Monday, September 28, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Let's talk a little bit about horror stories, the things that frighten and haunt us.
One of mine is the Parable of the Talents;
For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Surprised? For as long as I can remember, I've had people telling me that I'm gifted. And for nearly all of my life, I have heard this parable and listened to it with deadly seriousness. I feel that I must invest my talents in ways that please and serve God, and that if I make a mistake, . . . if I don't work hard enough, if I don't figure out the right way to use my gifts, I won't just be making a mistake but committing a sin. While I don't think I'll be "thrown into outer darkness" for such failure, I must say that the parable paints a fairly vivid picture of God's displeasure toward those who don't use the gifts he's given them wisely.
This is why I experience so much angst about my writing and my art.
Since I was 23, I have felt a very strong vocation as a fiction writer, yet in the world's terms, I am singularly unsuccessful at it. Nearly 30 years, and all I have to show for it is five published stories. I have two completed novels I've been unable to sell and a third novel that is nearly done. And I can't seem to summon the energy to finish that last edit and prepare the query letter and synopsis I'll need to market that third book. I'm tired of collecting dozens of rejections. I seem to have lost confidence in myself as a fiction writer. But doesn't it seem like a waste to spend five years of my life writing a book that I don't even try to sell--not to mention disobedience toward God (according to my interpretation of the parable)? I'm conflicted, and inner conflict is exhausting.
My poetry is less burdened by guilt because I never claimed it as a vocation . . . even though many people over the years have told me they prefer it to my fiction. By not viewing it through that lens, I think I've protected it. I still seem able to do it with joy.
Now I'm starting on a new artistic quest, that of the visual arts, and I am struggling greatly to find a way to be responsible to my talent without putting the same heavy burden on it that robbed me of my joy in fiction.
So I'm asking if any of you can help me untangle my thinking. How do you interpret that parable? What does a wise and faithful investment of talents mean?
P.S. i realized from the first comment I received that I have left out part of my explanation. When I talk about being unsuccessful in the eyes of the world, it's partially about money but it's mostly about something else . . . finding an audience. What is the point of having a writing vocation if I can't find readers? That is what troubles me more than anything.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Hiking a well-known trail
along Lake Michigan’s shore,
I turn from the rocky, scenic coast
inland, deeper, into a leaf-canopied forest.
The path pulling me forward
like a mulch-strewn conveyor
swiftly narrows, crowded by the spreading weeds
and encroaching shrubbery of high summer,
until only a thin and breakable thread
spools out before me.
Doubt pinches my heart.
I know this place . . . or do I?
Have I missed some carved-arrow sign
giving hikers direction?
Halting, I glance backwards,
then once again ahead,
mired as if by quicksand
within the same relentless questioning
I sought to escape on vacation.
P.S. I may have posted this prematurely. There are some cliched lines that I'm not happy with and still pondering. But the emotional content reflects where I"m at, so I'll leave it here.