Impatience is Not a Virtue

I may have a problem.

For Christmas, my parents gave me an insanely generous gift: a $100 gift card for my comic shop.

Guess what I’m planning to do later today?

Last night I was going through what I want to get. The shop is running a sale for the next week, and I’m eager to take advantage of it. I could complete my Mike Grell Green Arrow run. I could pick up some Thor. Maybe I should get some more Batman or Wonder Woman? Oh, I could grab some Star Wars!

OK, I definitely have a problem. Decision paralysis is setting in, and I’m not even there yet!

But that’s not the problem I’m writing about today. See, I got this gift card, and though I have a week to spend it before the sale ends at my shop, I want to go today to spend it.

Patience is not my strong suit.

This problem extends to my writing.

Last week I wrote out a rough draft of a story involving a man who kills gods for a living. I thought it was nifty. I did one quick revision and sent it out to some beta readers to make sure it made sense. It did. I revised it again.

And then I was too impatient. I submitted it to a publisher.

It probably needed another revision or two. Every time I go through, I tend to find more ways to tighten up the story, reveal characters in more potent ways, or just a few more typos. But I didn’t want to do that work. I wanted to submit it right away because I was excited about that story!

There are times in the writing life a person needs to hurry. Notice, please, I am not saying that there’s ever an excuse to be sloppy or lazy. But yes, sometimes a person needs to rush. Perhaps a call for submissions closes soon. Perhaps you have only fifteen minutes a day, and you need to use those minutes to their fullest. These things happen!

At the same time, writing often calls for patience. Allowing a story to develop takes some time. Polishing that story takes effort. Finding the right market isn’t usually something that happens in five minutes. And all of that takes patience.

Thankfully, in the initial writing stages I usually have patience in abundance. I usually take time to find the right market. Initial polishing? No problem. But that finer polishing to make it all shiny? It’s something I have to force myself to do. Often enough it does get done.

Sigh. Writing is work, and that means it’s not always fun. My patience wears thin.

It’s something to work on in 2021, I guess.

2020 Gift-Giving Guide for that Hard-to-Shop-for Writer Friend

You’ve pillaged the nearest towns. You’ve ransacked every bookery you can find. And yet, your desperate search has not ended.

What can you get your writer friends for Christmas?

Have no fear! I’m here to present to you a list of items for you to get them that they are sure to enjoy and thank you endlessly for!

  • Buy yourself their book(s). So, yes, this means you get to get something for yourself, but it’s insanely encouraging when a friend picks up a book that I’m in. If you’re looking to get something for me, might I suggest picking up A Celebration of Storytelling?
  • Once you’ve bought their book(s), read them. And if it’s an anthology, read the whole thing. You might find other authors you like, too! Those authors need Christmas gifts, too. Not as much as your author friend, sure, but it’s the season of giving, right?
Continue reading “2020 Gift-Giving Guide for that Hard-to-Shop-for Writer Friend”

Christmas Writings

As I’m writing this post, it’s Christmas Eve. The kids are milling in front of the tree, not able to break their gaze from the sight of all their presents. (We won’t open them until tomorrow.) I’m mentally preparing to lead worship at my congregation tonight. Oh, and typing this post.

It’s Christmas. For many, including me, it’s the most insane time of the year. Allthekids have alltheprograms at school. I’m a pastor, so you know, I’m a tad busy. We’re dashing about getting allthegifts.

And you know what else is happening?

Allthewriting. Continue reading “Christmas Writings”

Stories of Christmas Past

Why do we love A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens so much?

First published in 1843, this slim volume has been adapted and readapted and transformed so many times. It’s a world that has become so pliable that Mickey Mouse, Twilight Sparkle, Patrick Stewart, and George C. Scott have all taken cracks at it. (Incidentally, if you think that the Muppet Christmas Carol isn’t the best adaptation, you’re wrong, but I suppose we can still be friends. Probably.)

There are certain stories that our culture comes back to again and again. I’m not talking about TV Tropes, though be careful if you click that link. You’ll be lost for hours. I’m not talking about the Hero’s Journey, though that’s also a compelling narrative. Obviously.

There are certain stories that we can’t seem to let go of. Stories like Cinderella. Stories like Robin Hood.

And A Christmas Carol falls into this pattern, too. There have been so many adaptations, and more than their fair are pretty entertaining. What is it about this world that we love returning to it in so many different shades of color?

You could argue at this point it’s simply a cultural touchpoint; everyone knows it, so if your tv show wants to do a Christmas special, simply slot your characters into the various positions and poof! You’re set to go!

(Incidentally, I really want to see Jean Luc Picard play Ebeneezer. Not Patrick Stewart, mind you. We already have that one. I want to see the cast of Star Trek: the Next Generation slotted into the roles. Imagine Worf as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, or Barclay as Bob Catchit!)

I think there’s more to it than it simply being a cultural touchpoint – otherwise it would never have made it to being a cultural touchpoint in the first place.

It doesn’t follow a lot of normal story beats. I mean, the bad guy protagonist isn’t exactly normal even now, is it? Sure, we have Wicked and Maleficent and all that now, and so many good guys are really gray guys in dark worlds, but Scrooge is set up to be the guy we cheer against!

And time travel wasn’t exactly a normal trope when it was originally written. (Time travel isn’t a normal trope for most TV series adapting it, either.)

Really, none of the “main characters” have much agency in the story, either. Scrooge is carried along by the ghosts. He doesn’t even agree to the process. It’s forced on him. While Scrooge surely grows through the story, it’s not by his own doing. Bob Cratchit, who in most stories would be the protagonist, is ogled by Scrooge as he’s carried along, but Bob just keeps on keepin’ on. The most agency he has is asking for some more coal!

And really, how many stories these days come with morals, especially as typically up-front as this story is?

In other words, A Christmas Carol has a lot going against it when it comes to “normal” storytelling. I want to note that I’m not claiming any of this is bad; I’m simply noticing that it’s unusual. I have a feeling if I analyzed the story structure with any standard “how to write book” I’d wind up tossing the whole thing out.

So why is the story adapted so many times? Why is it so well-loved?

I think it comes down to a message:

If you shape up your life, you won’t be dragged to hell.

Isn’t that the main message? Marley visits Scrooge, and tells him to listen to the ghosts to come if Scrooge would avoid his fate. The original story has Marley show Scrooge many other ghosts condemned to see others in need and never be able to help. If Scrooge just starts helping others, he can save himself.

What’s fascinating to me is that this message is pretty blatantly anti-Christian.

John 3:16 may be the most famous summation of Christianity: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I prefer Ephesians 2:8-9 myself: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Christianity is not about what we do, but about what Jesus did for us. And with Christmas being the day Christendom celebrates Jesus’s birthday (though he was more likely born in the springtime), it’s interesting that story that’s about what we do to rescue ourselves gained such traction.

But I understand. It’s an attractive message, isn’t it? Work hard, and you to can rescue yourself.

Which isn’t what I believe. (Usually I save these theological discussions for my other blog, but this has more to do with a story than theology!)

Any which way, it’s still a story I love, even if I disagree with the moral as usually presented. And yes, the Muppet Christmas Carol is the best adaptation.

Come at me, bro.

What about you? Why do you think this story is so well-loved?