Here There Be Dragons

I've been writing seriously for a year now, but I still have no idea where I'm going. Oh yeah, I have a general direction, story ideas and a writing regimen, but what the outcome of it all will be -- or tomorrow's topic -- is anyone's guess.

The testimonies run the gamut. Some people know from the outset where they want to go. Like the kid that wrote the mega-popular, millions-sold, Eragon. His bio states:

Christopher Paolini’s abiding love of fantasy and science fiction inspired him to begin writing his debut novel, Eragon, when he graduated from high school at 15. Now 21, he lives with his family in Paradise Valley, Montana, where he has been working on Eldest, the next volume in the Inheritance Trilogy.

Hey, at 15 my grandest aspiration was to keep my zits to a minimum and my record collection current. Mr. Paolini, however, pops fresh outta high school and knows exactly where he's going. Some writer's are like that. They're driven by a single idea, story or goal, and they see it through to completion. Or, in the kid's case, best-seller status.

Others, like me, aren't so sure.

Ancient map makers, when reaching the end of the known world, often drew a terrible beast or dragon to delineate the boundaries of the unexplored. Venture this far, they'd say, and ye may encounter dragons. That's more like my journey. I've written brochures and workbooks. For a while, I wrote "Letters to the Editor," finally reaching the pinnacle when a rant of mine was printed in the L.A. Times. (That's when I thought being a journalist would be fun.) Then I wrote theological essays. (One of them, Of Saints and Serial Killers, you can find a link to in the sidebar.) After that, some fluffy, inspirational pieces. Then fiction -- first short, then long. I've managed to settle in on the fiction thing, but where it leads, is unknown. So when I sit down at the computer at 4 AM every morning, I'm often fighting fatigue and a dragon or two.

The call to write is strange. Some even question whether it's a "calling" at all -- as if God taps you on the shoulder one day and suddenly says, "Grab a pen and paper, and follow Me." I still remember the day last year, that I announced to my family, "I'm going to write." They looked at each other like, "So?" The unspoken message was, "Just keep the lawns mowed, get to work on time, and don't get weird on us." Well, I've managed the first two.

One of the books I'm currently reading, "When the Day of Evil Comes," by Melanie Wells, has this in the forward:

Writing is a tedious and solitary endeavor. In the glow of the computer screen at 3:00 AM on a Tuesday, with a full day of civilian work on the other side of daylight, writing a novel can seem like the most extravegant, irresponsible indulgence.

Wow! She has me by an hour each morning. Now, I really feel guilty. Ms. Wells captures the feeling of this writer's journey in those words: tedious, solitary, extravegant, irresponsible. Knowing there's other oddballs out there like me, makes the journey more bearable. If I only knew where I was headed, I'd feel better.

This muse is on the heels of a Scripture my pastor read last week, that's had me bubbling.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. -- Hebrews 11:8 NKJV

Did you get that? Abraham, father of the Jewish people, fountainhead of the Christian faith, "went out, not knowing where he was going." He began a journey, without knowing the destination. How solitary, extravegant, irresponsible! Of course, he had a Companion.

I guess that's what makes my journey different from others. I don't have the surety of Christopher Paolini (nor the youth), I haven't found a comfortable niche (just a few ruts). When I look out on the horizon and ponder my path, where it will end and what's along the way, I have questions, doubts, fears. The edges roil, they're grey, and behind the shroud, dragons bellow. But amidst it all, I still have an unusual peace. Because, like Abraham, I have a Companion.


Gina Holmes said...

Great post, Mike. When I realized I wanted to write for publication, eight years ago, I started with children's books. That didn't work out so well, so I tried my hand at non-fiction and had some success, but I found it tedious work. I didn't think I had it in me to write a novel, then I read something that said if you write just one page a day, in one year, you'll have a novel.

One page a day? I could do that.

But, when I started writing adult fiction, the lightbulb went on and I knew this was what I loved.

Most of us have to try out a little of everything to find our niche. You'll find yours.

Mike Duran said...

Thanks for the comments, Gina. I think a kind of "light bulb" thing happened with me when I started writing fiction too. Not because I don't like the other kinds of writing -- I especially like essay / commentary-type stuff -- but, being I work full time, I've had to narrow my focus. I don't know if fiction is my niche, but I've decided to give it enough time to (hopefully) find out.

evandahlke said...

I still love hearing your since of humor.

If any of us knew what tomorrow held then we would be bored. Our Lord is full of adventure and that keeps us getting up each morning.

I thought after getting your "retirement" job you wouldn't be getting up a 4am?

Well you have brought me into a new level of "internet life". I never thought of a blog page and my lack of computer knowledge will show.

Keep fighting those dragons!

mike duran said...


Welcome to the 21st century. Now get in line for the stamp on your right hand or forehead. Just kidding. My "retirement job" just gives me the freedom to write more than a "real job" would. But I do need a partner for dragon paring. I've got an extra sword.