July 24, 2018 at 4:25 pm #42090
So I suspect I’m going to be alone on this, and my problem was highlighted by our recent acquisition of a new puppy, whose exuberance is alternately giving mild bemusement and grumpy consternation to our 12 year old Lhasa Apso. Rather than give in to the temptation to rant, I’m going to give the short version.
Even though I’m only twenty one and therefore really not that old, I often find myself negatively disposed towards the generally lighter, brighter, happier, more juvenile spirit I find around Story Embers, and indeed around most Christian writing websites that I’ve encountered (I haven’t signed up for Jerry Jenkins’ guild because I’m already spending too much money on writing circles that I rarely contribute to.) I’m trying to think of the character that I’m resembling, but I feel like the cranky old man who looks out his window and sneers at the daffodils and daisies and grumbles about rabbits and puppies and kittens. My writing is darker, my themes are darker, I hate making up cute things or things that are funny just for being funny (unless I’m acting a cynical reprobate in my humor), my stories are almost always self-serious, my characters are rarely altruistic or noble-hearted, and I’m pretty pessimistic about human nature (mine too) as well.
Oh, and I listen to heavy metal and military music when everyone else has normal music tastes. But that’s frankly trivial.
Overall, I feel like a terribly out-of-place cynic. (Also I noticed that writing circles in general skew heavily female. That’s just an unrelated observation.)
Partly I want answers. I want to know if I am justified in my feelings, and I want to know what to do about it. Is my cynicism something that I need to cure myself of?
And partly I just want another cynic to plumb the depths of human darkness with. 😐
Snd hlp pls.
Non nobis Domine, sed nomini, Tuo da gloriam.July 24, 2018 at 5:07 pm #42094Evelyn@evelyn
@the-inkspiller I think I understand how you feel, correct me if I’m wrong.
Sometimes life is really hard and dark and while your dealing with that socializing with happy, go-lucky friends is depressing and shallow. I’ve been in situations and social circles (and actually am right now,) where it’s always, just always happy and an “I’m doing amazing!” and where people aren’t up front or honest about their struggles. It makes me feel like I can’t sit with someone to just talk about the harder, darker side of life without them looking down on me, feeling like they won’t actually open up and share. All I want is someone to discuss troubles how to over come it which is what I want to do. Thankfully I do have friends like that I can open up with and be honest with, but only being in a situation where everyone is wearing a mask, where everyone is saying they’re fine, they’re amazing, can be depressing and bad for a person.
Is that what you are experiencing? Or have I misunderstood?
I’m personally a someone who sees the use of darker stories, of talking about struggles and not sugar-coating life in your stories, but I’ve already talked about that with you. How can it ever help someone to lie about the struggles of life? I don’t know, I feel like I’m ranting now, so I’ll stop. 😛July 24, 2018 at 5:33 pm #42099
That is very much how I feel. Outwardly, I’m doing fine, even better than before; my job outlook is leagues better than it was a week ago. Internally though – beyond the usual struggles to write, write well, write honorably, write at all, hardly a day goes by when I’m not fighting the great strangling snake of my sin-nature, and it often seems like no one else goes through this when I know that just can’t be true. Thankfully I know people in my church who are honest with their problems and at least supportive in my own struggles, but I know very few writers who are transparent about their lives and their problems – it’s very much sugar and sunshine, and enough sugar can make you sick by its sweetness.
Indirectly related, I find it difficult sometimes to ask useful questions in community, and find myself better equipped to give answers to others’ problems rather than take care of my own. I feel like I have little progress to show when accountability time comes-a-calling, as my current project is by contract more-or-less confidential, and no one I know has as any more experience in writing RPGs than I do.
I too don’t fully understand purely happy stories apart from picture books and kids’ stories, though I know they can be told well; my girlfriend isn’t much of a writer (she hates the physical act of reading but she’ll listen to theological audiobooks all day long), but she’s very good at inventing and telling silly stories on the fly.
In any case, I appreciated you taking notice, and taking the time to commiserate with me. I have to apologize for virtually forgetting about you. Truly – I am very much to blame for my isolation in community, and I’m sorry for that.
I’ve started taking a look through your blog. I particularly liked “Human.”
