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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

I’m wondering whether it’s time to again “make” myself post a thought every day, or at least every weekday. I’ve sat down to write something several times since my last post, but I haven’t brought any words out.

Tonight included.

So I’m writing about my reason for writing. Like most people, I write to share my thoughts. When I don’t really feel I’ve a thought conducive to sharing, or if I just can’t think of how to share it, I’ll tend not to write.

But when I made myself sit down and at least try my hand at a koan, I at least did it. The feeling of nothing to say or no way to say it still didn’t stop me from communicating. Whether it was much of anything worth receiving… I actually don’t much mind either way. The purpose wasn’t some goal or reward, but the process itself.

As I said, I write to share my thoughts. It’s likely time I get back to cultivating the habit of thinking to share.

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I’m listening to my baby babble happily to his mobile as he’s taking his time getting to sleep, and it’s a beautiful sound.  He’s one reason I’ve devoted myself to getting my focus together to create things that feel important to me, since I want him to own his voice and use it wisely and well.  I figure the only way I could hope for that through him is to first try to make it real through myself.  Example is the strongest teacher, especially when it contradicts the words.

I was just responding to the patient and poetic J. A. Jordan about creativity, and it set my mind on the topic.  I keep meaning to get back to themes and values in When Atlas Shirked, but I want to close out the week by talking about why I think it’s important to continually participate in conscious creation.  And I don’t just mean what people normally think of as creation, as in inventing things or writing or creating other types of art.  I also mean the creation and re-creation of ideas, and values, and emotions, and understanding — continually creating who we are.

Here’s what thoughts rambled off the tips of my fingers:

I always need to be creating something.  To me, that’s what life is, a continual act of creation – either we work to create consciously, or are created by the haphazard influences of our subconscious internalization of our environment.

Someone once said something to the effect that “To be alive is to experience constant change, a continual farewell to who and what we have known. So we can either participate in constant creation and truly live, or cling to the past in stagnation. Only the dead do not change”

I then went to go look up where I had last read something like that, and found it was an old philosophical text I was working on at one point, modeled after the Hagakure.  I only got three chapters in, and it’s in a pretty dry style since I was modeling off a pretty dry translation, so I’ll have to think about whether it’d be worth y’all’s time posting it here.  Especially since that would seem to me like an inherent dare to finish it.

Regardless, I know I’m not the only person to have thought this way, so I think you’ll have some understanding of how I feel.  Stagnation brings a heavy, frustrating feeling of stuckness, and has the same general effects on our health and psyche as being physically caged.  (In my own observation)  And the longer we feel stuck, the more we feel being lost to or drained away by a bad situation, the harder it is to pull ourselves out of the mud and move on.

What’s worse, we can feel so invested in our stuckness, it seems like a bad investment to let go and move on.  I think that ties in to our fear of death, which to me seems like a fear of losing what we know to face what we can’t be sure of.  But to me, that’s what life is all about.  We are continually losing the present into the past, to face the future for all its hopes and fears.  In order to make use of the present, we have to let go of all that and free our hands up to create every single moment as best we can.

I thought I shared this thought here already, but I couldn’t find it, so here goes:

Be careful that you don’t become like the gambler who bets what he can’t afford to lose on a hand that just can’t win.   He’s lost so much already, he can’t bear to cut his losses and walk away.

I hope that conveys what I’m trying to convey, because I’m finding this difficult to pin down.  I think I’m going to accept that as the nature of my thoughts right now.  Rather than try to force them into a particular shape, I believe it’s best to let them go to be as they are.

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When Atlas Shirked Cover

When Atlas Shirked, by Nynia Chance

In honor of #MayDay, I have managed to get my new novel available in eBook form for free! In When Atlas Shirked, a dystopian Christian America uses love and fairness to forge peaceful community solutions to political & class warfare.

The novel is part Orwell, part #Occupy, part Christlike-Christian, and all Hope. It’s the antidote to the selfish and cruel version of atheism* of Atlas Shrugged, as it explores the powerful force of a community combining forces to defeat the poverty and isolation that had overtaken their alternate America. In comparison to Ayn Rand’s infamous novel, I like to say it’s All the Politics, Half the Page-Count, and a Hundred Times the Heart.

*Note: This novel is not anti-atheist, it’s anti-bigotry, anti-hate, and anti-malice. It explores the concepts of equality, Women’s Rights, Gay Rights and Social Justice through the experiences and evolving Biblical understanding of a young Christian woman. Others’ views have a voice in her story as well, showing that there is also another side to Faith or even simply reasoned Philosophy. Take a look. You might be surprised.

