Tag Archives: meaning

Writing About Life’s Mysteries

As writers we are expected to make sense of the senseless. We have to organize our stories so that the cause and effect is clearly identified although not always initially apparent to the reader. But in real life, mysteries outweigh certainty. Very rarely are there a direct cause and a direct effect. In life, we are left guessing at answers or stumbling around in a fog of confusion in which nothing makes sense.

I’ve been dealing with my daughter’s chronic illness that has been unexplained by Western medicine. For two months, she’s been sick with flu-like symptoms that have evolved into migratory aches and pains and a dire need to sleep 20 hours a day.

The blood and urine panels don’t reveal a definite cause. It could be anything from a virus that has decided its two week notice wasn’t enough to vacate the body to something more dark and insidious that Western medicine has not had the resources to explore.

The infectious disease specialist said the only thing for certain is the symptoms my daughter has are isolated to teenage girls in Sonoma County.

Sonoma County is a curious blend of technology and agriculture that is unique to the United States. It is close enough to the coast yet far enough inland. It encompasses hills, valleys, forests, vineyards, and suburban sprawl.

But why would a particular disease take up residence in one location? And why would it only infect a small population of teenage girls?

There are no answers.

But in fiction, there must be answers.

Things that don’t make sense in the real world must be understandable and believable in the fictional world in order for the reader to suspend disbelief.

But how do you write truthfully about life’s mysteries without losing the reader’s confidence?

You must build in the structure of uncertainty from the first word and continue in that same vein throughout the narrative so that the reader will think, “Of course, that’s possible.”

After all, a writer’s job is to make sense of the senseless, to bring solace to the inconsolable, and to find peace amidst chaos, because humans need to believe there is hope in the face of hopelessness.

Passionate Though Penniless

Yesterday I enjoyed a quiet lunch with a man who confessed he was miserable. “I’ve never found my passion,” he said, “and I fear it’s too late.”

He wasn’t that much older than me. As a child, he dreamed of being G.I. Joe. But by the time he grew up, those boyhood dreams were forgotten. Now at middle age, he looked back at the terrain of his life and realized he had spent the past 30 years building great wealth at the expense of great passion.

How could someone feel empty and meaningless with an abundance of money, prestige, and good fortune?

My story was the polar opposite of his. As I child, I dreamed I’d live next door to Snoopy and raise my family while writing and illustrating books. When I was 19, I moved next door to Snoopy’s Ice Arena. I married and had two children. I’ve written several books and painted many canvases. But I never made enough money to quit my day job or replace my 15 year old car or remodel my fixer-upper house. I had plenty of passion, although I was penniless.

My problems, however, paled in comparison to the lonely man sitting across from me. I could find a way around the financial potholes, but the man before me could not summon the spirit of adventure he had lost since boyhood. Money can always be made, but passion cannot be manufactured. No matter how much I shared the adventures of living in the land of the passionate though penniless, the man before me could not enter the circle of believing. He just stood outside the edges, full of fear and longing of who he so desperately wanted to become.