On A Loan

Let’s get this part out of the way quickly: yes, this post is inspired by thinking about Rush Limbaugh.

If that makes you run screaming, you’re the one with a severe problem. Because ultimately the post has nothing to do with who Limbaugh was or what he believed, but with the whole concept of “on a loan from God.”

And if you’re an atheist and just ran, you are not a complete sissy like the other guys, but you’re still missing out on some conversation that might perhaps — who knows how this writing thing work — help you.

Look, I listened to Rush Limbaugh precisely once. It was 92, and I think the problem is that i wasn’t fully acculturated. I didn’t mind/liked what he was saying, but the way he said it made me cringe. This probably had changed by the 2000s, because I’d changed. (One of the interesting things is that other than Heinlein a lot of my tastes in reading changed or reversed during the 90s. Not the likes or dislikes based on story, but those based on voice. There were people I couldn’t read before 2k because I ‘slid off the voice’ but really liked after 2k. My theory is that there is an internalized voice and rhythm you like, which is part of your upbringing and culture/subculture. Obviously that would change with acculturation.) However, by then I’d got used to just reading him, and anyway, I’m not good at listening to anything, unless I’m also cleaning or doing something really interesting at the same time. ADHD, you know.

So I’m not sure I can call myself a fan, though I read him from time to time (and on two signal occasions he read me.)

What I can tell you though is that the man made an outsized imprint in the world. Nothing one could expect from a single individual. How and why would get into way too much political stuff, but trust me, he changed the world. With a voice, an AM talk show, and… a talent on loan from God.

I think I’d heard that before, but it had never made an impression on me. Now it won’t leave my head. And there are reasons for that too, among them being now indie, and therefore being able to write what I very well want, which was never a thing before.

Look, a lot of people who don’t believe in God, still believe there’s a pattern to the universe, that things need to happen at a certain time.

Is it true, or is it part of the perennial human tendency to build story out of events? I don’t know, and — presumably — being human neither do you.

I’ve talked about before this thing (the writing) not being EXACTLY under my control. There is a reason Kate Paulk and I talk of gateway writing.

Sure, I can write calculated and by the numbers. And if you’re a pantser, you should still learn to write by the numbers. Because even in indie, you need to keep putting things out or your career is over (Maybe particularly in indie, actually. More on that later.) And there will be years you’re sick (I was very ill and had other life issues for almost a decade) and years you’re worried about very important things, and years the gateway will be shut down.

But then the gateway will open, and there will be a character and his/her story. And I have to write it because nothing else will happen till it’s written. (And it’s not a coincidence that Kate Paulk and I say her gateway lands in “evil bastard alley” and mine in the “gay bar zone.” And there’s no explanation for it, and — shrug — you just say “this thing isn’t exactly under my control” and truck on.)

Is it some deep imperative of the subconscious? D*mned if I know. Psychology at the moment is more art and craft than science, and once they actually get going they have more urgent problems than “creatives” (I hate the word, but have come to the conclusion it’s true. We’re compelled to create) who feel like they’re getting plots or stories, or crafts or images or music from somewhere beyond Alpha Centauri. (I didn’t even know there were gay bars in alpha centauri, much less an evil bastard alley.)

On a loan from God? Who knows?

Ten years ago I started getting blog posts, too. I have ten blog post topics on the white board, to write …. two weeks ago. Only I haven’t had a chance because I wake up and, hello blog post. Even if I’d intended to run a guest post, or a blast from the past, or something that leaves the mind free to write fiction.

So?

Well, Limbaugh took the talent on a loan from God, and ran with it. Ran with it as fast and as hard as he could, even if what he was handed to work with were opinions that at the time NO ONE VOICED IN PUBLIC much less over the airwaves, and an outmoded means of mass communication, because AM had been a joke for decades.

And the world changed.

And more and more I obsess on that phrase.

I’m as I told a friend last week, religious, but not pious. Which means I feel a little uncomfortable talking of anything even tangential to religion in public. And I feel bad arguing from it, because heck, two of my best friends are atheists, and I think a majority of them are agnostic.

Also, no person in their right mind claims they’re on a mission for Himself.

Also, being raised with a good chunk of Roman tradition, I believe it’s a bad idea to attract the attention of the All Powerful, unless I need it right now desperately as in, only a chance in a million will save my life.

But the phrase won’t leave my head.

On a loan from God.

Indulge me, okay? Imagine there really is a creator and planner; a great author if you so wish. And you’re a creator in a small way. He sends you these things, to do something with.