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The courage to face your mistakes

As more people start to cast an eye to my work, I find myself wondering again just how much it will need to improve based on their feedback. I’m trying to remember that it’s better to do your best and make mistakes, than to hold yourself back in fear.

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Recently I was talking again about the so-called Crab Mentality.  I don’t know how accurate this is about actual crabs, but the idea is that when you’re out gathering crabs from the shore, you don’t need a lid for your bucket.  You just need two or three in there, and they’ll keep pulling each other back down if one of them starts to make it out.

I’m sure we’ve all got examples the analogy brings to mind.  What I’ve started to think of lately, though, is how we’ll pull ourselves back and hold ourselves down, rather than wait for someone else to do it for us.  We’ll keep our heads down and our mouths shut rather than let us put ourselves out there or otherwise break free of our quiet little rut.  I’ll bet that idea brings some examples to mind, too.

Now don’t think I’m saying we oughtn’t be mindful of how and when we put ourselves or our ideas forward.  I’m all for the habit of taking a moment to think about how something you do or say may come across.  Big-headed arrogance not only puts people off what you’d otherwise have to share, it obscures your own view, too.  The little voice that says, “Did you think this one through?” — that’s worth listening to.

But the voice that starts off with “Do you really think you deserve…”  That’s the Crab Mentality.  When we start to share our thoughts and talents, the Crab Voice butts in with “Do you really think you deserve to take the spotlight?”  When we step forward to take our turn, it pokes at us with “Do you really think you deserve to go ahead of all those other people?”  And worst of all, when we stop to appreciate all the beautiful gifts life has given us, our hearts are weighted down with an oppressive, “Do you really think you deserve these things when there are so many who want?  What makes you think you have a right to be happy, when there is so much misery in the world?”

That last bit is what hit me this morning.  I was thinking of my fantastically wonderfully rewarding life, with enough food to eat and safety and shelter and so much love and joy and plenty, and I actually started to feel guilty for being so lucky.  As though receiving these blessings meant another had to go without.

And this is even though I already know that’s not how the world works.  Life is a place of plenty, and the more we enjoy and share that bounty, the more of it there is.  If this was about wasting water or gobbling up limited resources, that’d be one thing.  But this was about treasuring the fulfillment of simple wants, and basking in the glow of tender moments.  You know, the sorts of things that make the world greater, not less.

I know that taking suffering into your own heart doesn’t remove it from others.  I know that you can’t lessen the hurt in the world by embracing pain.  I know that the world needs happiness and joy to be shared within and among as many hearts as possible, that this is the only way to reduce the misery and pain that’s out there.

That’s why it feels so silly to admit I actually felt bad about being happy.  Because I know better.  I guess that just goes to show that being aware of the subconscious push to commodify and objectify happiness, doesn’t always make you immune.  It’s so easy to let yourself be just another prisoner of the war against a more peaceful world.

So I decided that’s what I’d write about today.  I still feel a nervous twinge of guilt, but it’s fading.  Cause as I’m sitting here typing I realize I have a choice: I can either subtract from the joy in this world or add to it.  Everything else aside, it’s just so darn much more fun to choose the latter, so I’m gonna practice that.

And as much as I hear unspoken voices asking me if I have the right to indulge in this happiness, I can’t help but ask, “Voices, what makes you think you have the right to add to the misery in this world by demanding mine?”

And a poem for National Poetry Month…

It’s what you wear from ear to ear
at least, that’s what they say
But when it’s time to curse or praise,
they tell it another way

“Who does she think she is?” they ask
if she’s too pretty or too plain
“He’s drowning in denial,” they sneer
if his failures don’t show enough pain

“Money can’t buy happiness”, they nod
while they try to sell you a slice
All while they claim to measure Success
not by merit, but by amortized price

So they hound as they hoard and condemn as they preen
While they suckle at wealth they demand we all wean
If you hurry after them, you just might see and be seen

But for my part,
with a peaceful heart,
I’d far rather bask in the glory of Nature’s green.

Join me my friend,
and through to the end,
and we’ll hold court with life’s true kings and queens.