Non nobis Domine, sed nomini, Tuo da gloriam.July 24, 2018 at 5:54 pm #42105Josiah DeGraaf@josiah
I can actually relate to a lot of what you’re saying here. Most of my stories don’t tend toward the cute/funny side of the spectrum, and while I don’t know I’d say my writing is dark per se, it certainly deals with dark aspects of life at times and is darker than many other Christian works out there.
Here’s my perspective:
– I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being more attracted to writing more-serious fiction that deals with the darker side of life. I actually think that we need these sorts of books. The goal of storytelling is to reveal the human experience for what it is, and it isn’t all fun and games. A lot of it isn’t, actually. Case in point: the Book of Judges.
– I think it is valuable to remember that there is a value in portraying the other side as well. There’s a Psalm 8 for every Psalm 13. Depicting the whole human experience means dealing with the darker side of human nature, but it also means showing the grace, kindness, and goodness of God as well. The challenge of both sides of the writing spectrum is to depict the aspects of the human experience they most feel called to depict as well as they can–while also appreciating those who are depicting very different sides of the human experience.
So I’m all ears for conversations wrestling with the complexities of human depravity. We need to carefully think through such things as Christians, and while cynicism can be bad, I don’t think it’s always bad when you’re cynical about the right things. 🙂
Lit fanatic. Eclectic reader. Theology nerd. Writing fantasy at https://josiahdegraaf.comJuly 24, 2018 at 9:46 pm #42137Evelyn@evelyn
@the-inkspiller I’m glad to know that the people in your church are open and honest about struggles! I feel like often the downfall of Christian movies and stories and art is when they portray Christians as having perfect lives and non-believers to have the terrible, struggle-filled, sinful lives. The truth is that everyone is broken. Everyone has struggles. Even Christians. I just wish more people would be open about them. Powerful stories to me are honest. Honest about the dark and thus honest about the light; Those that say: “Hey, life is hard. We all sin and struggle but there is hope still and life can be beautiful if we strive to overcome the darkness as much as we can and cling to the things out side this world: God and His love.” Like @josiah said, as an artist you show the darkness, not because we like to dwell and reveal in it, not at all! As the cliched example is: the stars are brighter in the night.
Glad I was of some help. (And I didn’t think you forgot me or felt left out or whatever! I actually do that sometimes – and even worse with people I meet in person. 😛 So, it doesn’t matter.)July 26, 2018 at 12:53 pm #42264
@the-inkspiller I can start off by saying that I resonate with this a lot, considering that a lot of the time I feel too cynical and sarcastic for most people to understand 😛 It feels out of place in most of the online community, especially because I’m unsure if I’m offending people or not by showing that side of my personality, so I tend to lean toward the more extroverted, upbeat side of myself (which may be bad, but I’m working on that) and save the other thoughts for people I know I can really trust. And I might be wrong, but I think that a lot of people are cynical, but worry about sounding negative and depressing online, thus you never see much of it.
So besides echoing everyone else, I don’t think there’s so much particularly wrong with cynicism, so long as you don’t see that as the only side of the story. There’s a lighter side of life, but there’s also a darker side, and neither should be ignored, though these days, people tend to ignore or hide the darker side, in my opinion.
I hope those thoughts were of some help 🙂
- This reply was modified 2 years, 10 months ago by K.M. Small.
"Beauty will save the world." - DostoevskyJuly 26, 2018 at 1:22 pm #42272Daeus Lamb@daeus-lamb
Hey, I really appreciate your post. I do think there are a lot of people who feel like you.
I’m pretty happy and lighthearted at the moment, but I actually just came out of a long bout of depression. It was really weird. Like, I was sinking lower and lower and feeling desperate then one day I woke up and I was totally fine…
Anyway, if you have cynical days, that’s not necessarily bad. Yes, do hold on to God’s promises and don’t quit hoping because he’s totally faithful, but there are appropriate times for struggling and questioning and feeling down. These times are often major turning points in our lives and make us into who we need to become.
Wow, that just sounded really preachy…
Well, have a nice day. Or have a horrible day. Either one.
👖 🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢August 1, 2018 at 12:24 pm #42665
Thank you all for weighing in. It’s good to know that I’m not alone.
