Welcome, everyone! I hope that you’re having a wonderful Sunday! As you all know, we like to take Sunday’s off here at the Art of Writing, but I do always have a little something for you :). So, here’s your bit’o’wisdom for the day – one of the things that we can often talk about today is overspecialization. Often we run into people who seem to have no social life to speak of, or people who obviously don’t take care of their physical needs (i.e. people who forget to eat, or people who forget to exercise and indulge their desires). Similarly, we often run into people who have little to no internal life to speak of, or people who have little or no intellectual or creative life. Now, given that you’re on this blog, I’m going to guess that relatively few of you struggle with the latter issues, but some of you might struggle with the former. I think that it’s important to apply ourselves in four broad spheres or areas of life: the life of the mind, the life of the spirit, the life of the body, and the life of the community. This isn’t to say that it is bad to be an intellectual or a construction work. However, perhaps it is bad to be an intellectual who has no social skills, little social interaction, little concept of how to handle money, and pays no attention to his physical well-being. Similarly, perhaps it is bad to be a construction worker who doesn’t know himself very well, and doesn’t know much of anything about God, people, or the world around him. I find myself more and more to be an advocate of the well-rounded life. Anyway, I also went and found this for you:
So, Alayna and I were arguing about fighting last night, and I don’t mean that we were arguing about arguing. We were arguing about professional fighting (such as the UFC) and whether or not it is legitimate/wise/acceptable/etc. Now, I am a martial artist and have been for a number of years, and as such I have a lot of respect for the martial arts and those who practice them. In many ways the martial arts are a form of expression and communication more than anything else. There is a bond formed with regular sparring partners (or Randori partners) that isn’t exactly like any other friendship that I’ve had. Honestly, for anyone who is a serious martial artist (and by this I mean the equivalent of black belt or higher), you probably have a fairly good idea what I mean. However, I’ve found that this is very difficult to explain, and I’m guessing that most people don’t really understand what I mean. I am not advocating for rampant violence, nor am I trying to glorify violence. Anyone who’s been in a couple of actual fights will tell you that they’re dirty, messy, painful, and generally not a good thing. However, any serious martial artist will also tell you that there is a huge difference between fighting off a group of muggers who are trying to rob or kill you and fighting another serious martial artist in a controlled setting. One is about survival and the other is about an expression of style and skill.
So, in Western philosophy there is a strong tradition of Just War theory. In brief Just War Theory argues that for a war to be just it must 1) be for a just cause, 2) be lawfully declared by a legitimate authority, 3) be of good intentions (i.e. defending the innocent), 4) be a last resort after other solutions have been tried, 5) have a reasonable possibility of achieving victory, 6) use proportional means, 7) be cognizant and cautious with civilian life, and 8) be carried out according to the rules of war.
In Eastern Philosophy theories of just war are… well, rare is probably putting it kindly. In fact, Mengzi – a foundational Confucian thinker – argues that there is no such thing as a just war while Sunzi – a foundational military theorist – argues that the best victory is the one achieved without fighting, the second best victory is to take capture the opponent’s lands, facilities, and populace intact, but an acceptable victory is to wipe out your opponent to a man… he kind of makes Machiavelli look like a pushover.
However, Eastern Martial Philosophy, especially some of the Japanese writers such as Yagyu Munenori, Miyamoto Musashi, or Takuan, have fairly strongly developed arguments concerning the positive influence of martial training and, in some cases, even combat. The argument here tends to run along the lines of seeing violence as a form of discipline, self-expression, and communication that is intended to create understanding and lead to peace, rather than being intended to simply destroy the opponent. Similarly, the martial art Aikido is well known for its emphasis on peaceful means of resolving conflict, and even in its martial aspect for pursuing a path that seeks to create submission without destruction. A mantra that my own instructor drilled into me was this: Don’t fight if you don’t have to. Don’t injure if you can hurt. Don’t maim if you can injure. Don’t kill if you can maim. If you must kill, kill quickly. The mindset that this seeks to create is that of resolving the conflict with as little damage as possible. The purpose is not to cause pain, but to reach an understanding. However, if pain must be caused in order for an understanding to be reached, it should be the minimum pain possible, with the greatest chance of full recovery possible.
So, here is your challenge today: write me a story of 1000 words that presents and defends your answer to the following question – Is violence necessarily evil, or can it be a positive force?
