Exploring the future through the present. One day at a time.
I hope I stay within budget
My website: http://www.almarquardt.com
|I’m reading “Socratic Logic. A Logic Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles” by Peter Kreeft. I started it a few months ago, but am only about a third through it. Meaty stuff.
I bought it, because I wanted to learn how better to debate and discuss, and that includes knowing when to not engage. The book has helped, although I still fall into traps once in a while, and engage when I shouldn’t. Often those times occur when my opponent isn’t interested in listening and learning opposing views, but to scream at me.
One of my friends on Facebook tagged me with thoughts on a particular video, specifically on whether or not we’re listening enough: https://www.facebook.com/BuzzFeedVideo/videos/2484657501675117/
First off, thank you for sharing, and for tagging me!
He makes a lot of valid points, and I admit I’m constantly tempted to stay within my own echo chamber.
Part of it stems from frustration.
For example, when people malign the NRA. I so desperately want to have a real conversation with those who hate the organization, so I can show them what it means to be an NRA member, and why it’s so important to me. Instead, all I get is, “You have blood on your hands,” and “You love your guns more than your children.” I can’t engage in a conversation that way. No one can. At that point, it’s best to simply stay silent and walk away.
So yes, we need to not only step out to hear opposing views, we also have to set aside our pride just a little bit and ask, “Could my own preconceived notions be wrong? Does their point of view have validity?”
Like all conversations and debates, both sides have to be willing to set aside emotions, preconceived opinions, pride, and prejudices. We also need more logic when it comes to discussions and debates, and try not to take any disagreements personally. Until then, we’re all simply yelling at ourselves within our echo chambers. Those outside can’t hear, because they, too, are yelling at themselves in their own echo chambers.
We need to start by asking more questions without first throwing accusations. Anything less is disrespectful at least, cruel at worst. I don’t know about you, but I never once changed my mind because someone swore at me, or called me an awful person because I happen to be a member of a certain group.
Comedian Owen Benjamin has a great video titled, “If you can’t argue the other side, you can’t have an opinion.” It’s just over seven minutes long, but well worth it: https://youtu.be/RDOeI0FXfjI
Listening to opposing views is a start, but it’s not enough. I can listen all day and decide not to be swayed by anything, regardless of how logical or factual the opposing argument is. It also takes a bit of humility, and asking, “What if I’m wrong?” Or “Do I see, and can I argue for the other side?”
Still, even if we can argue the other side, in the end we can still reject it. At least then we’ll know our rejection (or acceptance) is based on quantifiable logic and facts, and we can be confident that our decision has real merit.
Once we’re better informed, we can approach an opponent with, “I know exactly where you’re coming from.” It eases any initial discomfort, and real discussion can begin.
Better informed is always better armed, which means seeing (and arguing for) as many sides as possible, both at the extremes and in the middle.
Coincidentally, at the same time my friend shared the video, I was writing a rather ranty entry on my frustration with the never-ending vilification of the NRA. I will add it in a later entry, but after I edit out some of the rantiness. Part of why I want to tone it down is because i sounded a bit whiny and pitious.
I don’t want anyone’s pity, or to argue “ad Misericordiam,” which is an argument based on a strong appeal to the emotions, or an appeal to pity or misery. Appeals to emotion rarely work, especially long-term, because emotions by definition are irrational and fleeting.
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” ~ James 1:19
|I’ve always believed writing is one of the most noble skills out there. Books, both fiction and nonfiction, when done well, will never lose their relevance hundreds, sometimes thousands of years later. They can heal, inform, and inspire. They can bring light to those drowning in darkness.
Here is one such example of how a teacher’s small act of sharing a book with a student literally (see what I did there?) saved his life. Warning. You may need to keep a few tissues on hand.
Never underestimate the power of words — even your own.
|As I continue my search for an agent, I can’t help but feel a little worn down and wore out.
Each time I ask myself, “Am I wasting my time? This agent’s time?”
God has told me time and again to keep on keeping on. It will happen. Eventually. And since he knows, why won’t he tell me which agents to approach, and which agents to pass on by?
After all, if God means for people to read my words, why won’t he show me the right path at the outset instead of allowing me to take so many dark and winding detours?
In Luke 24, Jesus had just risen from the dead, but none of the remaining disciples believed it.
While two of them traveled to Emmaus (verses 13-35) Jesus joined them to discuss his death, resurrection, and how scripture predicted all of it.
They didn’t recognize him until later that night.
Jesus could have revealed himself and the truth of his resurrection the moment he joined them on the road, but he chose to journey with them, to talk with, and teach them.