He obviously sent them to Limbaugh. Who could have sat back and gone “But the time isn’t right. But this will make me hated. But AM is a sucky place to do this.” And he’d have been right. More importantly, in 20 years there would have been blogs. So much more right for what he had to do. Of course he didn’t know that, but Himself undoubtedly did. On the other hand perhaps the creators of the net were supposed to have sped it up some. Perhaps that’s what the talent was floating around for. Never mind. Grandma said “G-d writes straight upon our crooked lines.” And you know, I’m getting old and all and I agree with her.

So–

Maybe we are special. Maybe the ideas, the force, the creativity and the talent are given to us for a reason.

The parable of the talents is a hard lesson, but I’ve seen it in action. I have seen people of immense talent, of immense “voice” for lack of a better word, of strong creativity, who refuse to do anything with it. Grandma told me about that too, when I was really young. That when you’re given a special gift and ignore it or refuse to use it, it turns on you. I makes you ill, (the symptoms she described sounded like depression) and it destroys you from the inside.

Seems fanciful, but I’ve seen it.

We have so much time, (Limbaugh only had sixty seven years. Paltry, these days) and some of us have gifts. Or missions. Or creativity. Or push. Or whatever the holy (or unholy. I’m not the boss of you) heck you want to call it. But we have something, which isn’t exactly under our control.

Our choice is to use them. Or not.

Using them isn’t easy. Sometimes what you’re given is an AM station and opinions that are socially shunned. Or indie publishing and ditto. Or the strong need to stop pretending and come out of the political closet, which makes you “hard to work with” (Gina Carano is not the only one who got that excuse) and … well, ends with you in indie.

Look, even if you get the magic carpet ride to the top, it won’t be easy. I have friends who got that and most of them worked damn hard, both at craft and publicity, and there are still years of emptiness and days of silence, and doubts, always doubts. (Most who get the UNDESERVED magic carpet ride to the top write very few books if any after, and have no clue what sells or why.)

And not using them…. I don’t know a single one of those that had a happy ending.

So, look into your heart. Do you have a talent on loan from God? I don’t care how minor or stupid it seems to you.

Go do it. And the world will change.

“Well, you see, I do really good cross stitch” Yeah, and maybe one of your pieces is needed to cheer a terminal patient. “I just write these songs and put them on the web” Yeah, and maybe someone who needs to accomplish something much, much bigger needs to hear one of your songs, even if it’s silly. “I just draw marker pictures of my cats.” Sure, and maybe someone needs to see one and adopt a kitten, which will make them more secure and stable, and lead to them having a happy family. One of their grandchildren…. Or maybe if you make marker pictures of other people’s cats you can make a little extra money, and buy tools to do that thing you always wanted to do and–

If you have something on a loan from God or the miraculous whim of the universe, or whatever the heck you believe it is — go and use it. Let’s start straightening some lines.

*******

ON THE “publishing as much.” This is just an experiment, and it might be a coincidence, but I thought I’d report it nonetheless, since a lot of us are writers.

One of my writer friends was going on in a private chat about stuff she learned in a course on indie pub. And one of the things was “if you have stories in the universe of your novels put them out individually for 99c a piece.” And my reaction was “Well, I have at least three shorts in the shifter universe, but they’re part of other collections.” Well, we talked, and I thought “Yeah, I can’t mark the collection as part of the series, and people might not want to buy a whole collection for 5k words. Most of my true fans have, but not other people….

So yesterday I put Sweet Alice, the prequel to the shifters series out. It was more a completism thing, and I had half an hour and was tired, so didn’t want to work on Kate’s books and maybe screw them up, so I did a quick typesetting and put it out.

Imagine my surprise to find ALL the books under my name got goosed both in sales and reads, even though the story itself sold only 3 copies, and of course the page reads are minuscule. It’s a short story.

I have NO explanation for this. And it might be just a coincidence. But if it’s not, it might have to do with search algorithms and such.

I shall put one out a week for the next to weeks, at which point Bowl of Red should be a go. We’ll see if it’s a coincidence. If it’s not…. it will be a viable strategy. Particularly since I know how to write a short a week.

Sweet Alice, a short story in the shifters series.

Rafiel Trall is studying law enforcement, preparing to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather as a police officer in Goldport, when he shifts shape into a lion. Fearful of hurting his classmates, he goes back home. But at home, a crime awaits his solving. And once he solves it, he will never be the same.

This short story is contained in the collection Crawling Between Heaven And Earth.

