Cranky Old Man Syndrome

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  • #43336
    Hope Ann
    @hope-ann

    @the-inkspiller

    Did someone say cynical? I’d never do that. Like ever. *coughs* I mingle sarcasm and cynicism to the extent I can’t keep them separate. Being an optimistic cynic would describe me pretty well, with expecting good in life and yet not actually expecting anything to ever go right. Don’t ask me how those go together. I don’t know.

    But I get what you’re saying. I think lots of writers go through times like that, and it’s not even that they sugar coat it so much as they don’t talk about it. Sometimes because they don’t have people to talk to. Sometimes from some sense of not wanting to inconvenience others or drag them down. (realizes that could be counted as criticizing this thread, which it’s. ūüėõ It’s great we can talk about this and that you posted. There are just lots of introverts who don’t know if they can/should talk about it).

    For me, I share some struggles on my blog after I’ve gone through them. Generally though, when I’m going through a rough time, I keep my own council, talk with my best friend and get strength from her, pray, etc. and then show a brave face and meet the world head-on, so to say. It’s not so much that the writers on forums have everything put together. They just tend to use the forum for more light-hearted communication and take care of personal struggles elsewhere for a wide range of reasons.

    I enjoy stories with deep themes and ‘darkness’ as well. Not for the sake of the darkness, but because it’s in the despare and the pain and sorrow that the power of the light and hope and shine true. A light against a sunny day isn’t going to be noticed. A well-worked theme in a darker story is going to be much more obvious.

    As far as writing/life in general, working on focus might help. I tend to do this every few months. I’m excited about writing. I have all kinds of things I want to do. I drive myself (I like schedules and deadlines and that sort of thing) and then it all kinda falls apart and I have to refocus again (I’m working on keeping a steady focus constantly, but it’s a day by day struggle, not something I can do once and then be done with.)

    Basically, I take a step back from my work and ask myself what the point is. Why am I doing this? What is the point of my life (you know, those light, fluffy questions)? I’m supposed to be glorifying God. In my case, I know the main tool I will use to do that is writing. And so I can kinda build up my focus/mindset reminding myself why I write. Why it’s important, what is more important than writing, etc.

    Because, quite frankly, writing is exausting. And lonely. With good friends who write, its easier. But one still spends months writing and editing and rewriting and even if they see progress no one else sees the final results until publication and they wonder what you are doing with your life. It’s very easy to for one’s focus to slip into ‘I need to get this done by this time’ and ‘this needs to be perfect’ etc. and forget the reason we’re doing this. Also, if we are doing it for God’s glory, then we can rely on Him for his help.

    And… I’m rambling. I’m sorry. But with your current WIP, I think all writing can be meaningful, esp. all Christian writing. It doesn’t have to have a salvation message (normally it shouldn’t) to have a theme that will stir people even if they don’t know why, or to point people to something higher and something more than they can see around them. Most likely, you already have elements of that in your story already and just need to find them and pull them out for development.

    Victory in the march. Hope in the destination.

    #43422
    Anne of Lothlorien
    @anne-of-lothlorien

      @the-inkspiller

      First off, I agree writing forums are predominately female, and I’m guessing a reason for that is partially because a lot of Christian young ladies do not opt for careers in the world over waiting for a husband and a family, so they turn to writing as something they can do without going out into the working world.

      Nextly…

      I am by no means an authority on this. I’ve only been on this earth for sixteen years and I don’t even remember four of them, so that’s not a lot of experience. But I’ve learned some things, and had wonderful friends who have helped me, and been through struggles like yours, and I’d like to share some things.

      I don’t believe that there is anything wrong in discussing and writing about the darker side of life, but only as long as you don’t take it too far. Human complexities, sinful natures and tendencies, and the evil in this world cannot be ignored, but should not be dwelled on continually. Talking about it is not bad; I’ve enjoyed some very good conversations with @josiah about moral dilemmas usually involving death and murder. Talking through hard things and sharing complicated and deep struggles is good not only for understanding each other as people and friends and helping each other, but for better writing, because let’s face it, life isn’t happy and cheerful all the time and when your books are like that, readers can sense the fake-ness.

      But I believe to continually think on dark and difficult things is not only dangerous to ourselves, putting ourselves in danger of being caught in a world we believe is only made of trial and ‘why me, God?’ and darkness, but disobeys God’s commands. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things¬†are¬†honest, whatsoever things¬†are¬†just, whatsoever things¬†are¬†pure, whatsoever things¬†are¬†lovely, whatsoever things¬†are¬†of good report; if¬†there be¬†any virtue, and if¬†there be¬†any praise, think on these things.” We can put ourselves in a place where we are concentrating, even without meaning to, on the worst things in life, and missing out on the joy that we have as Christians.

      God commands us to rejoice evermore. This doesn’t mean however, that we can never allow a smile to leave our lips, that we must always have a laugh and a cheerful face in front of death, illness, depression, etc. Ecclesiastes 3 says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” There are times and places were tears are needed. Friends to spill your heart’s dark thoughts to are needed. But through those times and after those times we need to be reminded of God’s amazing and everlasting love and the fact that because of Him we do not need to dwell in the darkness.

