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Mur Keeps It Real

A couple months ago, I replied to a tweet from Mur Lafferty (@mightymur). I went on with my day. A few seconds later, my phone buzzed. I looked. She had replied.

I think I giggled out loud with joy. It was a fanboy moment.

My friend Nick recommended I Should be Writing to me a few years ago. The name struck me; I’d said the phrase a thousand times. I gave a listen, and never turned back.

Mur is definitely a gifted writer. Her story concepts, in particular, are awesome. Playing for Keeps follows a group of friends with truly mediocre superpowers. Marco and the Red Granny features the most creative use of synesthesia I’ve read since Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination. But all this I learned later.

What kept me listening to her podcast is the fact that Mur is real. She talks – frankly, but professionally – about the frustrations of dealing with the publishing industry. She holds herself accountable to her listeners, admitting when she doesn’t follow her own advice. She admits when she’s a noob. Somehow, she manages to write, take care of her family, and then do several podcasts and blogs in which she discusses how to juggle writing, family, and other projects.

And she often repeats that phrase I need to hear again and again: you’re allowed to suck. She reminds me that I don’t need to nail it the first time every time. She reminds me that they key isn’t to only write good stuff: it’s to write, and keep writing.

Preachers could learn from her humility and willingness to get personal. Perfectionists like myself could learn some grace. And we could all learn perseverance from her.

I appreciate what you do, Mur. Thanks for the encouragement and inspiration.

FAIL.

Missed a post! Lapse in discipline. Devotion fail.

Stuff like this usually happens on a day off.

You’d think it would be easier to do Bible reading and journaling and such on a weekend, since there’s so much more time readily available. Ah, but that’s thinking logically.

Historically, days off have been days of extravagant laziness for me. I haven’t wanted to do anything important. I came to expect that after a while of getting away with it.

That has ceased to be practical, but my mind still goes there. I’m fighting it. If I don’t fight it, I’ll neglect basic household chores, Bible reading, and other daily necessities. It’s not pretty. Thankfully, I’m generally winning the fight.

Besides the day-off mentality, I also forget things when my routine gets thrown off. I took a vacation day yesterday so we could go see some family in Yuba City. Apparently, I’m easily distracted by cool people.

So, I forgot. Broke the writing streak. Messed up my Lenten observance.

Nothing to do but pick it right up again.

I’ll write a post tomorrow – partly because I want to catch up, partly because I have something I really wanna talk about.

FAIL isn’t the end.

Transformation Hurts

In Highlander, when one immortal kills another, there’s an event called the Quickening. There’s lightning and explosions. Energy roars into the victor, who lifts off the ground, racked with pain. But they end up stronger.

image from Highlander of the Quickening

SFX: BZZZZZ *pow* RAAAAHHHH! *crackle*

In Dragonball, the fighters gather energy to fuel their attacks. They’re not subtle about it. There’s blazing energy and flashing light and lots of screaming. They fill themselves with power, and when they release it, you know it.

SFX: One half-hour of screaming

 

When werewolves transform – especially for the first time – it’s not pleasant. Bones and ligaments pop, skin stretches and deforms, fur and claws burst out. Before they’re howling at the moon, they’re crying out in pain. Once the transformation is over, though, they’re big, bad, scary monsters.

SFX: Metallica's "Of Wolf and Man"

Even in our fiction, strength does not come easily. And when it does, we cry foul. If a character doesn’t have to suffer to become exceptional, it seems cheap.

I’ve often made the mistake of expecting awesomeness without effort, both from myself and from others. It’s not realistic, and it’s not fair.

Sure, some people can coast a long way on talent. But there will come a time when what comes easy won’t be enough. I, for one, didn’t have to try hard in school until college. When I got there, I didn’t have much in the way of study skills. That was less than fun.

“No pain, no gain” is a cliché for a reason. Gaining strength will cost you.

A couple reminders for all of us:

First, transformation hurts. If you want to grow, it may not be a smooth, pleasant process. When you’re in the midst of it, imagine looking back on it, having become something new.

Second, painful stuff is gonna come one way or the other. If you’re in the middle of a sucky experience, you may as well try to grow from it. Jesus’ brother wrote a letter that reminds us to “let perseverance finish its work.” That is, whenever you can, let the pain teach you.

You’ll be better for it.

The Playlist

“Merit for Sadness” by Haste the Day popped into my head the other day, and I put together a playlist around it. I realized that the end of the song would transition seamlessly into “Existence” by August Burns Red. After that metal onslaught, I thought a slower-paced song would do, so I threw in a low-tempo Demon Hunter song. I had “Artist in the Ambulance” stuck in my head soon after, and added “Injection” as a bridge.

Here’s what I ended up with:

  • Thrice, “The Artist in the Ambulance”
  • Rise Against, “Injection”
  • Haste the Day, “Merit for Sadness”
  • August Burns Red, “Existence”
  • Demon Hunter, “I Play Dead”

I picked these songs either intuitively, or because they fit musically. Then, I noticed a theme in the lyrics.

I know that there’s
A difference between sleight of hand, and giving everything you have
There’s a line drawn in the sand, I’m working up the will to cross it and

I hope that I will never let you down
I know that this can be more than just flashing lights and sound

Rhetoric can’t raise the dead
I’m sick of always talking when there’s no change
Rhetoric can’t raise the dead
I’m sick of empty words, let’s lead and not follow

-Thrice, “The Artist in the Ambulance”

Guide me through unchartered waters
Before we lose our way again
Will you be my compass until forever?
Until forever ends?

Knees are weak, hands are shaking, I can’t breathe

So give me the drug, keep me alive
Give me what’s left of my life
Don’t let me go
Pull this plug, let me breathe
On my own, I’m finally free
Don’t let me go

-Rise Against, “Injection”

Open my heart to sadness
It’s though the pain that I believe
It’s in the pain that I can see
Love is alive in darkness
The waters may rise but your hand carries me

The world may deny what you choose to believe
I know that you’re here
So I’ll hold on and won’t let go
I won’t let go

-Haste the Day, “Merit for Sadness”

Don’t excuse yourself from life today on the pretense of your past

You’re hurt, you’re broken, that’s alright
This might be what it takes to wake you up

-August Burns Red, “Existence”

I’ve got to find a way to stop before it starts
Finding its way through my veins right to my heart
I never thought it something everyone could see
And it kills within me

I won’t, I won’t leave without a trace
I won’t be erased

-Demon Hunter, “I Play Dead”

They’re all about perseverance. They’re all about changing for the better.

And right now, they’re all terribly inspiring to me. Love it.