Well, I started into my last book, Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship, today. I read it a few years ago, but I don’t remember enough of it to discuss it meaningfully. Still, I remember that I generally enjoyed it, and so I’m looking forward to reading it again. Life can be difficult sometimes, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Whether its work, spiritual frustration, relationship problems, or just plain loneliness and lack of purpose or direction. Honestly, whatever the problem is, I’ve always found that the root of the answer is to accept those things that actually are my responsibility (which is usually a lot of things that I don’t think are or want to be my responsiblity), and let go of those things that aren’t my responsibility (amazingly, a lot of the time these are the very things that I’m trying to take responsibility for). I’ve found that when I get my priorities in proper order and really understand my responsibilities, the problems usually resolve themselves fairly quickly. However, when I keep demanding that the world work my way they usually don’t. Anyway, for today’s exercise I’m going to give you a picture and I want you to use it as inspiration to design one part of the world you’ve started. This could be fleshing out one of the nations that you’ve already come up with or it could be creating an all new nation or continent for your world – also, just a thought, in Kalagrosh, one of the worlds that I’ve included is a world in which sound doesn’t exist – you might try doing something like this. Create a world where things just work differently. The rules of physics are completely different, or something that we take completely for granted (like sound) is non-existent, and then figure out how the world works without it. Here’s your picture:
Well, today was supposed to be my post, and I am definitely late. I’m sorry about that – it’s been kind of a crazy week all around I think. The end of the semester can get that way. I don’t have a lot of time, so I’m going to keep this short. I’ve been thinking a little bit here and there about role-playing games. A few years ago a friend and I tried to write a roleplaying game set in Avnul – we got pretty far actually, until we both got busy and had to put it aside. However, I’m not entirely ready to give up on the project, and I’m hoping that he’s not either.
Our original outline and rules-set was probably too reminiscent of those games that influenced it, and I think that, in going back to the game, I’d like to push us in a somewhat more original direction – fortunately, I think that Thomas Aquinas could provide some impetus for that direction. You see, Aquinas, following Aristotle, breaks human faculties down into five parts: Generation – or the faculty of maintaining and creating life, Locomotion – or the faculty of movement, Sensation – or the faculty of sense and desire, Volition – or the faculty of choice making, and Reason – or the faculty of memory and reaching logical conclusions from given premises.
Now, it struck me the other day that these can make a perfect set up for RP statistics. I’m not going to break them down for you, though I think that it might be somewhat obvious how they might break down. One of the things that I think is cool is that this set up opens up the strong possibility of having fertility as a secondary or tertiary stat. This means that GMs can 1) have a mechanic for holding players responsible when they want to go around trying to have sex with everything – and yes, unfortunately there are players who do that… unfortunately – now you can have kids, and there’s no contraception in this world, so your going to have to deal with either being responsible or being a dead-beat parent and all the social malignance that comes with that (especially in some cultures in Avnul). 2) It makes it possible to have games that last for generations. Real people don’t generally move from one crazy adventure to another. They might have crazy adventures sometimes, but they generally settle down and have a family, or they get “too old for this.” If you have a character who does want to settle down, then maybe you can actually have a kid, and then RP the kid as he tries to follow in his honorable parent’s footsteps. I don’t exactly know how that’s actually going to work out, but I like the idea overall.
Anyway, these are some of the things that my mind has been on when I haven’t either been teaching or learning :P.
Well, I’m in the middle of The Mencius now, and just finished The Hsun-Tzu, which means that by Thursday I’ll only have Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship and a few articles left to read this semester. I have to admit that I’m happy that its almost done. It’s been awesome, but it’s going to be nice to be living up near Alayna and have less pressure to get everything done NOW! Anyway, it’s time for a scene challenge. If you can’t remember the rules, I’ll provide them: I provide you with specific rules for how to write a particular scene. Try to keep your scene under five hundred words, and try to keep it in the same tone as the introduction. If I give a line that is very dark and depressing, then I don’t want to see a scene about a drunken monkey in a tutu…it just doesn’t fit. If I do give you a line about a drunken monkey in a tutu, then you should probably try for a funny scene.
Your Challenge: I want you to write a reverential. This is going to be a variation of the movie/book scene challenges we’ve done in the past. Choose one of your favorite scenes from a good book or movie that evokes a sense of wonder, awe, and worship. There are parts of Lord of the Rings, The Year of the Warrior, or some of Erikson’s works that do this for me. However, instead of simply rewriting the scene, I want you to write a version of what happens that is entirely your own. Your own voice, your own characters, your own setting. Everything should be your own. This isn’t a simple rewrite for practice. I want you to write a scene that reflects the same mood, evokes the same emotions, and handles plot in the same way, but that is still completely your own work.
“Motivation is temporary. It gets you started, but it fades. Discipline is forever.” -Friend of mine, kind of, it’s really more paraphrased.
Why did I miss today? Distractions. Good distractions. Such great distractions that I’m going to distract you with them.
I wrote my first children’s book. The title is The Rise of Phulthgemogn. I’m searching for an illustrator, and I’m aware it needs some cleaning up. This ended up happening as I played Sims 4 and basically they implied writing children’s books is easy. I disagree with that notion. It’s difficult to find the right words for the age group, make it so there are some words they must reach for, while having enough hints they can comprehend it, and having content which is appropriate. I’ve been questioned on whether or not Phulthgemogn is age appropriate.
I watched two episodes of Psych. Which really means I cleaned my apartment for an hour and a half. It’s a disaster. I decided to remove all my books from my bookshelves, and did not realize just how many books I had. Oops.
I edited for about two hours last night. I completed about fifteen pages. I’m not sure how others edit, but it’s usually three pages every hour. I was on fire.
Then to bed early to wake up early and go for a swim.
