in Movies, Politics, Religion, Science Fiction, Television

Writing

“Writing isn’t hard – just get out a piece of paper an open a vein.”

I don’t remember who said that, but it’s a popular cliche among those who consider themselves to be literarily minded. The meaning of it, if you didn’t grasp at the outset, is that writing is a painful, personal experience that requires tremendous sacrifice from the writer.

I used to think that was bunk. I don’t anymore.

When this blog debuted in 2007,  I made it a goal to write something significant on a daily basis, and for well over a year, I was successful. I went through droughts now and again, but I always came back and had long stretches of lengthy posts, which, of course, were undeniably brilliant. I mean, come on. I’m Stallion Cornell.

You may have noted a dearth of postings of late.

I have excuses. Some of them are even actual reasons. But the heart of all of it is the unpleasant reality that writing, just as a process, has become far more psychologically difficult for me than it has ever been. This probably means I’ve become lazier and/or crazier, or both, but it frightens me that this may become the new normal.

So here’s what I’m going to do to prevent that.

Over the weeks and months, I’ve had dozens of ideas for blog posts, but I haven’t taken the time to flesh them out. So today, I’m just going to write down some of them, and, if you’re so inclined, please leave a comment and tell me which of these theses you’d like to see explored in a full-length essay.

Here they are:

1. The only way Hillary Clinton can avoid being elected president is if she becomes a Klansman and starts using the N-word in casual conversation. (And even that might not do it.)

2. If it took nearly half a decade to excommunicate John Dehlin, a man who makes his living by tearing down the truth claims of his former church online, then the idea that the Mormons are purging themselves of doubters and heretics is ludicrous on its face.

3. When I personally struggle with doubts, they’re never doubts about whether or not there is a God, as I find atheism largely ridiculous. My doubts always focus more on the character of God – i.e., what if God is actually kind of a jerk?

4. Most people who invoke scientific authority in political discussions do so because what they believe is diametrically opposed to actual science. 

5. The LDS Church’s missionary program needs to be re-thought from the ground up. I think that means no more knocking on doors, no more white shirts and name-badges, more specialization and online engagement, and a far greater emphasis on community service. Mostly, it means a great deal of localized experimentation, much of which will fail before it stumbles on an approach that will succeed.

6. Despite centuries of attempts, no one has yet produced an adequate explanation for the existence of The Book of Mormon other than the one offered by Joseph Smith. 

7. I have not encountered a new or interesting religious or political argument online for years, if not decades. 

8. The CW’s “The Flash” is the best live-action superhero story ever told, and “Agents of SHIELD” no longer sucks.

9. I know everything that’s going to happen in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and I’m still wildly excited to see it.

10. I have no favorite potential Republican presidential for the same reason I have no favorite Libertarian or Green Party candidate, as the none of the nominees from any of these parties has the slightest chance of ever becoming president.

Oh, and America has about ten years left. Fifteen, tops. But that might not be a bad thing.

There. Vein officially opened. Let me know what you think. 

OSC nails it!
The Clinton Discount

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25 Comments

  1. #3. I started out life without religion apart from some cultural norms. As a teenager a remarkable event convinced me that there was something supernatural and interested in my existence.

    So I’ve spent several decades studying the very thing you also find interesting, not the mere existence of a supreme being which is practically assured, but the nature of that being and the degree of involvement in your life or mine.

    I pursue this study on two prongs. One is to study what others have written on the subject and the other is to keep distinct my own experience and knowledge, the things I know for sure.

    So far I have come to the conclusion that not many people hear this shepherd’s voice and that appears to be by design. You and I choose our religion, but it appears God chooses his followers.

  2. “5. The LDS Church’s missionary program needs to be re-thought from the ground up.”

    The inference is that is how it initially came into existence — “ground up” rather than “top down”. I worked with missionaries but was never a full-time missionary. No quota for me; I was and am free to heed inspiration and where it is absent, so too is the quota. But it seems to require close contact. The missionary program is good for entering new areas, but areas well established should not need full time missionaries. What it needs is good neighbors. Sooner or later in ordinary neighbor, friend and co-worker conversations the topic of God and religion arise, then it is possible to tell a story and see where it goes.

