Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween Challenge

Our traditions remind us of who we are and how far we have come. For the last decade, a group of friends have come together every year for a Halloween Challenge. We all write stories and read them to one another before Allhallows Eve.

In order to encourage creativity, the rules are simple: write a story suitable for Halloween. The themes are varied, and the feelings evoked range from laughter to uneasiness to outright terror. There is no maximum length, but with the number of participants shorter is always better.

It is not required for the event to take place on Halloween. This is due to the difficulties of coordinating schedules and the desire to enjoy that particular night in a more relaxed fashion. So, we usually get together the weekend before, and it lasts for a whole day.

The number of writers has changed. Some years there have been more participants and others less. But the trend is moving upward, with offerings even from those who cannot physically attend.

Stories can be written throughout the year, so long as they are ready by Halloween. Individuals are encouraged to read their own stories, but they can have someone else read for them. There is a certain performance aspect in the reading, since it can enhance the qualities already present in the work.

A good time is had by all, and there have been some truly exceptional offerings. We discuss a tale after it has been read, and extol the qualities of each at the end of the night. It is not a competition, but there is a desire to surpass what you wrote last year. Through the hardest of times and the most grievous of losses, the tradition has endured and it is hoped that it will continue indefinitely.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The waiting game

Patience is a virtue, but it is a hard one to practice. We are accustomed in our society to expect immediate gratification with minimal exertion. And thus, such an essential trait gets rushed out the door.

It is not easy to wait. As time goes by, anxiety sets in: will the waiting be for naught? After all, deeds are accomplished by action, not by sitting around.

But most people have the wrong idea about patience. It does not mean to be idle, but to do what you can now and deal with the rest later. Sometimes swift action is required, and other times a great deal of effort will be necessary in order to bear fruit.

After one has planted seeds, they must be cared for to produce a satisfactory crop. And these things require constant care. The enjoyment comes only after much labor, when you reap what has been sown.

Impatience leads to recklessness, and what is planted will have no root and wither away. It takes time to craft perfection. Many hours can go into what will be experienced for only a few short moments.

But the final results will speak for themselves. The quality will be evident, and those who experience it will not be able to deny the workmanship. For the highest achievement comes through perspicacity, patience and perseverance.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My love of monsters

The time of monsters draws nigh and I am reminded of my appreciation for such things. How can creatures that fill us with terror also fill us with delight? Perhaps, it is because they are a reflection of us.

Monsters elicit the deepest of emotions, and the feelings that go deepest touch us the most. We are afraid, and yet mesmerized. Though desiring to run, we pause and reflect.

The best monsters are those that evoke sympathy: the hapless product of a mad scientist; the man cursed to become a beast under the light of the full moon; the restless spirit who is unable to leave this world and go on to the next. We feel for them, even though they frighten us. And maybe what we really fear is man’s propensity to become a monster.

Still we have a fascination for fantastic creatures. I have written about orcs, goblins and ogres. Each one strikes me differently: the ferocity of the orc, the power of the ogre, and the silent threat of the goblin.

I became obsessed with learning more about these beings: what would they really be like? If they were wholly evil, the interest would have abated. But we are drawn to them, and so the knife cuts much deeper…

Human beings are often afraid of what they like. Perhaps, it is because they are ashamed to like it. But evil is born in the heart and only manifests itself in the thoughts of the mind carried out by the hands. There is no shame in loving monsters, so long as you do not become one.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What I am

What I do is not what I am. As is the case with many authors, writing does not pay the bills. And so, I must toil during the day and write my heart out at night.

What a person is, so seldom is reflected in their vocation. This is because it is rare to secure gainful employment making use of one’s actual talents. It is much more likely to find a job doing, not what you love, but what you are good at.

Would I leave the daily grind to devote myself entirely to my literary passion? It would not be advisable. After all, as the saying goes, ‘don’t quit your day job.’

So, I lead this double life… which keeps my perceptions clear. Being a working man, I can sympathize with those of my ilk. Having not lost touch, I can still be moved.

There are those who write for a living, and I hope one day to be among their number. But for now, I do what I must. I learned the importance of responsibilities at an early age, and I shall not shirk them merely to do what I like.

What I am, is an author. And what I do is that which is necessary to support myself and continue my real work. Perhaps the day will come when there is no distinction between the two.    

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ups and downs

Life is a struggle up mountains and through valleys. There are good times and bad. Unfortunately, the latter tend to be predominant, so one must learn to savor the former.

In imitation of life, stories have an ebb and flow. Sometimes it will seem as if there is no end to trouble. But the reader perseveres in the hope of good to come.

It is this yearning which motivates one to soldier on. And a good author will reward them in some fashion. For along with pain, must be the possibility of pleasure.

People will sacrifice a great deal for the sake of happiness. If they have done so in vain, they will search out greener pastures.  Give them something or they shall leave you with nothing.

There will be sadness, but never plunge your readers into the depths of despair. Help them to reach the surface and they will be grateful. For to drown in one’s tears, is a terrible fate indeed.

When a person is down, they desperately desire to look up. Give them hope and they will have the strength to rise. And then, each step brings the goal that much closer: they need only make the climb.