself out for the ‘least of these’.  Sure she inspired millions and eased the sufferings of countless invisible people.  But she was the wrong kind of Christian.  Roman Catholic.  Damned.  In hell, despite her service.  That’s what they said.

Gandhi is another one who isn’t a hero.  Sure, he championed non-violent resistance against the forces of evil.  Sure, he fought against oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.  But, like Theresa, he was one of ‘them’, not ‘us’.  Hindu.  Blind.  Damned and in hell, despite his service.  That’s what they said.

Is it any wonder?

Is it any wonder they talk about us like they do?

Is it any wonder I felt the need to [………]?

We forgive the murderers and slave owners because they thought like we do.

We condemn the compassionate souls because of a rosary and a dash of vermillion upon the forehead.

Heroes and Villains

John Calvin was a hero, they told me.  I didn’t argue.  It wasn’t my place to argue.  It was my place to listen.  And so John Calvin was a hero.

He was clever, you see.  A pioneer of sorts.  One of the first and brightest to read the Book the way they told me it was meant to be read.  He was a hero.  Like Martin Luther.

It bothered me that he killed a man, though.  Bothered me that he thought folks who disagreed with him ought to die.  But he was a product of his culture.  He can’t be fully blamed.  He just used worldly weapons in a spiritual war.  When you put it that way, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal.

Though I bet Michael Servitus thought it was a big deal.

And, sure, Martin Luther was a misogynist and anti-semite.  Well, he was a product of his culture, too.  Can’t be too harsh on him.  Or on Jonathan Edwards for his owning of slaves for that matter.  Products of their culture.  Innocent, in their own ways.  Heroes still, I suppose.

Mother Theresa, on the other hand, was not a hero, they said.  Sure she poured herself out for the ‘least of these’.  Sure she inspired millions and eased the sufferings of countless invisible people.  But she was the wrong kind of Christian.  Roman Catholic.  Damned.  In hell, despite her service.  That’s what they said.

Gandhi is another one who isn’t a hero.  Sure, he championed non-violent resistance against the forces of evil.  Sure, he fought against oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.  But, like Theresa, he was one of ‘them’, not ‘us’.  Hindu.  Blind.  Damned and in hell, despite his service.  That’s what they said.

Is it any wonder?

Is it any wonder they talk about us like they do?

Is it any wonder I felt the need to [………]?

We forgive the murderers and slave owners because they thought like we do.

We condemn the compassionate souls because of a rosary and a dash of vermillion upon the forehead.