34 comments

  1. “I just can’t shake the feeling that it’s all just an incredibly dumb idea” is both what I’ve been chewing on, and what this post seems in particular to be taking aim at.

    …it’s a good reframing. Thanks

  2. Lois McMaster Bujold has a series that includes literal saints. What I like about these saints is that they are just as confused as everybody else, and they’re attempting to do the job that is in front of them, because that’s the best they can figure out.

  3. — Is it true, or is it part of the perennial human tendency to build story out of events? I don’t know, and — presumably — being human neither do you. —

    Perhaps we can’t prove it mathematically, but the evidence for the proposition is strong. Consider that for more than three millennia human history was largely a matter of stories: tales passed from generation to generation, mostly focused upon the deeds of great men and their followers. Even today the conveyance of history tends toward story form: beginnings / sociopolitical settings, early middles / first stimuli for events, later middles / rise of the leaders, the energizing of their followers, and the conflicts that we call historical events, endings / results of the conflicts in changed conditions and convictions.

    It’s not necessarily fiction…but it’s not necessarily not, either.

  4. “On Loan From God” does sound egotistic but is theologically sound.

    Our abilities and talents are from God even if we don’t use them as He’d want them used.

    1. Indeed, a “talent” was a coin — the use of talents in its modern sense was derived from the parable where the coins indicate the modern meaning, and other gifts.

    2. Exactly, fruits of the spirit. And some of us may not be creative but we serve in other ways because our fruits are accounting, or repairing or putting in some money to help the cause or an encouraging word or…
      I finally figured out that I can’t do everything but maybe I can do something. Sometimes. But Evenstar we ALL suffer from impostor syndrome. Just remember fear is a liar and keep trying (I keep telling my own self this every single day).

    3. I read that phrase exactly opposite – “I am not great because of what I am – I am great because God lent me this incredible talent to use.”

      (As Sarah somewhat alluded to, it is a good thing that God doesn’t have to worry about bank examiners. The write-offs are massive in number.)

  5. I described the first three quarters of last year as “being pursued by the hound of Heaven” to a fellow believer. I HAD to write Familiars stories. I don’t know why, but I had no, zero, choice. That push eased a little in the early fall, then hit me again. Now it is easing up a little. Why Familiars? Don’t look at me. I’m just the writer.

    1. Some his scenes in the later books, make me wonder if Tay’s related to The Hound Of Heaven. 😉

  6. This post hits hard. I love the words of Christ but the servant who buries his talent in the field is someone I can relate to and I hate that about me. It’s hard not to be afraid and it’s so easy to let perfectionism and fear of failure keep from doing anything. Maybe it’s time to start trying.

    1. “It’s hard not to be afraid and it’s so easy to let perfectionism and fear of failure keep from doing anything.”

      Yes, it is. But, that perfectionism, fear etc. is part of the talent you got. It is not your job to worry about all that crap, okay? And it isn’t like there’s nothing to be afraid of either. We are not all the bold guy who stands at the front and talks where everybody can see him. Some of us put stickers on telephone poles when there’s no one else around, because that’s how we need to do it.

      Doesn’t matter. Put up stickers. Somebody will see them, and maybe it’ll make a bigger difference than you think. Maybe you can work your way up to posters, and it’ll be pretty fun being the secret poster guy.

  7. Terrific blog piece..
    thanks…Everyone has talent it’s just realizing what you have and running with it.

  8. Yabbut, the “talent on loan from God” was an abysmal failure according to none other than Rush. His family were lawyers and he was a disc jockey who played music on AM radio for most of his adult life. He meandered from station to station. Somehow it all fell into place for him late in life.

    That leaves me with an empty feeling more than anything else. We all have a level of talent. We are unsure what it is and how to realize it and profit from it to make a better life for ourselves. The old adage of keep trying wears out after the third failed attempt but like Rush, hopefully it will show itself before I die.

    1. Life’s not all about accomplishing things that others notice – I think about The Little Prince. Also, when I skim the bios of 1930’s writers (e.g. Raymond Chandler, Rex Stout, Tolkien, etc), I’m amazed at how many come to writing later in life.

    2. Rush was the one (1) guy who made it work out of the vast sea of AM radio dudes who went their whole careers making zero impact. Partly because he was astoundingly, unbelivably -lucky-.

      JK Rowling is a zillionair today, partly because she was LUCKY. She got her book in front of the right guy at the right time. But before that she was the weird chick in the dingy coat scribbling in her notebook in the corner of the pub. She was there so much that she had her own chair. Which chair is now a treasured artifact, but without sheer brainless luck the Harry Potter story would be down at #900,001 next to my book. Maybe #800,000 after she published the whole series.