For him — and the disciples — the journey was of equal importance to the destination. Perhaps even more. That, and as witnesses, they were afterward better armed with scripture to help other disbelievers believe.
The same is true for for all of us. We can’t be so anxious, eager, and rushed to reach our destination that we miss walking with God, and allowing him to teach us along the way.
Sure, I want to know right this instant which agent will be the best fit, but by jumping ahead, what will I miss along the way? Lessons learned, people met, and wisdom gained?
After all, this journey isn’t only about me, but others who are, and will go through the same thing. I can only be a witness if I make the journey right along with them.
|Have you ever zoomed into a digital photo so close all you see is a bunch of fuzzy, colored squares? If someone were to walk by the computer screen, they’d never guess what the photo actually shows, or that it’s even a photograph.
Only after zooming out does the picture become clear.
I think politics does the same thing, especially if we spend so much time delving into it, and from a single point of view. For instance, I mention President Donald Trump, and some people will react with a visceral loathing while others will want to cheer “MAGA!”
Polar opposite reactions over the same human being.
For the last few months, I’ve grown tired of politics. Anyone with a phone or computer uses their electronic soapbox to opine, and usually with either a progressive or conservative point of view. It’s tiresome and predictable.
As one also armed with multiple electronic devices, I am tempted to follow only those who fall in the same political spectrum as me. After all, why follow those I disagree with when all they do is cause anger and frustration?
Still, I refuse to give in to the temptation, and the answer is simple: I don’t like pixelated photographs. They look choppy, out of focus, little to no contrast to make the subject pop, too few colors, and the details are non-existent. Uninteresting. Boring.
Another word people use to describe looking at things from a single point of view is “myopic.” It means “lacking imagination, foresight, or intellectual insight.” Isn’t that a great word? And so accurate!
Since I never want to be accused of having no intellectual insight, I’ve decided to zoom out, and attempt to see the world as a whole in all its shadows, 16 million-plus colors, contrast, depth and richness.
I resolve to push my political biases behind me, and when I see a post or article I’ll likely disagree with, I still read it, gritted teeth and involuntary shakes of the head notwithstanding.
In doing so, I’ve stumbled on a few gems of wisdom. Did I agree with everything I read? Not at all. Sometimes as a little as ten percent. But still, one piece of new knowledge or wisdom out of ten is one more than I had before.
The impetus of this entry comes from comments made on a political website about commentator, Ben Shapiro. The comments were particularly viscous for the simple reason he was critical of Donald Trump during the primaries -- a so-called “Never Trumper.” I often listen to his podcast, and while he’s still critical of Trump, he also gives him credit when it’s due. The funny part is, the commenters refuse to give Shapiro credit when it’s due. Since I know their political leanings, they would find more in common with Shapiro than not. Based on their responses when I tried to defend him, however, they are suffering from their own myopathy. Or to stick with my original analogy, they prefer to stare at pixelated photographs.
It’s a shame, really, because we are so much more than our labels, and opinions. Yet too many of us aren’t willing to step back from staring at a smattering of pixels to get a larger and deeper understanding of the entire photograph.
|With 2018 less than two weeks away, one can’t help but take stock of the previous year, what we accomplished, and didn’t accomplish, our pains and our joys. We also look toward our goals and hopes for the next year.
One of my goals is to avoid politics (it’s an off-year election in the States, so I expect things to get almost as heated and divisive as both 2016 and 2017, if not worse), and spend little if any time on social media.
A few times this last summer, we camped at a local lake called Lake Tschida. With the heat and drought, however, the lake bloomed with blue-green and slimy algae that few dared to swim in. I was not one of them.
That’s what social media feels like to me lately. Just perusing it with all the vitriolic politics and constant hate and nasty insults to those who simply disagree on a particular subject feels like swimming in a bathtub-warm, and algae-choked lake. I leave feeling slimed, emotionally and sometimes spiritually drained.
In 2016, I took a full year off social media except my author page on Facebook and other writing sites. Not only did the spiritual ick leave me, but I wrote many blog entries and finished three languishing novels. All told, I wrote over 200,000 words in those twelve months.
I hope to meet or exceed that number this year.
First I need to write my 2018 Lenten devotionals which are due by the end of January. I’m not stressing about those, though. Yet.
My other writing goals are to write more entries here on multiple subjects, rewrite my fantasy, and perhaps submit it to ACFW’s Genesis contest. As with the First Impressions contest, while winning is great, the real benefit is the judges’ critiques. Having outside opinions of my work can only help me improve my skill.
