Okay, so I’m a sucker for picking things apart. When my brain latches onto something interesting — especially something with lots of intricacies, complications and contradictions — I love to explore it as deep as I can.
Here’s what my head’s been mulling over since this weekend.
Religion fascinates me — and not even just other, potentially exotic religions. I’m often fascinated by my own religion that I’ve belonged to all my life. And as an apprentice storyteller, I’m particularly fascinated by how religion uses stories to teach behavior.
For example, my religion advises refraining from work on Sunday, and while I have no memory of when I heard the following story or most of its details, what always comes to mind about Sunday is some fable about a baseball field that had the greenest, lushest, thickest grass. It so happened that they didn’t play Sunday games on that particular field. Then, the schedule became more hectic and they decided it was necessary to play on the field every day of the week. You can guess where this is going, right? Because the grass didn’t have a “day of rest,” it was no longer as green and healthy.
I know that this isn’t really how it works in baseball. When a team goes on the road, obviously the field gets a break while they’re gone and the grass gets a rest from being trampled, regardless of whether or not that time happens to fall on a Sunday.
But obviously it was an effective story, because it’s stuck with me for years. And I’m okay with absorbing the principle of it despite the questionable facts because I think the moral is true: we are much happier and healthier, mentally and physically, if we give ourselves at least one day off each week.
(And Hubby the Baseball Fanatic added, when I mentioned what I was writing about, that we also all need “away games”: vacations. He must have missed that post.)
For me, taking Sunday “off” means specifically that I try to refrain from working on my writing or my grading. But the other thing that fascinates me about religion is examining the internal side of it. I should be thrilled to give myself a day off from work. But because I’ve told myself I shouldn’t grade or write, there are many Sundays that grading and writing are all I seem to think about. Human nature is so weird, isn’t it?
And then, what’s even more interesting is the way we bargain with ourselves. I say, “Well, I’m absolutely not going to open my manuscript and work on that, but if an idea happens to come to me, I think it’s okay to jot it down on note paper.”
What I’ve discovered is this: while at first skipping Sundays seemed like a huge sacrifice (takes longer to get back into the swing of the story on Monday, etc), I’ve come to realize that Sunday is often when the “grass” of my story does the most growing. I trample it all week as I try to get the most use out of my story ideas, and then on Sunday it gets the chance to grow wild.
Yesterday once I finished getting dressed for church, Hubby commented on how long it had taken me. The reason was that I kept getting interrupted. I would blow-dry one section of my hair and some great line or idea for my novel would hit me, and I’d have to put down the blow-dryer and write down the idea.
I wasn’t doing it on purpose! I swear! But the ideas just kept coming, the way really healthy grass seems to grow faster than you can mow it.
Specifically, yesterday what kept popping into my head were ideas on how to improve my query letter blurb. My goal is 150 words or less, like my friend Brodi Ashton’s awesome example that I often refer back to. My previous best was 243 words; with the free flow of blow-dry brainstorming, it got down to 167.
If I can hit my 150-word goal by Thursday, I’ll post the query blurb to get opinions on how well it entices you to read the book.
On a side note, I have to end this with one last fascinating thing about religion that you can take or leave. It’s just my brain exploring even deeper.
I can imagine some readers thinking, “What’s the point in the restriction at all? Why shouldn’t you be able to write on Sunday if you want to write on Sunday? You could choose to ‘take a day off’ on another day when you don’t feel like writing.”
After all, that was where the baseball field fable failed: it didn’t prove that it had to be a particular day.
For me, it’s a combination of factors. One, I like the principle of sacrifice and the idea that I give up one thing in order to gain another — as well as the notion that for it to be a sacrifice it shouldn’t be just whenever it’s convenient for me. If I took a day off when I didn’t feel like writing, I very much doubt ideas would rush at me while blow-drying. The sacrifice is what creates the reward.
Two, I like adhering to a religion that I can think through. Since I’m not asked to follow blindly but rather I’m given stories (however flawed) and experiences (however unique), etc, that help me see the logic behind the guidelines, there’s always plenty of room to expand the way I understand each principle. The more I test it out, doing whatever it is with varying degrees of insight, the more I come to appreciate the religion as a whole.
“I know zoos are no longer in people’s good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.”
I believe that. I believe that religious restrictions grant a freedom that those who’ve never experienced it can’t understand, the same way my ideas spring up freely on Sundays. It’s just one of those crazy, fascinating paradoxes of life.
End side note. 😉
Anyhow, what do you think of days off, religion, baseball, fables, blow-drying, grass, vacations, zoos, freedom, and ideas growing wild? When do spontaneous ideas show up for you?