Write...or Die Trying

I used to work in a factory. Now I work in an office. Either way, my writing was dying. So now I must: Write...or Die Trying.



They keep bumping up the number of invitations I can give out if someone wants to try Google's Gmail.

My allotment of disk space is at 2.5 GB right now. It's still technically in beta, so there's hardly any advertising on it. I use all that disk space to archive my stories online for backup and so that I can easily get to them from anywhere.

If anyone wants to try out Gmail, then email me privately ( jon dot brisbin at gmail dot com) and I'll send an invite to you.

Input or Output

I spend a great deal of my day just absorbing information. A lot of times I don't turn around and put that knowledge into something. I just absorb it. Today was a good example.

Besides my Modern Fantasy class, in which we discussed Jospeh Campbell's mono-myth theory, how Christianity rests on a "weak" logcial premise, yada yada, I spent a goodly portion of the day trying to figure out how in the heck I had broken this program I'd written. I was trying to make it work better; improve it, so to speak. In the end, I actually accomplished my goal, but I broke several things inside it first. So I had to read and research and get more information so I could figure out why it was broken and how could I fix it.

I'm a self-taught programmer. By self-taught I mean I learn by propping something up I don't fully understand, watching it fall, changing it slightly, putting it back up again, watching it fall, changing it a little more, prop it back up again (still not fully understanding it), yada yada... They say the first sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result. I see.

In programming there are basically two pipes of communication: data coming in (called input) and data going out (called output, oddly enough.) My days normally consist of managing vast quantities of input, distilling it down, and producing a weensie-teensie bit of output. Programming is like that. You have to absorb so much information to produce a small thing that is then judged based on it's apparent, relative size, instead of its unwieldy actual, relative size--which doesn't compute with management, given the amount of time you said it would take and how much you said it would cost.

Writing is like that too, I'm finding out. Vast truckloads of input are being dumped into my brain every day--whether I want it or not. I have to sift through all that chaff for the wheat or the dirt for the worms. I have to manage this input or lose it. A good writer has to process so much more information than what they eventually output that the small apparent relative size of their output is often judged as not being enough; not quick enough; not "good" enough (God forbid.) But that's just part of writing. It's hours and days and years of input input input. Then a little blip. Output. Maybe there's some sort of rule someone can attach their name to that recognizes that: the larger the exponent between what the writer's input and her output, the better the fiction. The more I read and observe people the better my writing gets. I can't explain it, it just works.

Input input input input input input input input. Blip. Output.

More Search Terms

The referrers from search engines are a never-ending source of material for me. Here's a recent one:

"i'm getting dumber"

Quote from Joseph Pulitzer

You know how conversations wander from one topic to the next, until you've gone so far from your original topic that the trip there becomes more important than what you were discussing? That happened to me today. I found this quote by Joseph Pulitzer after googling the name "Nellie Bly," which my wife had heard on a show my kids were watching this afternoon:

"Every issue of the paper presents an opportunity and a duty to say something courageous and true; to rise above the mediocre and conventional; to say something that will command the respect of the intelligent, the educated, the independent part of the community; to rise above fear of partisanship and fear of popular prejudice. I would rather have one article a day of this sort; and these ten or twenty lines might readily represent a whole day's hard work in the way of concentrated, intense thinking and revision, polish of style, weighing of words."

Joseph Pulitzer, 1911

The Perfect Church

[From an email list I'm on, regarding frustrations with finding "the right church"]

> But those of you who are in a church, yet see many of the same things
> I also see, How do you deal with it?

Mostly by remembering that people are fallen, fallible beings. Keep in mind that we often hold other people to a higher standard than we're willing to commit to ourselves, particularly when it comes to church leadership, and particularly if those failings touch on raw nerves in areas of our own lives. If we were stumbling with something difficult, we probably would not be very uplifted by having someone explain to us where we went wrong, what we could have done differently, and then, in the end, disregard us on the basis of our failures--no matter how sincere we were when we set out. No church can survive, no matter large, if Christian love is extinct, dormant, or grudgingly given.

I am firmly in the camp of those that want to decry the warm-fuzzy (misleadingly labeled "seeker-oriented") churches and their focus on the external and passing emotions (a la Rick Warren/Saddleback christianity.) They grow their attendance for the same reasons that live concerts attract people: the energy and excitement of live performance. To thwart the Tired Debate That Will Not Be Named regarding worship style: I'm not confining that notion to, shall we say, musical preference, because that's such a small part of the service that it often has little effect on either drawing or keeping non-committal Christians in a pew. By "live performance" I simply mean the emotional reaction that many churches try to elicit from their parishioners through the Pavlovian reaction we have to large gatherings of people, fancy motion-graphics in the slide presentation, and professional-level audio production. It's all great stuff and can be used powerfully--but the world can only support a finite number Billy Graham knock-offs before reaching the saturation point.

In my own draining experience in different churches with competing agendas, competing communicative theologies, and hard-headed people (i.e. all of us,) I've found that the only thing really lacking in our churches is loving members that want to help, lift up, and support the work of the church. There's no shortage of theories on how to reach people, neither is there a lack of information on how to lead people in the most effective way. There is, in my opinion, a huge shortage of people who will throw themselves under the train if it will save a spiritual life (or lives.) It's simply a matter of too many chiefs and not enough indians (I could care less if that cliche is politically correct or not, it's still as effective today as when my then 85 year-old great grandmother taught me the concept.)

Now, to keep this within the realms of our discussions here: how do you "vent" this in a work of fiction? I think the first thing we all must do when approaching our fiction, especially if we're writing "Christian" fiction, is to ask ourselves if *we* would be interested in hearing what the story would have to say. Would we react positively to the work if it contained a rebuke we felt personally? Play devil's advocate and see how we would react to the same message, coming from the opposite perspective (yeah, but they're *wrong*, so that wouldn't count, right? ;-) Would it simply reaffirm what others believed, without being helpful to those who defend a different perspective? Not what would Jesus do, but what would we do? Read Chekhov's "A Blunder." It's a critique of common social constructs in pre-revolutionary Russia. But it's short (only a couple hundred words,) sweet, and to the point--and far more powerful than if he had come out and pointed a finger at the audience and, quite rightly, expounded on the flaws and hypocrisies in their own lives.

In the end, there may be almost nothing we can do about it. I was in that situation. I had lost my effectiveness because nobody wanted to listen to what I had to say, even though I still firmly believe that I was correct. I didn't say it in love. I wasn't patient. I wasn't forgiving. I was everything I was accusing them of being. Maybe that's why it angered me so much.

There is no magic bullet for all that ails the church in America today. It's not a simple problem, either. If it was simple, everyone would be fixing it because the solution would also be simple. But it's not. There is no perfect church. It's a fallacy we've built up in our minds to justify our own emotional responses to things we don't like. I attend a wonderful church now and we still have problems; we're not perfect. But we try to minister to each other as best we can, pick each other up when we go to far and fall on our faces, nurse each other's wounds, and work out our own salvation, as we're told to do. We're navigating the confusing currents of our post-modern (man, I hate that term) world together--and that's what makes all the difference.