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Today I’m blogging off a comment I put down for Jo Ann J. A. Jordan, one of WordPress’s many genuine poets.  While writing it, I realized I want to tell this to everyone, and for them to feel the truth in it. Let’s see how this goes…

One of life’s tragedies is that we feel as though we have to seek permission to honor in ourselves the ways we follow the calling of our souls.  It’s like we don’t have the right to be who we know we must become, unless some group of people with sufficient authority grants us their permission through honors or awards.

Alan Watts got it right when he said it’s a mistake to to try to separate something being done from the thing that’s doing it.  As I ended up writing it once, truth lives not through nouns, but through verbs.  We are what we do.  If one writes, one is a writer.  If one sings, one is a singer.  If one dances, one is a dancer.  If one creates, one is a creator.  That’s because a writer is one who writes, a dancer is who sings, and so on.  Descartes had it backwards: I am, therefore I think.

Somehow, we lost that.  I won’t get into my theories on how this happened, but we got trained to look outside for validation.  This oppressive need for outside validation is part of what makes people arrogant and obnoxious over whether they or others have a rightful claim to particular nouns.  Some people get pompous and ridiculous over nouns they seize, further discouraging the humble among us from feeling like we can use them.

Forget about all that.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is who you do, because this is what creates who you are.  You create to feed a hunger in your soul.  Let it feed you.  Don’t question whether you have a right to how good the soulfood makes you feel — it’s yours.  You need it.  EAT IT.

Would it be great for more people to find and enjoy and reward you for your work?  YES!  Is that needed for it to be valuable?

No.

You are a part of this world.  That means your presence inherently makes a difference in what the world becomes.  You can’t escape that.  When you care for yourself and find value in this, then your difference is a good one.

And that’s what matters.

So please, do what brings you joy.  Remember to smile at yourself, and feel the warm glow of doing what you cherish.  That right there is the greatest service to world peace.

If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.

Thich Nhat Hanh

And because I promised, a poem on sports for the Poem a Day challenge:

My doubt falls away

I no longer need to win

Running is the race

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You know how when you’ve got something new in your life, it’s like suddenly reminders of it are showing up all around you?  Somehow you know that they always had to be there, it’s just that now you’re noticing them.  At the same time though, it absolutely feels like they’re there simply because you’re looking for them.

That’s how I felt once I started really getting into the theology and politics of When Atlas Shirked.  When I started writing about…

  • The difficulties faced by pregnant women and especially teens, news started really hitting me about so-called Personhood Initiatives were leading to the criminalization of and punishment for difficulties with pregnancy, or even accidents.
  • Toxic economic and ecological conditions in factory towns, Revered David Bouie invited the Koch brothers to visit his home in the cancer-plagued neighborhood of a town I visited family in just over a decade ago.
  • Efforts to prevent “those people” from voting, Voter ID and other disenfranchisement efforts were hitting the news full-swing.
  • A sinister national firewall used to silence criticism and dissent, then the next say SOPA comes out so much worse that I actually have to rewrite that section
  • Puppeteering of public opinion through manipulating peoples’ emotions of fear and disgust, science starts reporting again on the primal nature of disgust and how disgust shapes politics
  • Sexual abuse and assault in the workplace and the military, a wave of articles reference statistics on incidents and reporting, particularly in the military.
  • Religious freedom in the military, and I start finding the infiltration of the American military by extremist sectarians that are so relentlessly aggressive in turning the armed forces into their taxpayer-funded missionary force, a group of soldiers have to struggle to fight for their right to serve under the American Constitution, not these sectarians.  (And 96% of those soldiers are Christian, just not the same kind as the extremist sectarians.)
  • The labyrinthine mishmash of the industrial food business and start seeing folks talk about the effects of GMO on public health (despite some GMOs starting to fail), and states tried to pass laws that would make it illegal to document abuses by the agricultural industry
  • The importance of sharing a non-reactionary, Christlike perspective on Christianity, and the news out there seems to push more and more the idea that Christianity = Extremist Judgmentalism, making it harder for people of faith to connect those around them with their story.
  • Oh right, and the day after I started writing, a group of folks had a little get-together in Zuccotti Park.

Anyway, I know none of these are new issues.  But in a crash-course of just a few months, they all started hitting me over the head in wave after wave of new perspectives.  Things that I thought I understood, I found myself questioning and re-evaluating, growing alongside Liz as I explored through my own experiences what she might be trying to say about her own, alternate world.