      I had an experience with this months ago, and I’d like to share it. It’s also very, very hard for me to share my heart with anyone, really, at all, because I’m afraid, plus, being a girl, I’m more emotional and I get emotional about sharing my emotions. I’m trying to do better, but this may still be awkward. Some of my dearest friends haven’t even heard this, but I really feel like I need to share this for this topic. I’ll really try to keep it short, but it may be hard.

      Last year I went to the hospital with my parents because my newest sibling was being born. Over the course of the day we found out that my mom needed a c-section birth, and I wasn’t allowed to stay, of course, for that. They put me in a waiting room while the delivery happened. Time passed, and I could hear people shouting and see nurses running by me. A deep, heavy dread filled me, because somehow I felt that this was because of us. Then I was told that my baby sister had been born with Down Syndrome and was having breathing problems, and my mom could be dying because she was bleeding very, very badly on the inside. I didn’t even know what to do, or think. I couldn’t even find the words to pray. I sat in a chair, waiting for something better to happen. I felt very, very alone. The nurses that had checked on me were gone, my dad was gone, and our senior pastor that had come with his wife was now gone. When I was told that my mom had come out of surgery alive, and my sister was in stable condition, I wanted to feel joyful, but somehow I couldn’t. I knew I should be overjoyed and sobbing gratitude to God for allowing my mother to live, but somehow I couldn’t.

      My mom was moved to the ICU and I wasn’t allowed to stay, so our senior pastor and his wife volunteered to take to me to their son and daughter-in-law’s house for food, then to a friend of mine’s so I could spend the night. I agreed, just wanting to get out of the hospital. They took me to their son’s place, and it turned out that they were actually having a party for one of their boys. There were maybe a dozen or so relatives gathered around the fireplace, smiling and watching the little boy open presents, and I was sitting at the table, staring out the door into the night.

      I was at the edge of something dark, something dreadful that I didn’t want to go into, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself. I let my thoughts get darker and darker, hateful, miserable, and angry. I wasn’t grateful that God had spared my mom’s life, I was angry at Him for letting it ever be in danger. I wasn’t grateful that my baby sister was in stable condition and alive, I was angry at Him that He let her be born with Down Syndrome.

      Then another of our senior pastor’s sons, a young man I knew from our church, an uncle to the boy having the party, saw me sitting at the table. He scooped up his older brother’s i-pad, sat down, and asked me if I’d seen one before. I shrugged, so he turned it on and started showing me things. Now I know that God sent him at just the right time for me. He didn’t even know it, but just by coming over and talking to me, he’d kept me from going over the edge into a horrible mind-set. Maybe he saw that I was needing to talk to someone and decided to help, maybe not. But either way, just the fact that he came over and talked to me made me realize the wrong direction I was heading.

      He pulled up goofy pictures he’d taken of his nephews and I laughed. I laughed and it sounded strange to me, because how could I laugh when these things had happened to me? And I answered my own question. Because God gives us joy in trials. He gives us friends to let us mess around with their brother’s thousand dollar i-pads.

      My friend opened an art app and handed the i-pad to me. And that was what I needed. I needed that quiet corner of a strange kitchen, my thoughts that I put into that i-pad with sketches, and a friend to sit by and comment on how great my art was. As maybe cheesy, too easy, or odd as that sounds, God used an i-pad to bring me out of that dark pit I was falling in to.

      Now, my mother is in full health again, and my baby sister is one of the happiest parts of my life. Her middle name is Joy, and we picked out that name before she was born, before we knew we would now have years of difficult and possibly painful life for her and us. Down Syndrome comes with many issues and problems. Her heart had two holes. She had breathing difficulties for months. She’s sick very easily. She had developmental problems and even at a year old is only at the physical level of a six month old. But her name is still Joy. And I still have joy.

      Which brings me to the end of what I want to say. Darkness if a part of life. A very sad, but very real part of life. No one can avoid it forever. Discussing it, writing about it, and even thinking about it isn’t wrong, but as I have found out from an experience I never want to go through again, dwelling far too much on it can have horrible consequences. The peace and joy that God gives us is not something that will fade when this world does, when God wipes away our tears and death and suffering is no more, those things will remain. And that is what I think we need to always, always remember. Depressions, death, anger, darkness, demons, sin, and everything related to those are very real, very close parts of our lives, but it isn’t the end. We can use those things in our stories to point our readers to the ultimate giver of joy, Jesus Christ.

      This may be the longest post I have ever posted, but I felt that I needed to say all this. I hope, @the-inkspiller, that this helps you.

      I'm short, I like words, and I love people.
      No, I didn't draw my profile pic.

      #43424
      Anne of Lothlorien
      @anne-of-lothlorien

        I also just thought of this to share as well. Music is a big part of my life, and there are some songs that have affected me deeply. If you don’t mind ‘back-beat’ in songs, this is a very powerful song written by my favorite Contemporary Christian music band, For King and Country. All of their songs are amazing, but this deals with some of what this topic is about.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5cPQg3oq-o

        I'm short, I like words, and I love people.
        No, I didn't draw my profile pic.