In many respects, part of my trouble is theological. I have a tendency to fixate on the authority and fear of God, and struggle to grasp His love. I’ve been working through that lately – it still astounds me how patient God has been with me, even as I flounder again and again, and even when I’m frustrated with my lack of success, He reminds me how gentle He has been, and how much harsher He could be. I guess that’s why He’s led me to study Jeremiah recently – intermixed between doom and gloom for rebellious Israel, God reminds them again and again that if they will only come to Him with a contrite heart, He will restore them and make them righteous once again.
Another thing is that it seems like I’m not spending time on ‘meaningful’ writing (and also that I’m not working quite as long as I want to be.) More or less, the only thing I write is my RPG adventure for my book contract, with the rest of my time devoted to studying or a couple hours of unproductive video-game time in the evenings. I have an obsession with working that is more often a thorn than an aid – an ascetic ideal that I fail to live up to more often than not. I guess I wish I actually treated my writing as a job (all of it, not just the book contract, but my novels and stories as well) so that I could justify to myself spending all of my hours working on it.
Or maybe I’m a lunatic. After all, God modeled a work / rest cycle for us in the creation of the world, and relentless toil is not exactly looked on as a virtue (though hard work is.) What are your thoughts on this?
Non nobis Domine, sed nomini, Tuo da gloriam.August 1, 2018 at 5:29 pm #42684
@the-inkspiller I think work is definitely important, but what I always have to ask myself is if I’m being busy for the sake of being busy or if my work is being fruitful. Then I have to ask what the fruits of my work are. Is what I’m working on actually necessary? Is it something God actually wants me to do? More often than not, I find that I’m being busy on not very important things and using that as an excuse to avoid my writing, which I feel He has called me to do.
But then there’s the struggle of actually slowing down and resting every once in a while, which I personally find harder than the actual working 😛 Scheduled rest is necessary then, be it for ten minutes or an entire day every week. I think the key is asking what you’re getting out of the things you’re doing — success, obedience to God’s will, or something else?
"Beauty will save the world." - DostoevskyAugust 1, 2018 at 11:37 pm #42723
First off, I want to say that I’m a 15-going-on-16-year-old girl that’s been home-schooled her entire life and has no practical skills other than horse riding, math, and CPR. And if that doesn’t make you think twice about my advice, well, then you’re no ordinary human. But we cynics rarely are.
I relate. Or at least, in a way. I’m cynical. My friends and siblings call me pessimistic for a reason. Yes, I can be happy, but ordinarily I just don’t see why smiling has to be my “resting face”. It gets tiring to go around pretending things are all right, and I personally don’t understand people who do. No, I’m not the most open person about my feelings, but if I don’t feel like being around you, I’ll show it. If I don’t want to talk, I won’t. And if I’m feeling particularly down, I get cynical and pensive at the same time.
I used to get angry. Very, very angry. I’m trying not to any more, so I personally think being cynical is a step up. Lots of people don’t agree.
But I’m not going to dive into my life story right now. I know I have faults. I know I should try harder, but some days I don’t feel like it. I get down, and depressed, and it’s not just a ‘teenage thing’.
My writing goes the same. I actually made a topic here, asking people what they thought about darkness in fiction. Because my writing is dark. There are demons, and Satan, and evil people. No one’s perfect. One of my main character’s mother was burned at the stake and then he went on to earn a rep as an assassin, only after killing his father–the man who turned his mother in to the guard. If they caused him pain, why shouldn’t he cause them some? After all, that’s human nature.
Not that the story ends completely hopeless. In fact, by the end, there’s plenty of hope. No insane noble acts, but ordinary people trying to make a difference. Fighting, and dying for a difference. There’s blood and tears, and people hurt each other and hate each other–but in the end, a difference is made. Sure, it was hard, but they did it. Even if some didn’t make it.
I’m ranting right now, so I’m going to stop before I take up an entire page of ST’s forum space.
Au revoir, mon amie.
"A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."
- C. S. LewisAugust 3, 2018 at 10:29 am #42817
Thanks for the input. I suppose I don’t really have an answer to that yet; it seems that my writing work is more often than not self-serving rather than God serving, being that my main focus is this book contract and my novel has been lying neglected for some time now.
I’ve noticed we writers tend to have a fascination with dragons, phoenixes, and other winged dispensers of flame. Just an observation.