I do realize that most of what I linked up there is pretty depressing.  It’s a bunch of mega-downers, a cavalcade of all that’s going wrong in our world.  But note that most of the links are from groups that are working on solutions to these issues.  I didn’t feel surrounded by gloomy problems, but by courageous people staring straight into the void, and rather than blinking, start lighting up their candles to fight the darkness.   I haven’t even touched all the beautifully wonderful examples of positive change from Yes Magazine alone!

And that’s what continued to drive me to write.  It’s what helped me feel so electrically engaged, despite all the heartaches of peoples’ tragedies, despite the downward trajectory of national trends, and despite being sick with a sequence of colds and flus from the last two weeks of December through much of February.

I felt the passionate optimism of all those out there, working hard in their own ways to help our world overcome our crises, calling to their communities to join them in building a better future.  This inspiration carried through into Liz Franklin’s ceaseless faith in the power of Love in her own world, giving me greater hope for how it can transform ours.

That’s why I kept my eyes and ears open to the cavalcade of coincidental news, working almost obsessively to help it shape what I was trying to share.  That’s why I let myself feel driven to push this out so hard, so fast, getting Liz Franklin’s story into written form.

Of course, now that means I need to find a way to take this message of hers, and get it to folks in a way that someone else out there can actually read it, maybe even benefit.  Funny how that works, huh?

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So the funny thing is, my book was supposed to be non-fiction: half-memoir, half-philosophy, half-childrearing.  (Yes, it was supposed to be three halves.)  It actually started off that way, with me starting to talk about having recently become a parent who had a pretty good bead on how to really pay attention to the kid’s tiny wants and needs.  I started talking about some of my past and how I felt it had helped me get my head situated, thinking maybe I could convey some idea of what worked for me in a way that might help out somebody else.

I think I got about a page or so in before the story got away from me, having been claimed by Liz Franklin.  I even had to go back and completely redo what I’d written, because it was her past I needed to write, not mine.  Before I knew it, she had introduced me to her Incorporated States of America, and had begun dictating her life story as quickly as I could type.

And I had to type pretty fast to keep up.  She had a lot to say, this fictional activist for a more Christlike community, and I felt like this figment wanted it said right, and right away.  Whenever I took too long to get a chapter down, I started to feel the crushing weight of an arbitrary deadline.  I actually had trouble getting to sleep at times, unless I promised myself I’d put extra time to writing the following day.

I don’t know how that sounds to you, but to me it was pretty odd, and at times incredibly annoying.  As I told a friend of mine, I felt less like an author and more like a fictitious medium.  It was more Ghost than Ghost Whisperer, though, with me feeling more like Whoopi Goldberg than Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Not to say it was all a six-month episode of automatic writing 500+ pages.  A lot of my own understanding of social, economic, community and even spiritual justice went into When Atlas Shirked.  I gave up much of my Thanksgiving vacation heavily researching income distribution and tax structures, struggling to ascertain a relatively simple representation of the system in my own America, and how to convey its ridiculous unfairness in a remotely engaging form.  (See Chapter 8: We used to think, but now we know.)  My entire Christmas/New Years Break was spent trying to disentangle the vast spaghetti-bowl of the global agribusiness-energies-tradewars Unholy Pact, and what this could mean to Liz and the hazardous state of her world.  First Quarter 2012 was a struggle to keep up with an incredibly stressful push at my day job, give my little guy loving attention until his bedtime, and then research and describe what it could take for an Interfaith community to lead the charge against a final push by the Totalitarian Kleptocracy that was claiming their country.  But as draining as it all was, the pushing from the story matched the pull I felt from things in my own world that deserve greater attention, that need so much to be heard.

So yeah, while I can’t fully explain why I felt so driven to push through a Christian-perspective narrative of fighting for Social Justice, it’s no mystery where it came from.  Though Liz Franklin’s America is not our America, it could be — for bad or for good, depending on how well we connect with one another to find solutions to the crises we’re facing.

What does surprise me is that my story is so very religiously Christian, since I’ve always considered religious details to be a rather personal matter.  (You’ll note that the Archives in this blog are rather Omnidenominational.)  I guess it makes sense though, since the current narratives in the American discourse are dominated by a Christian perspective that’s so at odds with the one I grew up believing.  It actually rather hurts to see such divisiveness and judgmentalism pushed forward as the only possible Christian perspective, and I kept waiting for folks to understand that there is another way.  I figured it was really important for the world to understand this, so I waited patiently for that understanding to come.

