On the Need for Hope
This year has been a dry one as far as blog posts go. Despite being home a lot more than usual, I haven't been drawn to post as much here as I have in years past.
I haven't been entirely idle. I finished the first draft of the third Albion book. I published Paper and Thorns. I have pulled out some old works to edit and started new ones (including a sequel/companion novella to Paper and Thorns). I crocheted. A lot. Since last fall, I've made 3 baby blankets, an afghan, a scarf, a throw blanket, and two stuffed Nifflers. Most of that happened after quarantine hit.
And yet, this has been a season of doubt, of anxiety, of unease. I have found myself growing more and more restless and dissatisfied with my day-to-day, and even with the media I consume. Sometimes, I will pull out a familiar story just to find some half-remembered peace in its pages.
I started digging into my thesis collection the other day. These stories held a special place in my heart because they represented two years of hard work earning my Master's. I was quite proud of the accomplishment seven years ago.
When I set out to plan my thesis, I knew I wanted the stories inside to be more than the sum of themselves. I wanted them to fit together into a greater whole. Ideally, they would form a cycle of sorts, something like a patchwork quilt that (without being gridded into a picture) created a more satisfying pattern when viewed as a whole.
I think it accomplished that, but when I reached the end of the stories, I didn't feel the sense of completeness I expected. Nor did I come away with the one thing I always desire my stories to leave in my readers: hope.
What to do? Did I add to the collection and potentially break the balance that existed? Did I change them so that they represented the author I am now, not the author I was then?
The answer was a little of both. I added two stories, one of which was reworked from a concept that never got past the first draft in graduate school (largely because it was the last story to be written and was never going to be included in the thesis anyway). I also rewrote the ending of what was the final story to take it away from the despair that I felt was required of these so-called "literary" pieces. I realized that while I had striven to write the sort of stories that would satisfy myself and my professors, I had grown into the realization that my goals as a writer are different than they were seven years ago.
I don't want to be the next great literary star. I want to be the guy whose books give people hope. Whose stories push people on to better versions of themselves. Whose words point to the larger truths of our existence without tripping up on the so-called "realistic" things that are really just the dark's way of sapping our strength. A story is not more realistic because its characters drink away their pain or take comfort in empty pleasures. A story is truer because it reminds us that there is Someone who overshadows the pain and who is so full we can never find the bottom of his joy.
I still plan to put these stories out in the world. (Several of them have already been published in anthologies.) But they are going to fit a vision. They are going to have a message, and it may not be the one I planned years ago.
Take heart. Have courage, dear ones. The morning comes.