My other writing goals are to continue to submit queries to literary agents (four down, fourteen to go of my current list). I’d also like to write and submit more short stories, but we’ll see. I’ve started two so far, but am having trouble finishing. I think it’s due to my spiritual fatigue. I lose both motivation and confidence when I’m so drained.
But I am also an eternal optimist. Having endured spiritual angst multiple times already, I know it’s a seasonal thing, and like every time before, I’ll get through it and hopefully a little wiser in the end.
Oh. And read. A lot.
If this be my last entry for 2017, I pray you have a stress-less holiday season, and 2018 ends up the best year ever for all of us
|On a whim, I decided to submit my latest WIP (work in progress) to the yearly ACFW (http://www.ACFW.com) First Impressions contest. Contestants submit their back cover blurb of 500 words and the first five pages of their WIP.
In November, I discovered my story made the finals along with two others in my chosen category.
Two days ago, I received the phone call that my story won. Was I excited! Making the finals to start meant that the judges believed my story was good enough to continue on, and to win is a writer’s second-best validation (The first is for readers and/or publishers to actually purchase said story).
Aside from winning, the best part of the contest is the judges’ score sheets and comments on the submission. The score sheets ask questions such as:
Did you want to keep reading more when you reached the end of the five pages?
Did the author hook you in the opening page, enticing you to keep reading?
Was the dialogue engaging and interesting?
Even if my story hadn’t won, the comments and score sheets are invaluable. I now know -- in general -- the story’s strengths and weaknesses.
None of it came as too much of a surprise, because I know what my weaknesses are. Although I did discover my weaknesses aren’t as weak as they used to be, such as too little detail while at the same time being too wordy.
In short, taking all the comments into consideration -- especially where the judges agree -- I have one more major edit to go, and it might be ready for submission to prospective agents.
|About being bored, or out of stuff to do.
I learned that at an early age. I once told my mom that I was bored, and she eagerly eliminated that boredom by giving me chores to last at least the rest of the day.
Same goes for my job. I tell my boss I’m out of work, and my desk is soon drowning in incomplete projects.
My last entry I complained about how my motivation and desire to write had waned, and that no idea seemed good enough to start, let alone finish.
I received this email today:
I help coordinate a team of devotional writers who periodically (and hopefully more frequently in 2018!) write short devotions to encourage faith development and unity at Legacy. As I was pulling together information for next year's Lenten Devotions, your name came to mind. I recalled that writing was a passion of yours and wondered if you might want to help out with the next round of devotions?
Here's how it typically works:
I obtain Bible focus/sermon planning information from pastoral staff
I develop Scripture focus for devotions (number of devotions vary-for example we usually have 33 Lenten Devotions about 5/each week of Lent) and create document for writing assignments
Writer's Group is invited to sign up for specific devotions
Devotions are written by individual writers and submitted for review and grammatical edit
I submit entire project to JoAnn for design and printing
Attached are some guidelines that might answer some initial questions, but feel free to let me know what questions you have. Does this sound like something you'd enjoy?
Of course I agreed, even though I haven’t written devotionals in a while.
I had to chuckle, though, because the opportunity showing up right after my last entry seemed too coincidental.
I’m reminded of a short conversation between Sherlock and his older brother, Mycroft from the BBC series “Sherlock.”
Mycroft asked Sherlock, “What did I tell you about coincidences?”
“The universe is rarely so lazy.”
I replace “universe” with “God,” when coincidences like this happen. Today I was also reminded of how my mom would invariably give me something to do when I was bored.
I think God heard my complaint and thought, “She’s not writing, and not liking not writing, so I need to give her something to write about. Here you go.”
I’ve heard it said that if we ask God for patience, he will place us in circumstances that teach us to be patient. It’s an example of “be careful what you with (or pray) for.” God just might say yes.
The best part of writing devotions is it forces me to study the Bible more, something I’ve lacked of late as well. Writing devotions will help me learn, study, further build my relationship with God, and perhaps help others do the same.
That’s my hope anyway.
Since I’m writing them for someone else, I don’t know yet if I can share them here. I’ll try, though. If not, maybe I’ll write more than I need to. We’ll see.
|Quote by Dorothy Parker.
I can relate to this, especially recently. For the past month, I can’t seem to write a single blog entry. I had also hoped to write 50,000 words in October, and I barely surpassed 10,000. I started writing two short stories, but have yet to finish either.
My lack of writing boils down to a combination of lost interest and motivation, and a waning confidence. I don’t know where it comes from except to say that the more time passes with no writing, the more I believe I lost whatever skill I’ve gained, both in my writing ability, and finding interesting subjects to write about.