      I’m 100% sure that both those people would have gone right ahead and done it all anyway. Nothing was going to keep JK from writing that Potter book, and nothing was going to keep Rush off the air. That’s the part of the story that no one pays any attention to, but it is the only part that matters. WORK is what makes success possible. Work plus luck is what makes success actually happen.

      The one guarantee is that if you don’t write it, nobody will read it.

      1. “Luck” is just another word for “divine intervention”. It’s for atheists, as a balm to soothe their psyches of circumstances and/or happenstances that their worldview cannot reconcile.

        Jesus loves you, anyway. };^)

        1. Luck is another word for “random chance”, as in flipping a coin, or bumping into somebody at a baseball game.

          If you don’t do the work, all the random chance in the world will not help you. Rush Limbaugh worked like a dog every day of his life, and that’s why when random chance came his way he was ready to take advantage.

          Divine intervention is something completely different, and implies a thumb on the scale. God does not play favorites in physics, I see no reason to expect otherwise in social affairs. The very idea that there are Holy Favorites and they get the goodies denied to the rest of us is abhorrent, and I’ll have no part of it.

          And yes, Jesus loves me anyway. Even though I’m a crusty old !@#% and have wrong opinions. That much is true, and is worth contemplating why he’d bother.

    3. The sales manual says ask for the sale 7 times… if you do not get ‘no’ 5 times in a row, keep asking. “Third Failed Attempt…” that’s just getting warmed up.

  9. Thank you for your observation. I recently received a national award for teaching; maybe it was deserved or maybe last year was a year with not much competition. So I wrote a short article to the organizational newsletter to say ‘thank you’, and mentioned that sometimes I wake up in the morning w/ a clear vison of what needs to be done or what to write or who to talk to. A number of folks commented on what I said – not the award part, but the small sentence or two about vision. Maybe God talks to more of us then we think. Thanks.

  10. Sarah said: “We have so much time, (Limbaugh only had sixty seven years. Paltry, these days) and some of us have gifts. Or missions. Or creativity. Or push. Or whatever the holy (or unholy. I’m not the boss of you) heck you want to call it. But we have something, which isn’t exactly under our control.”

    Yep.

    Then Sarah said: “Using them isn’t easy. Sometimes what you’re given is an AM station and opinions that are socially shunned.”

    Yep.

    That seems to be where I live too, the socially unacceptable AM station of life, where everything is just a little off plumb and there’s this weird lavender soap smell, and every time the announcer says anything people yell at him.

    Yep yep yep. Characters arrive, and demand to be included in the story. They say how it’s going to be and what’s going to happen. The story flows along based on what those characters do. Sometimes I can’t stop writing, other times a week will go by and I spend it either re-reading or working in the barn doing Life stuff.

    But this is better than how it used to be, voraciously reading everything in print and -wishing- I could find the magic story that did it all. I even found a few, but those characters of mine were complaining for probably 45 years that they wanted to come out and play in the sunshine. They wanted to be in the story, right?

    So now I have George McIntyre and Ginny Westland, Jimmy Carlson, Alice Haddison, Nammu Chen, Effie, Bob the semi-transcendent space alien, Brunhilde the Queen of the Valkyries, Charlotte Smith, and tons more. Lately I’ve had demi-gods coming for a visit. Kali the Detroyer, Até the Bringer of Ruin, Stjörnulaus the Queen of the Unseelie.

    All amazing people, all here because I -finally- sat in front of the keyboard and wrote. Having done the research, I write with no expectation of commercial success. Or even notice, really. My first book, the only one published, is languishing in Amazon Hell way down at #900,000+. (No plug today, this isn’t about that.)

    Socially unacceptable AM radio that smells of lavender soap. And it seems I am not Rush Limbaugh. Darn it.

    And I don’t care. Because life is better for -me- when I write about the fall and redemption of an evil elf queen than when I just think about it. Stjörnulaus, named The Starless Night for her evil, after eons of life and an eternity of death, gives it all up and becomes Stjörnubjart, the Starlit Night. Light in the Void. It’s a cool story. I’m pretty happy I got to read it. If other people get to read it too that’ll be good, and it’ll make me happy, but I’m okay if I’m the only one.

    Just like Rush in the 1980’s, talking to five people at 2AM in Sacramento because he -needed- to talk on the radio. He didn’t care that his audience was five insomniacs. He was talking, and that was good enough.

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