Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: authenticity

The Song That No One Has Heard

     I’m kind of a sucker for devotional music from all sorts of religious traditions. I’ll shove John Michael Talbot, Yusuf Islam, and Krishna Das all onto a playlist together. They get along on iTunes, I wonder if they’d get along if they were all in the same room…
     One of Krishna Das’s best songs is Heart as Wide as the World.

I looked away
Your beauty too much to bear
Where could I run?
Your eyes,
I found them everywhere
All I want is to sing to you
The song that no one has heard

     I follow a lot of aspiring writers on Twitter and blogs. Sometimes it’s a tad discouraging because often they talk about ‘essential’ writing subjects like self-promotion, knowing the market and replicating past successes. Many good, talented, creative people just want to write a story that will sell.
     How low.
     I don’t know about other creative people, but I’d do this work even if I knew I’d never make a penny from it. I’ve been doing it for years and I’ve put time and money into it, but I’ve never gotten a cent back. Sure, I’d love to make some money. I’d love to be able to quit my job and spend my life writing. That’d be the cat’s meow. But that’s not ‘all I want.’

All I want…
… is to be a best-seller.
… is to be famous.
… is to get rich.
… is to be the next [insert successful name here].

     Low! Low! Low!
     I look up to the sky and to the infinite space it rests beneath. I look to the Hand that sparked it and all the glories that dwell within it. And all those petty desires fade like a fog when it is faced with the sun’s fury. One desire remains. One thought. One driving force.
     All I want is to sing to you the song that no one has heard.
     And I’m the only one who can sing that song.
     And you’re the only one who can sing yours.

Honestly

     Without honesty, you’re dead.

     Trust me, I know. I used to lie to everyone. Everyone. It was tough. I would cry myself to sleep. Well, man-cries, at least.

     It took a while to find someone I could be honest with. And then I found him – myself. It was a bit of a shock, really. Because I knew me to be a pretty judgmental fellow.

     I had been lying to me for years. It was a little scary once I gave myself permission to tell the truth. But, man, it did great things for me.

     A weight came off my shoulders. I know it sounds cliche, but I can’t think of any better way of putting it. I was free. Suddenly the future looked brighter. And, better than that, the present looked bright, too.

     Then I looked to my right and saw my wife. It turns out she had been standing there the whole time, ready and willing to hear my honesty. So I gave it to her. And she was gentle with it. She touched my honesty as I held it out to her, and smiled at it.

     “I’m on a roll,” I thought. I looked around to see who else I could be honest with. I looked up and wondered about God.

     I’ve have a very complicated relationship with the divine. I’ll tell you about it one day. But I figured it was about time to get honest with God. I went to find him and let him know how I really felt.

     But God was not where I had left him. The lock on the door was smashed, you see. It fell apart the day I started being honest with myself. So my concept of God broke free. And God has been leading me on a merry chase through the universe ever since. And he’s been blowing my mind.

     I’m honest with a bunch of people now. It’s nice. It’s freeing. Sometimes it’s dangerous and leads to anger and confusion, but that’s okay. Because most of the time, people look at your honesty and smile. Because I’m free inside and the burden on my back is light. One day I’ll be honest with everyone. One day I’ll be honest with all you wonderful people who read these silly little posts. Not today, but one day.

     Are you honest with you?

Your Life is a Story

Source: xkcd

     Your life is a story.

     Is it boring?
Would it make the Reader yawn and want to skip pages just to get to the end?

     Is it irrelevant?
Would it make the Reader wonder why he bought the book in the first place?

     Is it selfish?
Would it annoy the Reader with its blatant narcissism?

Or

     Is it heroic?
Would it make the Reader cheer as you go about your quests for justice?

     Is it authentic?
Would it make the Reader look at his own heart to see if he is living an honest life, like you are?

     Is it lovely?
Would the Reader smile with joy as he seems the world in the shining light that you see it in?

     Is it important?
Would it change the Reader and make his world a better place?

     Everyone you meet is a Reader. Do they believe your story?

The Next Tolkien

     I don’t want to read him.

     Not even a tiny bit.

     It would be like watching Aladdin 2. It would be like watching the live-action version of Blood: The Last Vampire. Why would I do it when the original is better in every single way possible?

     So why do writers want to be rehashed greats?

     If you ever, in your creative journey, imagine yourself to be the next Tolkien or Hemingway or Lewis or Eliot, stop. Stop right there. Don’t write another word. Because you’re doing something horrible.

     The world does not want another Hemingway. We have him. He’s immortalized in the things he’s created. We don’t need another. We need you. We need your thoughts. Your ideas. Your love and wit and stories.

     Don’t aspire to be like anyone you’ve read. Aspire to be yourself.

     This is why so many urban fantasies seem exactly the same, today. Too many people want to be the next Meyer. And that’s why there were so many young-kid-turns-wizard books a few years ago. Too many people wanted to be the next Rowling. Not nearly enough people were brave enough to strike out on their own, find their own voice and stories, and pour themselves into their work.

     You remember those bracelets people used to wear with WWJD on them? Good advice for life, to be sure. But some people are tempted to put on WW(insert favorite author here)D when they are writing.

     But what would you do? What would you write?

     Write that.