What is Fiction For?

Posted By on January 4, 2016

Unquestionably, there is a lot of bad fiction. I do not mean bad as in poorly written, but bad as in drawing people away from truth and therefore, from authentic meaning. But we live in a bad world, full of evil, selfishness, greed, lust, confusion, despair, meaninglessness. Of course we will find many of our cultural creations steeped in spirits such as these to express the qualities of those spirits.

But there also those among us who are undoubtedly writers, dreamers, and creative types. Visionaries. People with a vision or a truth on their heart want to share it with others, and this is where most of the best fiction comes from.

It is also unquestionable that the faculty of the imagination is a thing which men have, which is inspired and arrested by their sense experiences. From our experiences and sensations, phantasms whole and entire, incredible mixtures of those impressions, are forged in the form of ideas which captivate us, and are strung together leading us to the apprehension of truths… or illusions.

John Gardner says in “The Art of Fiction” that such art is largely succeeded in through the creation of a believable “fictional dream”–an uninterrupted experience of sensation and experience, as we see our imaginations carried and formed by the story. Well-done fiction does not interrupt this fictional dream, and it carries it to a satisfying conclusion. This is why readers become so infuriated with fiction that makes promises it doesn’t keep, that throws them out of believability of the story in some way. Readers resent a story that makes itself, in the experience of itself, unbelievable. Some of this has to do with the basic craft of storytelling, which we all have an instinct for. We may now know how to create a well-written novel, but we sure know it when we read a poor one.

The craft of storytelling is an objective craft, in a sense, because it follows the rules and design of the human imagination, and how to affect it.

It can be difficult, after this, to disentangle the many influences and spirits that are crowding into our minds, co-opting our imaginations. Artists have always spoken of “the muse”–wherefore their particular inspirations they could not pin down to coming simply out of themselves.

So much of our imaginations in these times is co-opted by evil, by falsity, by dissipation, by all sorts of forces that do not lead us closer to virtue, or to truth, or to beauty. We are carried along by the influence of the things around us. A beautiful building, or a homey one in which love and care is expressed, will give us a good feeling as our senses communicate to us through the art of man’s creation. An ugly, restrictive building will communicate something else to us, subtly as well as obviously. We don’t like being in it, it may give us a low-level anxiety as something in is wonders and finds wanting “why would people put time and effort into such a monstrosity? what does this imply for their hope, their meaning in life?”–we are discouraged, even anxious.

Art, then, has a responsibility for what it expresses–for how it directs the human imagination. People hunger for meaning and immersion, and they will take what they can emotionally connect to. Human beings, for all their amazing capacity for reason, are largely not ruled by reason, and this is why we have art–it is an intentional use of the imaginative faculty to form people according to truth and virtue. To draw them, by means of the imagination, closer to reason, meaning, beauty.

Yes, art is often used as merely an outlet for an artists’ emotional flailings and frustrations. It is a working-through, for some people, of all of the impressions and experiences that often overwhelm sensitive people. We do not pay attention, sometimes, to how we ourselves are being co-opted. To create for ourselves an intentional life is a responsibility that we all have, so that we can better those around us, and for artists this is particularly important. What we create comes out of ourselves, and the old adage “garbage in, garbage out” is particularly true in the realm of artistic expression.

One of my housemates told me that I live like a cloistered nun, but hey, I have my reasons!

My imaginative “diet” is nearly as restrictive as my nutritional one, and yet it is not as restrictive as I would ideally imagine it to be were I actually a nun–but there is also a reason perhaps that this is not the case… for lacking the appropriate sanctity for a religious life, perhaps I can do more good with still some attraction or care to the vagaries of things like stories. If my adherence to truth and goodness and beauty can help me or anyone else to navigate the muddy channels of sanctifying our lives, I will hopefully have contributed.

I don’t know, but I’m currently working on trying to learn to “do it right”… I started writing again. I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo, and am continuing to work on it, as it wasn’t finished at 50,000 words. It is at about 76,000 words now and still not finished, but I am determined to finish it, and then tear it apart to make sure it creates all things as they should be.

This is not an easy task, for I have blatantly misused my creative powers in the past, and I have my method of novel writing. I have always heard it said that re-learning something is harder than learning it the first time, and I am quite sure this is true. I have high hopes, though, that my endeavors, if slow and painful, will achieve some success in the end at portraying what I want to portray with fiction… edification and truth.

Justin’s Going Away Party

Posted By on September 16, 2015

Welp, he did it! My old pal Justin Leedy got all of his debts paid off and he’s in the process of visa application to move to Norcia, Italy, to be a Benedictine monk.  I traveled up to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho this past weekend to attend his going-away party thrown by his church family of St. Joan of Arc which was a real blast… because I took too many pictures to email, I am putting them here.

The Taste of Failure

Posted By on July 30, 2015

My life has been habitually marked by two things. A great amount of darkness, and a savage need to chase the magical.  Though the latter often seemed to be an attempt to solve the former, it very often, if not always, backfired in some manner, or at least never turned out as hoped. When I was young, I accomplished this exploration and pursuit through copious reading, writing novels, art, music, and role-playing with friends online.  The first novel I wrote was about transforming into a magical, powerful being–but by the end of the novel, I and the main character had realized that the only place I was supposed to be was in my normal human life, just as it was then.