In short, I suck at this whole writing thing, and to share even a single word is to embarrass myself and waste readers’ time.
What I need to do is shelve my unfinished short stories in favor of finishing the second draft of my latest novel. I entered the first few pages to a contest for which I should hear how it fared within the next two weeks. Although it made it to the finals, I’d like it to win. The prize amounts to little more than bragging rights, but I’m okay with that. If I ever decide to seek publication for it, winning a contest will hopefully pique an agent or publishers interest when they might otherwise pass it by.
It’s not a big deal either way, because an agent once told me, winning a contest is based largely on comparing the quality of the entries. Saying my book is the best out of a lot could mean nothing more than mine was only slightly less mediocre then the other contestants’. It still has to stand on its own merits when read by others, whether my chosen audience or publishers/agents.
In the meantime, I need to submit another complete novel to agents. The question is, since one novel ready for submittal is science fiction, the other is fantasy that could work for either the mainstream or Christian markets. Not all agents take both mainstream science fiction and Christian fantasy. I may have to decide which audience is more important to me.
You’d think as a Christian, the choice would be obvious.
But it’s not. Does God want me to write books for Christians alone where Jesus sits front and center, or reach out into the world? Not to preach, though, because my mainstream novels contain little by way of Christian faith. At least overtly. Several of my characters believe in God, but they don’t preach or try to convert. They simply believe in a Creator, a power beyond their understanding, but worthy of worship anyway, however quietly.
Writing is hard, because it’s a skill in need of constant practice, just like any other artist or musician. “Use it or lose it,” as they say. It also requires constant thoughtfulness, to ever ask the question: is this interesting, and not only to myself? Aside from well-written, is it informative, or entertaining? Both? Neither?
Because we writers pour so much of ourselves into our writing, there’s the constant fear of rejection, of not being good enough. With every word we succeed in writing, we feel like we’re taking one more step closer to an abyss. We think that by not writing, we can avoid falling into that abyss with no bottom, no light, and no way out. That abyss is obscurity, of failure. Of learning beyond all doubt we wasted our time trying to develop a skill, but in the end will never be successful at it. It’s the fear of finding out we will never be good enough. Better to dream in blissful ignorance.
And yet, whenever I do push through those fears and insecurities, and finish a blog entry, short story or novel, I realize I didn’t careen into an abyss after all. While the story may not be publishable at first, it’s at least finished. That alone is an accomplishment.
Yet knowing I can succeed, because I have succeeded many times, why is it still so hard to finish?
Maybe it’s what Dorothy Parker said. Oftentimes we prefer the destination to the journey. To skip the lengthy step of bloody, heart-wrenching work.
After all, how many of us who have traveled long distances look forward to the many hours on the road, on the water, or in the air verses arriving at our chosen destination?
Unfortunately for the uncertain writer, the journey matters most to the reader, not the destination. If it didn’t, all stories would contain the first page and the last with nothing in between.
It’s the in between parts that invites people to read, and keep reading.
It’s also the part writers hate the most.
|I’m adding a new word to my personal dictionary. It can’t be found (as yet) in any other dictionary, because it’s not an official word. I’ve only seen it once, but it’s such a perfect word, I think everyone needs to add it to their own personal dictionary.
A few days ago, a friend posted an article on Facebook: http://charlesmartinbooks.com/blog/entry/what_i_think...about_the_movie
It’s written by Charles Martin, author of “The Mountain Between Us”. The entry is about his feelings both toward the movie and the changes made to it, and the criticism he has received because of those changes (namely a sex scene that wasn’t in the book).
I won’t give much away, because regardless of your feelings about the author’s religious beliefs, it’s well written and has a few lessons I know I need, and perhaps others as well.
One quote in particular grabbed me: “So, let’s become unoffendable and pray these folks into the Kingdom of Heaven where every knee will bow and every tongue confess. “
Did you spot the word I want to add to my dictionary?
You guessed it. “Unoffendable.”
I commented on my friend’s Facebook post thusly (in part): “I especially like the first [part of that] sentence about ‘becoming unoffendable.’ That right there would solve a lot of problems we see today.”
Think of it. What would social media and our world today (especially in the US) look like if everyone decided they would no longer be offended by everything? How many of us would finally see the joys in life when we no longer focus so much on the ick? How many of us would retain relationships we quit on because we found offense with someone’s postings, or friends/family quit on us because they found offense over what we post(ed)?
As for me, I resolve to be unoffendable, no matter how many times my computer tells me it’s not a word.