I understand your bit about preferring to be cynical rather than angry. When I was more idealistic and political, I spent a lot of energy being frustrated about how the world looked and how wrong the world went, and especially how powerless I was to do anything about my beliefs. In finding Christ, I realized (in a positive way) that it didn’t matter; this old, broken world would be made anew, and it wouldn’t be by my hands, but by my God’s. It was not up to me to save the world; my task was simply to obey my Lord’s will.
Which was good, because around that time I was politically drifting towards fascism, which could have been ugly. 😐
Idealism should be tempered with an understanding that the world we live in does not reflect how it should be, and will not reflect that truth until He comes again in glory. Until that day, it is better to live trusting in our God and our brothers and sisters in Christ than to trust the half-truths of this fallen world.
And you’re right about depression, it’s not just a teenage thing; I have walked side by side with despair since I was in high school, and only since I came to Christ in sincerity have I been walking sometimes in the sunshine. We have to remember – you and me – that the dark will not be victorious. We write about evil deeds and imperfect people and monsters wearing human skins to unmask the evils that dwell in men’s hearts and to show that God’s goodness will triumph – He will have the last laugh, and we will laugh with Him.
In any case, I located your google doc and have it bookmarked for me to return to read. I still have one more exam to study for come Monday, then a nursing application to hurriedly put together, but feel free to message me again around the 9th if you still need more readers for it or a reader for something else. My deadline for my book contract draws near so I can’t promise a whole document edit, but I can probably spare the time to give a thorough critique to a chapter.
But thank you for taking the time to write. I appreciate your rant.
Non nobis Domine, sed nomini, Tuo da gloriam.August 3, 2018 at 4:30 pm #42854
@the-inkspiller hmm…I understand that pretty well. Is there a way to make the writing for your book contract not so much self-serving? Not that you quit doing it, but do it with a different attitude/intention might help. Beyond that, I’m don’t quite have any other thoughts, considering that I often feel everything I’m doing isn’t what God wants me to do. I’m unsure if that’s despair or the truth.
"Beauty will save the world." - DostoevskyAugust 3, 2018 at 10:31 pm #42874
Yes, I do have a slight fascination with fire. My current novel’s MC actually controls fire. A bit of a cliche, but I’m trying to make it original as I can. And dragons are epic.
As for political views…. I can’t say I really bother to keep up with the times, but I can say I’m against abortion, pro guns, etc… so I’m sort of a Republican(I’m no Liberal, I know that much!), but I’ve always hated the study of government, unless it’s something I’ll actually use someday. Not that I hate the government, people just…. irritate me. My parents are actually making me take two classes at the school this year, to “get me out of the house”. Yay. (Excuse me being rather cynical. I just don’t understand why I should enjoy being around a bunch of immature and inappropriate teens all day. (And yes, I know I’m also being rather high of myself to consider myself not immature, but I think I am slightly more mature than the general teen.))
On another note, I am a bit idealistic, I suppose. Let’s just say I see the world as it could be, when all other people seem to do is “live in the moment”. Not that that is bad, again, it’s just not me.
But for the longest time(and probably still) I tried to “fix” everything myself. Not that I went around campaigning for world peace(that’ll never happen[and that’s not pessimism, it’s just a fact.]), but I became obsessed with my novel, actually. I thought… maybe if I tried hard enough, I could change something. People would read it, and maybe, maybe, they’d see something out of it.
I became insomniac because of it. I got depressed, frustrated with how little progress I was making. (I’m spilling my guts to a total stranger, but hey, at least you understand, in a way. Plus, it’s easier for me to do it over paper. I’m not the best with words.)
After a while, I finally realized that no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t going to be able to get anywhere myself. So I let my novel rest for a while, and picked up another long-overdue project. (Which is actually what that Google Doc is. It’s a working progress, and due to some personal issues, I’m on a short break from that as well[just till the 20th] but I’m really liking the way it’s turning out.)
Which is where I am now.