When I was 19 or 20 I switched from exploration with fantasy to traveling in real life. Unfortunately it was no less magical. My life became a strange whimsical pattern of this:

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I first stumbled across this picture online in 2012 right before I was about to move to Texas and get married. Yet from the time I was 20, whether I was skipping off to the convent in New York, jetting off to Washington state to go to music school, moving to Hawaii to farm, disappearing south to Texas to join the temple and marry a tattoo artist wannabe-monk, my life was a constant stream of magical vans, driven by unicorns. Inside, these opportunities felt vital, magical, important. Exciting. Dangerous, but full of hope.

They’re still driving up to me. Not every day, but usually every week. Sometimes the van is going to PARAGUAY!

paraguay

 

Sometimes to ARIZONA!

UFO, UFOs, jet, radar, alien, aliens, ET, Bonner springs, Kansas, June, 2013, News, paranormal, orb, orbs, disclosure, top secret, area 51, hackers, CNN, CNBC,, super moon, area 51, ET, arizona, 3.45 AM

 

I am, however, starting to learn not to get into vans with strange unicorns.  This is actually very hard. After I escaped Hawaii and moved back to Washington, I swore I wouldn’t go anywhere without a really good reason. Three years and many events later the magical van to Texas showed up and I got on board.  It had indeed taken the Mothership of Unicorn Vans time to hammer me back into being malleable to this, and certainly it was all part of a larger plan, but while the Mothership has not given up yet, I have a few new tools.

As I surmised but could not figure out how to apply earlier in my life, all battles are fought on the inside. Life is a spiritual combat, and one we are often losing if we are not very well prepared. The enemy, you see, is very often ourselves, our own bondage, our own whims.  In response to this I was a fan of forging myself anew, practicing various diets, disciplines, religions, in attempt to gain mastery and make a thing of perfection out of the thing that I was. No destination was too far, no task too challenging, in pursuit of this goal.

When my life and hopes became thoroughly destroyed despite my advanced application of (and success with!) these disciplines, I was faced with the sudden terror that I couldn’t do it by myself. I couldn’t control myself nor could I control people doing things to me or things happening around me that could destroy everything I held dear.

 “Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.” – Matthew 6:19-21

How is that even done? This is where one must make an appeal to God, to achieve the grace to live a new spiritual life.  This was a thing which I thought I had been doing, and thought I had been having success at.

Then I learned I wasn’t.

I’m still shaking in my shoes every day. But I have one or two things left to me. I have my reason, which can observe cause and effect.  I have some grace enabling me to indeed distrust myself and stay firm despite suffering.  And finally I have someone to tell me what to do, who after months of suspicion and observation I learned to trust was a very holy person who clung to a foundation that would not lead me astray.  Thus the thing holding me back now from hopping on all these vans is obedience.

My confusion on this matter of the interior life and reformation of self is great and so I cannot rely on myself.  I have spent a long time in my life being obedient to what, it was later made clear, were the wrong forces.  Oddly enough, I get a strange sense of relief from not having to make my own decisions. Obedience is an earned thing, and perhaps a grace. I have been a strong-willed rebel most of my life, working on my own inspiration.

The times when I dabbled in the virtue of religious obedience and the observance of a fixed rule, the darkness would clear and I would be as happy as ever I have been. But then something terrible would happen and I would have to give it up. I was happy in the Episcopal convent when I was 20–but I had to leave. I was happy being a Hare Krishna under a guru with a husband–but my husband left me and the faith and took all my money, and I lost all power to keep the rule despite every effort.

Wrong place, wrong time… terrible things happened and I could not reconcile the lack of peace and strength and empowerment in my situation… who knows? So I am back in the Catholic Church, to my great relief, as swarms of saintly Christians practice patience and humility like no other, but often to my great suffering, and I am under obedience again, and despite all this verbiage I have wasted space with, it limits me to one task, merely one task, but this is the hardest task in the whole world.

Stay in the present moment.

A place of DARKNESS, TERROR, and CONFUSION. Every moment spent in it I long to escape. To find a solution. To see what looks good and make it happen. Yet doing ANYTHING right now in this mindset is somehow all wrong. The timing is all wrong for me to be able to go into religious life, my bestest buddy Justin is disappearing forever to go into religious life (lucky mook, he got all his debts paid off, thanks be to God), I work in a career that stresses me terribly and injures me often if I am not careful, I am daily challenged by my own fears and limitations living in a community, I work/volunteer under a difficult personality, I find myself connecting more with people who do not share my aspirations to living a spiritual life, I have this escapist problem into fantasy and computer games, I cannot get out of bed far too many days. The blessings and challenges of my life are certainly unmatched. I am very well off in so many ways, I have everything I need to deal with my sufferings and problems and yet I still feel overwhelmed. I wonder minute by minute what will even become of me.

Hence the spiritual combat. To stay faithful, to stay in a state of grace, to do my duty, and do as I am told. I am hopeful, most days, that this program will bear some fruit, but my urgency to take things into my own hands to try and fix them is offset only by my copious experience of terrible things inevitably happening to me when I do this.

Already writing this I doubt the whole thing.

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But DRIVE ON, unicorn, I am sticking this one out.

By the way, I see what you were trying to hide my view of back there.

 

 

A New Look

Posted By on June 26, 2015

On request I have removed all photos and references to a certain individual very dear to me from this blog. The wisdom of this move is not for me to decide on… mostly I did it as a favor.