        #44062
        The Inkspiller
        @the-inkspiller

        @hope-ann, @anne-of-lothlorien, @northerner, @morreafirebird

        I apologize for my lengthy absence. Prior to the 12th, I was going into crunch mode on my book, shortly before taking a much desired (and retrospectively much needed) vacation to spend with my girlfriend and her family. I am in fact still up there, but she’s expired her leave, so I’m staying one more day to get a last evening with her and her brothers, as well as to pack up before I drive home for 13 hours on the morrow.

        Furthermore, I am astounded at the length of your responses. I will try to respond thoroughly to everything in this post, or die trying. (Hopefully not!)

        Audrey:
        My difficulty in finding how to serve God in my book contract is that it is by nature more trivial than I would like. It’s an adventure book for an RPG, and I am stymied by the compulsion to make my Christianity inoffensive in it – which is compounded by the background, which in itself is based on a sort of fantastical clandestine cold war between factions of fallen angels, some ‘good’ and trying to earn their way back to Heaven (in one case simply humbly serving while awaiting their final sentence), and most ‘evil’ or vying for dominance over Earth and Hell. Furthermore, the specific setting of my adventure is in the atheistic Soviet Union in 1986 – though that itself provides fertile grounds for closet-Christians hiding their faith from the ever watchful eye of the KGB.

        Basically, I struggle to be clear with my faith in this book, whether this is an appropriate place for a dialogue on faith, and whether a dialogue on faith would be taken seriously in what is ultimately a game.

         

        Hope,

        Thank you for your counsel and camaraderie. I suppose I hadn’t thought about it in that way, that talking about darkness and personal struggles can be a burden on others. Perhaps I was being a bit egoistic in initiating this thread. My struggle was and still remains my current book contract, which as written above – is a game. And while I very much enjoy designing the game, the plot, the game mechanics, at the end of the day I wonder if any of it will be taken seriously. In such a format, is it possible that in writing my faith in will simply create opportunities for people to blaspheme via a game? And yet I must use my gift to honor God, not myself.

         

        Anne,

        Thank you for being so vulnerable and honest in your reply. While I don’t know what it’s like to be standing by while my mother’s life hangs in the balance, I can empathize with the struggle of a disabled sibling. My older brother suffered a severe attack of meningitis before I was born, when he was only two, and the illness destroyed the language centers of his brain. I have grown up with an older brother who never learned to speak, whose mind is absolutely opaque, who will never grow up himself. In the past I took comfort in the explanation that God placed him in my family to teach us all patience, but I still don’t really know the answer. All I can do is try to be a better brother than I have been.

        Thank you to all of you for your encouragement and your persistence in writing even as I have been neglectful myself in my response. I don’t know if I’ll ever outgrow my cynicism or paranoia, but perhaps I can become a happier cynic.

         

        Sincerely,

        Jonathan Wong

        Non nobis Domine, sed nomini, Tuo da gloriam.

        #44068
        Hope Ann
        @hope-ann

        @the-inkspiller I didn’t mean it like that, honestly. I think having a thread like this can be very good. Especially when one person brings up a topic that others think about but either aren’t sure how to go about posting. My point was only that, just because a forum is all ‘happy’ doesn’t mean the people there don’t have similar struggles. Generally, it just means they aren’t talking about them for some reason or another.

        Writing such a project as you are can be hard. And you won’t be able to incorporate your faith to the same extent as if you were writing for yourself. Though I do think things you can instill Christian values into something like that, even if it is only through things as simple as cause and effect.

        Also, I’m assuming this is something you’re doing for a job? Now, I don’t think someone should write bad things for money. But I do think there is room for writing and making a living even if everything isn’t the height of Christian fiction. And that’s another whole conversation in and of itself – one I was actually talking with friends about the other day and might start a topic on soon. But I don’t think there needs to be guilt over doing something to support yourself. A Christian’s life and witness should shine through their work, be it at a restaurant or at a factory or in writing, but I believe that expands to their very lifestyle, not just the words they pound out or how many people they can talk to while on the job. Not sure if that made sense or not… Hopefully it’s some help.

        Victory in the march. Hope in the destination.

        #44076
        The Inkspiller
        @the-inkspiller

        @hope-ann

        I didn’t take it as a barb, not at all! But I know all too well how easy it is for myself to get wrapped up in my brain-basket and forget about the world, forget about everyone else and how they feel.

        Non nobis Domine, sed nomini, Tuo da gloriam.

        #44090
        K.M. Small
        @morreafirebird

        @the-inkspiller I’d say that’s a pretty great storyline to put in the background. And as for putting in a dialogue about your faith, think of Tolkien: never once in LotR did he argue for Christianity. He simply wrote Truth, which ultimately pointed back to God (those of us who are Christians saw that). There are other Christian authors as well who don’t write explicitly Christian stories. As long as it points toward Truth in some way (which can be done so subtly a secular audience wouldn’t notice it), it’s still serving God. And so long as it’s not outright sinful, anything we do can be in the service and glory of God. I hope that made sense…

        ~ Khylie
        "Beauty will save the world." - Dostoevsky

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