Was I motivated to do these things? No. There is absolutely nothing motivating me. There’s no girlfriend, wife, crush, child, children telling me, directly or indirectly, that I need to do these things. The closest thing to motivation I have is I’m fat, I’m easily exhausted, I’m becoming a collection of health issues I refuse to see a doctor for, and some day I want my nephew/godson to read what I wrote and go, “Uncle Paul, you’re the coolest person ever.” And fan girls. At cons. I mean, that’d be cool too. Along with enough money to buy an island. But I digress.
I went to a movie last week with a friend. We chatted, and I talked about motivation. He scoffed. He said the above quote. Sort of. It’s not verbatim, but the spirit’s there. He said there is no real motivation to go to the gym. It hits from time to time, but he’s there because he has to be there. He is there because discipline dictates he’s there.
Aside from this weekend, where I literally locked myself in the apartment from Friday afternoon until Monday morning to clean and play video games, I’ve been writing every day for two weeks. It was a habit I wanted to form, and I have. I did not form it through motivation. A couple days all I could muster was slugging out three pages of edits.
I went to the gym at 5:30am because of discipline. There is no motivation to do anything at 5:30am, when I can wake up at seven. No one is telling me to go. No one is telling me to edit.
What am I trying to tell you? A lot of advice for writing is find motivation, discover a muse, write when you feel like it. This is nonsense. Write all the time. If you take a break, take a day or two. The more you work on your craft, the more motivated you will be to keep working. The longer your break, the harder it will be to get back into it. So write. Write a lot. Do not stop, even if you have to work on a separate project.
I hope the honeyed fields of motivation can lead you to the iron forged barracks of discipline. Write well!
Well, yesterday was a resounding success! We did church, then Alayna, God, and I had some good time together, and then we got lunch at a local Olive Garden. We had a bit of an adventure trying to find an open and uncrowded coffee shop, before we finally settled on going to see Unfriended instead (a bit of advice, don’t waste your money – it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either – it reminded me a lot of Blair Witch Project). Then we made roasted lamb chops and vegetables for dinner (which was awesome) and hung out for the rest of the evening. I have to say that I think we both had a lot of fun! Anyway, on a different subject entirely, I have a story challenge, and it’s time for my favorite story challenge. I’m going to give you a series of criteria including genre, theme, some character archetypes, etc. Your job is to write a story that includes all of the features required in the challenge. If you intend to post it here, please keep it short. However, the complexity of this challenge often requires a longer story.
Theme: The Gods at War
Genre: Fantasy, Surreal Fiction
Setting: This should be a high or dark fantasy setting, though a general fantasy setting or even a low-magic setting could potentially work. The other option is a surreal setting that is intended to depict the world of the gods apart from our own.
1) The Godking
2) The Warrior God
3) The God of Magic, Wisdom, or Knowledge
4) The Death God
1) The living heart of a god
2) A sword that will cut through anything
3) A Phylactery (you could use this in the D&D sense as where a lich hides it’s soul, or you could use it in the traditional sense as in a metal or wooden box worn on the forearm or forehead that contains sacred scrolls or magic spells)
Well, I was hoping to get a good night’s sleep so that I would be well-rested and alert for my date with Alayna today. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen – if I haven’t ever mentioned it, I’m a chronic insomniac and sometimes I go days without sleeping, though lately its been fairly good – however, as one of my college professors would say ‘Persevere!’ So, I’m going to make the best of it, and our picnic today is going to be awesome for her, one way or another! However, don’t think that I’ve forgotten about you entirely! I went and found you this (please excuse the language):
As I’ve lived, read, and continued to grow over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly convinced that many (probably most… possibly virtually all) Americans (myself included) have little to know idea what a community actually is. I think that we have so overemphasized individuality and independence that we tend to confuse true interdependence with parasitic dependence, and to confuse thoughtful submission to community authority based on what Mengzi scholars might call other-focused emotions such as compassion, loyalty, and rightly-founded shame, with an authoritarian repression that stunts my growth as an individual. I’ve no doubt that some people will want to dicker (yes, I just used the word dicker – and I meant it too) with my use of the term rightly-founded to describe any kind of shame. However, while being ashamed of not making enough money, even though I work hard in a field that I love and do my best to help others, might be foolish (and I would characterize it as wrongly-focused), being ashamed of being a lazy bastard who 1) doesn’t work and doesn’t try to work, 2) leeches off of family and friends, and 3) makes little to know effort to improve myself as a person absolutely is something that I should be ashamed of.* So, I want to establish that there is a legitimate place for shame in one’s self-analysis.
This being the case, my philosophical story challenge for you this week is to consider community in America. As always, I want you to write a story of 1000 words that presents and defends your perspective on the following issue: Can modern Americans build real community? If so, how?
* In light of my post a few weeks ago I want to clarify – I should be willing and able to admit that I am this person, and be ashamed of being this person. I should also accept that I am this person, and that this is where I’m starting and everyone has to start somewhere. I should also be ashamed of continuing to be this person any longer, and thus strive to become a better person.