    Right now I’m in a bit of a struggle knowing that were I to persuade someone that this is the church of God and they attended a fairly typical ward in Zion or Happy Valley and realized the degree of dishonesty and hypocrisy that sometimes exist, they would not only turn from the religion but from me as well.

    So I am and remain a good neighbor and am prepared to tell my stories when the circumstances seem appropriate.

    It’s not just Happy Valley. When I lived in Virginia I encountered many hoity-toity members that wouldn’t give you a first or second glance if you didn’t arrive in a Mercedes-Benz. There was a young black woman, full of zest for life and religion, largely ignored in her new singles ward. So I became her friend and felt privileged to be so. There was another fellow there, a scientist in one of the government agencies, he was humble and so the three of us canoed down the Shenandoah river.

    Military wards and branches are the best. Nobody has been there more than just a few years; people arrive willing to make friends and work from the first day. Cliques and empires largely don’t exist in such places.

  3. “what if God is actually kind of a jerk?”

    I once fancied myself a writer of science fiction, but even at my best not your equal on one of your bad days. It did cause me to study physics, math, orbital dynamics — I had written about flying from the USA to England and wondered how quickly it could be done (*) without flying off into space (ie, “escape velocity”). I realized that writing the drama of fiction is one thing, but if it is going to be science fiction you’d better get the science part correct.

    Anyway, contemplating the nature of what kind of beings could actually achieve interstellar travel I decided that they would necessarily be cooperative and intelligent; their “selfish genes” long since erased. But that eliminates conflict and drama; not much of a story. So I explored ways in which people that still had “selfish genes” could obtain the technology without having had their bad genes purged.

    I realized through this that I was also exploring religion which is a close cousin to technology. The powers of God can be handled by charitable wise persons, or theoretically, by wicked persons (Hugh Nibley had somewhat to say on that possibility). For the moment those powers automatically fail when attempting to use them selfishly; but if the powers are self standing then you don’t actually need to ask God to work the miracle, YOU do, and can do so selfishly. It’s just knowledge after all.

    Therefore, by definition God cannot be a jerk, but god-like (invisible forces, not persons) jerks can and probably do exist. Rather many of them. I’ve met a few and likely so have you. When you meet one you can be sure it isn’t God, assuming of course your detector is properly calibrated (only the pure can judge a pure thing as being pure; but how do you know you are pure? It’s a bit of a catch-22).

    * About 22 minutes if I remember right from New York to London allowing a bit of acceleration and deceleration time. At that speed passengers would be weightless. Faster than that the aircraft would actually have to fly upside down and push on the air to keep it close to Earth. Low earth orbit is 90 minutes all the way round the Earth.

  4. It’s not numbered, but I’d like to hear more about “America has about ten years left. Fifteen, tops. But that might not be a bad thing.”

  5. I’d actually be curious about all of numbers 5-10, but I’d be especially interested in 10 if you responded to Nate Silver’s recent dismissal of the “Blue Wall”:

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/there-is-no-blue-wall/

    BTW, this is unrelated, but I’m planning on starting a blog (already have many entries pre-written) in the next month or two, and I’m curious what you’d have to say about how I could improve my writing style. I don’t want to give the name of the blog publicly, or even the subject though, because I’d like to basically give it a professional demeanor, not really tied to stupid internet drama. Would you be willing to look at some of it, and if so is there an e-mail I could reach you through?

    • Write as if you are speaking face to face with an interested person.

      Start with the topic, set the “hook”. Bob Altemeyer spends 21 pages of his 260 page electronic book trying to persuade you to read the book. All 21 pages could be summarized thusly: “I don’t like authoritarians because…” (*)

      * http://members.shaw.ca/jeanaltemeyer/drbob/TheAuthoritarians.pdf

      1a. Write in active voice. The verb “write” is an action! A command!
      1b. It is better to write in active voice. This is passive, a mere observation, a suggestion.

