The things that hold us back
I’m pretty sure all the authors represented on the Mad Genius Club panel, and a great many of our readers too, have at least one element in our lives that’s a constant drag – something that holds us back from doing all we want to do, achieving all we want to achieve. Sometimes it’s physical, sometimes mental, sometimes emotional, sometimes to do with the relationships in our lives or the society in which we live; but whatever it (or they) may be, it’s something we have to fight constantly in order to get anywhere.
Sometimes the problem is very easy to identify. I have no trouble with mine, that’s for sure! Following my work-related injury in 2004, I ended up with a fused spine and a damaged sciatic nerve in my left leg. Together they make it impossible for me to sleep more than three or four hours at a stretch before my back and leg ‘lock up’ very painfully. As a result, I sleep a few hours at night, get up in the small hours of the morning (and write while the world is dark and everyone else is asleep), then sleep again for three to four hours during the afternoon. It’s made for an awkward work and social life, but one adapts. To add to the fun, my body decides once every ten days to two weeks that I really need 24 to 48 hours of severe pain, to remind me of how lucky I am at other times. I’ve just come out of one of those spells. No fun. Creative thought and expression doesn’t do very well, in my experience, when one’s trying hard not to express how one’s feeling more profanely (and fluently) than would be appropriate in the presence of loved ones.
Other people have different problems. I know one author (who shall remain nameless) whose creativity is semi-crippled by a fear – more of a terror, really – that he simply isn’t good enough, that all those who buy his books and congratulate him on them are really just trying to be nice, and that one of these days they’re going to lose patience with him, tell him to go to hell, and turn their backs on him. It’s completely irrational, but it’s a fear that rules many of his waking moments, even after successfully publishing several books. I’ve strongly advised him to see a psychiatrist and get a handle on this fear, but so far he’s refused. “What if that bottles up my creative streak? What if getting rid of the fear means getting rid of my ability to write?” Again, irrational . . . but very real to him.
I suppose one could draw parallels with many other areas of life. When I was still an active pastor, I recall a colleague who was beset with doubts about his faith. He couldn’t ‘feel it’ any more. Was he a hypocrite to just ‘go through the motions’ every Sunday before his congregation? I told him, emphatically, that faith has nothing to do with feelings – if it did, our faith would fluctuate with our hormone levels! Faith is a decision, one we make daily, just as love is a decision. We all know from painful experience that sometimes our loved ones annoy the living daylights out of us . . . but that doesn’t stop us loving them. We’ve made that choice. We decided to love them, and we renew that decision every time an obstacle arises. Faith (or the absence thereof) is the same thing. I guess we could say that our desire to write is a feeling, but what makes us a writer, an author, is the decision to act on that desire. Even if we’re not feeling creative, we sit down and write, because while one can edit a bad chapter into better shape, one can’t improve nothing at all!
I suppose the payoff comes when our readers surprise us by gaining some insight, some enlightenment, from something we wrote, that we didn’t intend at all when we wrote it. That’s happened to me a couple of times, and I still get warm fuzzy feelings when I think about it. Author Patrick Rothfuss recently experienced something like that. In his Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy, he writes about the Edema Ruh: travelers, storytellers, actors and actresses, the living folk memory of a nation. You can read more about them here.
Mr. Rothfuss was surprised (one hopes pleasantly) earlier this year by some news from a completely different form of entertainment.
The band Nightwish has a new album coming out at the end of this month titled, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful.”
Track number 8 on the album? “Edema Ruh.”
Am I excited? Yeah. I’m a little excited.
I haven’t listened to much of their music yet, but I’m guessing a symphonic metal band that reads fantasy and pulls the name for its album from a Charles Darwin quote is going to be my kind of crazy….
So, his fictional fantasy became a source of musical inspiration. What’s even more interesting is that Nightwish’s album, ‘Endless Forms Most Beautiful‘, is inspired by the writings of Charles Darwin and the evolutionary (and anti-religious) views of Richard Dawkins. If you like, the album is a sort of secular spirituality, reflecting on human existence as an accident of nature. Being a man of faith, I suppose some would think I should be turned off by that, but I’m not. I can enjoy the music and wait to find out which of us was right!
Here’s the track: the lyrics are here if you need them.
So, we have our things that hold us back: but if we overcome them, our dreams can take flight as words. Who knows what they may then inspire? For Patrick Rothfuss, they inspired artists in a completely different field to turn them into music, which I’m sure has inspired him to become even more creative. Fun, isn’t it?
(Oh – and I’m sure the Nightwish song has helped Mr. Rothfuss’ sales as well. I’d not read the Kingkiller Chronicles, but when I heard the song, I couldn’t help logging into Amazon.com and buying the first two books in the series. I’d love to know how his sales are doing overall since the launch of the album.)