Depression has never really been a thing for me until high school(I suppose all the hormones and etc don’t help much), in all actuality, I was a pretty happy and bright child. But I was also very naive to the ways of the world, and though I am still not up to par on all the current events or fads of my own generation, I’m much less idealistic and… what’s the word… happy-go-lucky? I’m no uptight, complete OCD person(though I do have my moments), but I’m by no means energetic. I agree with most, I’m “comfortably lazy”. I am apathetic towards sports, outings, or anything of the like, but I work hard enough to maintain an A average. And if I don’t have an A… A’s are “normal” for me. B+ isn’t bad, but anything lower…. let’s just say I’m not a particularly confident person when it comes to evaluating my own skills.
Thank you for taking the time to look up my Google Doc!(Lo and behold, the second exclamation point I’ve used today. The first is somewhere else in this post, I believe.) As I mentioned above, I’m on a short break until the 20th of this month, until after fair(I have a 4H sheep that needs to be shown and sold) and near the time my full-time job as a lifeguard ends. Hopefully then, I will be back to chapter every 5-7 days. I’m not particularly fast, but I try to keep my grammar, punctuation, and overall writing quality nice.
And I totally understand you being busy with finals. Finals are…. terrible. Fire-breathing monsters that destroy hopes and dreams. But feel free to read the story as long and as much as you like, even if you can only alpha read every now and then.
And now, I shall stop before I manage to take up any more of ST’s space. I’ve already taken up plenty ranting to you. (And I’m sorry about that, but sometimes I need to get my thoughts down on paper and you were just setting yourself up for one of my famously long posts… Anyhow, excuse the long rant. It was nice to get it out, though. 😉 )
Au revoir, mon amie.
- This reply was modified 2 years, 10 months ago by Sarah Inkdragon. Reason: Grammar mistake!
- This reply was modified 2 years, 10 months ago by Sarah Inkdragon. Reason: Grammar mistake!
"A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."
- C. S. LewisAugust 3, 2018 at 10:41 pm #42877
I wrote an incredibly long post that I don’t feel like retyping, went to edit it, and… whoosh. Gone. Would you mind seeing if you can find it? It’s rather important to me.
"A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."
- C. S. LewisAugust 10, 2018 at 11:40 am #43291Northerner@northerner
@the-inkspiller, I understand something of where you’re at — I’m rather melancholic, and being around happy people for too long has a way of making me pessimistic just to provide some balance or something. And I know what it’s like to be cynical about politics, looking for someone to take advantage of their place where they can Do Something and make the world better. And of course they don’t. The world is a sad, mess, burnt, torn-up old place, and while we should try to preserve the parts of it worth preserving, we also know it’s not going to be peaceful and perfect until pretty close to the end of time. And even then it won’t be our doing.
I happen to think the world needs a lot more fiction written by Christians that isn’t Christian Fiction. Far too much of the Christian Fiction pretends the darkness isn’t as dark as it is, when the solution is to show the darkness honestly, because that makes the light’s triumph mean so much more. A hero needs a worthy antagonist, after all. And we see a similar attitude in a lot of churches, people smiling and pretending their struggles aren’t so bad, because they have a dim notion that the Christian life is one where you’re always smiling and happy even in pain. No, not happy. Joyful. There’s a difference. Joy has nothing to do with smiling. And it’s often mixed with sorrow. (Not every church tries to hide the reality of suffering, I know.) So people try to hide their own troubles, perhaps from a decent motivation to not whine and complain and make nuisances of themselves, but often it just makes them. . . fake, I guess. Christ wasn’t happy all the time, and he suffered, and he didn’t always hide it, and it didn’t often make sense to the people who saw him. The Deliverer of his people is dying. . . okay. . . that worked well, didn’t it. Only he didn’t stay dead. . . that made everything beforehand worth it. Don’t feel obligated to act cheerful and chipper! Lots of Christians have been depressed too. . . William Cowper, and I think Handel — Handel, of Handel’s Messiah, of “For Unto Us” and “Since by Man Came Death”, yes, him (and many more people we don’t hear of).
“He will have the last laugh, and we will laugh with him.” I’m going to recommend some Chesterton, if you don’t mind? Manalive and The Man Who Was Thursday. I know you’re awfully busy, but they’re worth the read — the former is about a man who knows he’s alive and expresses his gratitude rather unconventionally — shockingly — and the latter has a lot to do with the problem of evil, and nobody knows entirely what it means, but it’s good for a lot of ideas.
Anyway, I odn’t know if this is good for anything except to say you’re not alone?
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