      Which form you use depends on your readers and purpose and your own sense of authority on a topic. You are the absolute authority on your own beliefs.

      “We” do not exist. I exist. You exist. Whether we have anything in common is unknown and probably unknowable. On the other hand, if you are describing your Boy Scout troop hike to Green River lakes, then “we” has defined context. But “we need a carbon tax” is not guaranteed to be correct. Who is “we”? Perhaps “we” need the money for our own purposes.

      Be meticulous in spelling and grammar. It may not be obvious to your readers what you mean by “con envious injector” (**)

      Avoid teen-speak and colloquialisms (use sparingly). ***

      Sarcasm is risky online. So is parody. It is amusing when done well but it can turn around and bite you. After a year or so their words change meaning, the context is forgotten.

      Write to entertain AND inform rather than to show how smart and clever you are. If you succeed at informing and entertaining you are demonstrably smart and clever.

      I claim no special authority on the subject. I have written a bit here and there, published an article in Alaska Magazine years ago and edited a small (*) international magazine for a few years.

      Read “Utopia” by Sir Thomas More’ for an example of superior writing. Copy that style if your readers are literate, college educated with an above average vocabulary and an attention span ten times the current national average. Otherwise copy “Stallion Cornell”.

      ** From sanityismine February 11, 2012 at 2:44am. Yes, freedom of conscensous is a first amendment right, it is this right that provides protection for nonreligous con envious injectors.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscientious_objector

      *** Hans Schultz: 4 a “no one” 2 raise $14million USD in 90 days… I say Harry Reid is in BIG trouble

      Translation: “For a nobody to raise $14 million dollars in 90 days…”

  6. Maybe some people can just write effortlessly and fluidly, but I agree with you- to write something substantive and meaningful, or even something witty or cohesive takes some thought and effort. I had high hopes for the blog I started years ago, and even managed to write several posts. I never felt like it was as successful as I had planned, and many of my posts are still sitting as drafts. Maybe “someday” I’ll get back to it….

    I’d love to hear any ideas you have about missionary work. My son is serving now, and based on his experiences, I agree the some changes are overdue. Would be good to include a summary of what has changed too: Preach My Gospel is much better than the memorized discussions that I used. Many missionaries have iPads and are using technology pretty effectively. Some missionaries do their work via Facebook or similar tools. So some progress is being made.

  7. #3. Yes, but he’s a jerk that loves you.

    #4. Most people citing science are scientifically illiterate, particularly those who use the words “settled” and “denier.”

    #6. Which is why I’d be really interested in reading your take on Jesse Strang, particularly since I live relatively close to where he found his own brass plates.

    #7. When was the last time you’ve argued with Languatron?

    #8. Daredevil was pretty decent tool.

    #9. Meh. I suspect this is going to be Equal Representation Wars, rather than Star Wars. There’s going to be cosplay chicks in burlesque costumes fighting like girls, and it’ll be hilarious. The Empire is now Jason Vorhees, and will come back to life 35 years later complete with analogues to Darth Vader and the Emperor. This is the stuff of bad fan-fic. The Sequel Trilogy, will make the Prequel Trilogy, look like the Original Trilogy.

    #10. Walker or bust.

  8. Here’s something you could tackle Mr. Writer.

    I need to know the differences between oppression, repression, and suppression.

    What are they?

  9. Well Glen, looks like you should stop writing anyway, because you’re an intolerant war-mongering fear-mongering privileged micro-aggressing patriarchal straight sexist misogynist racist patriarchal xenophobic heterosexual homophobic homogeneous hegemonic nativist tea-bagging redneck hillbilly white male Evangelical Christian Republican bourgeoisie capitalist colonialist imperialist. And a Mormon Jew.

    http://electricliterature.com/should-white-men-stop-writing-the-blunt-instrument-on-publishing-and-privilege/#.VW4H0FUt0ZI.facebook