Though as very patient as I can be, I can be even more relentlessly persistent once that point of patience has passed.  I guess part of me figured it was done waiting, and had to give a shot at helping that message be spread.

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Wow, so I’m trying to share some thoughts about When Atlas Shirked, and I find I’m not sure where to begin!  So I figure I’ll start at the beginning.

As you can tell from the archives, I’m pretty free with my thoughts once they get going, but haven’t been that good at sharing them consistently.  I absolutely never saw myself able to hold a train of thought long enough to write a book.  In fact, that’s the one thing I always swore I’d never be able to do.

So then one day I was sitting in a coffee shop that was hosting a regional job fair, supporting the friend who needed a ride.  While she was going through the rounds of interviews, I helped keep track of other applicants’ seats and watched their stuff.  Between their own interviews, I chatted with them and generally tried to help them feel more relaxed at the prospect of competing for the limited jobs that are out there.

I ended up speaking alone with this guy named Dean.  The topic had turned to “where we’re from”, and I talk about coming from a relatively fundamentalist Christian background, and how I learned much from that to carry with me in all the other ways I’ve learned to learn, and so on.  I then said something like, “You know, the usual.”

He then politely informed me that he didn’t see that as usual, at all.  Rather, whenever talk turns to things like religion or Christianity especially, it’s generally fairly divisive in an All or Nothing kind of way.  That either one is completely, doggedly pro-their-own-religion and anti-all-else, or one has renounced one’s old religion with quite some unkind things to say about where they’ve been.  And that he never has seen someone so casually respectful of all people and their hopes and beliefs, certainly not sitting chatting in a coffee shop.  Those weren’t his exact words, but that’s generally what I took away from what he said.

Though I resisted it at first, I soon realized he was right, which was so very wrong.  Cause I think most people are somewhat aware of that interconnectedness among us, and all it would take is some decent examples to help us share it.

So, on Dean’s advice/request, I went home and started to try writing some decent examples.  Within a day or so the project had taken on a life of its own, somewhat taking over mine.  For months, I struggled to keep up with it as well as the rest of my full-time life, barely making it through.  I wasn’t even sure just where I was going with it, just that it had somewhere it wanted to go.  And that I felt pretty strongly that I had to help it get there.

And that led me to letting a book come into being, without much thought to where it was going to go once it got here.  Which is not at all the way I’d recommend writing and releasing a novel, especially one you’d like folks to find and read.  I definitely would have planned out target audiences, and researched how to write what they would seek out, and so on and so forth.  It feels really a backwards way of doing things, now that I stop to think about it.

But if I’d ever stopped to think about it, I would have been paralyzed from moving forward.  I certainly never would have written half of what went into that book.  So I wouldn’t even be here, wondering what just happened.

I guess, out of all those 594 words I just wrote, that’s the lesson from this whole post.  Something I’m going to go brew a hot cup of tea and have a nice, long think about.

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As mentioned in my last post, I am in the process of finishing up a project.  I have just finished a book, When Atlas Shirked.  It has just been launched as an eBook via an experimental publishing house, Nexus of Now Media.  It can be purchased at the site (though the immediate download isn’t working, due to issues with the server), or also at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

To save resources (ours and the earth’s), it has been launched as a Digital First Edition.  I’m planning to have it available via print, so since our funding’s pretty low, we’ve launched a Kickstarter Pledge Drive.  We’ve set a relatively ambitious goal of $2,500 to be raised in the next 28 days, ambitious because we’re charging ahead with getting stuff out there before advertising, etc.  That’s what’s making this “experimental”.

Why are we pushing so hard, so fast?  Because we want to get the message out.  This book is the culmination of so many of my hopes and dreams and concerns and fears for my fellow human beings, and that has made it equal parts philosophy, religion, politics, community, relationship, science fiction, and even psychology.  It’s told in first-person retrospective from a young Christian woman, whose understanding is opened up through Love to other ways of seeing the world.  And most of all, it’s a book of Love, at a time when I feel our world needs Love more than ever.

Because you see, I feel we’re at a bit of a crossroads.  Especially in America, we’ve got folks all at each others’ throats, treating one another like enemies even though we’re all really on the same team.  In life on this planet, there’s no Us versus Them, since we all sink or swim together.  So the hope is that through When Atlas Shirked, we could spread the message of how we could stop dragging each other down, so we can save ourselves together.

I’ll be writing more over the next while about what I’m trying to share in When Atlas Shirked.  In the meantime, you can read the first three chapters here.

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