Pondering new directions for writing

I am writ­ing again. I can’t express how excit­ed I am about this. These entries are not as reg­u­lar as I would like, but that will change. Nor are they as in depth and dis­cur­sive as I could wish, but there are lim­i­ta­tions of the for­mat to bear in mind there, and per­haps I should not dream too big just yet, since I am still get­ting my legs back under me, writ­ing-wise, and I am so hap­py for that.

What do I want from myself as a writer? Do I want anoth­er round of The Float­ing Egg? Is that still a viable form for me to be work­ing toward? Or is it time to real­ly stretch this time, to look beyond what has worked in the past, and try some­thing new, per­haps even bold? Yes, to both.

The Egg is part of me, a vital step in my jour­ney as a cre­ative writer, and I want to keep it float­ing as long as I can. Which is not to say I don’t feel free to evolve the hell out of it. In fact, I see this forum, as it takes shape, become inte­gral, even cen­tral, to the renewed incar­na­tion of my lit­tle jour­nal. This is where the me, the writer, flings him­self most direct­ly at his per­ceived read­er­ship, always the live­ly ker­nel at the cen­ter of what made the Egg tick.

But it can­not stop here. I can no longer con­tent myself with self-cen­tered prat­tle and call it my favored form. I need to actu­al­ly com­mit myself to pro­duc­ing work of length and (more impor­tant­ly) of sub­stance. I have projects in the (very) ear­ly stages of devel­op­ment, but they give me cause for hope, as does this blog. Small steps, and as I prac­tice more and more, big­ger and big­ger steps will be prac­ti­ca­ble.

Next time, a look at some of my embry­on­ic writ­ing projects.

A new pope, a (re)new(ed) self

Habe­mus papam!

How excit­ed I was to hear those words! I held my infant son in my arms, stand­ing excit­ed­ly before the tele­vi­sion, watch­ing that upper win­dow with the rest of the world to see who would emerge as the Suc­ces­sor of the Prince of the Apos­tles. I caught myself on the verge of sob­bing sev­er­al times, so intense was the antic­i­pa­tion. And when Bene­dict XVI final­ly emerged into view I dropped to my knees in my liv­ing room, trem­bling with reli­gious excite­ment.

And the news was no real sur­prise. It was not, per­haps, what I might have hoped, but even I am unsure what it was I might have hoped for. I feel so dis­tant from the hub­bub of eccle­si­as­ti­cal pol­i­tick­ing com­pared to my con­stant per­co­la­tion in it of my sem­i­nary days, and when I have tried to take an inter­est in it again I have felt like a man lost in a very famil­iar but still vague­ly dis­tant dream. Cer­tain­ly Joseph Ratzinger has fea­tured promi­nent­ly in the pan­theon of my Catholic heroes for many years, and dur­ing my time in the sem­i­nary his name was a lit­mus test for who was friend or foe in the sim­mer­ing intra­mur­al com­bat of Church pol­i­tics.

I dis­tinct­ly remem­ber a rather fright­en­ing evening in a lake cab­in, short­ly before my first semes­ter of sem­i­nary. It was a reg­u­lar end of sum­mer rit­u­al for the sem­i­nar­i­ans of the dio­cese to gath­er with a few of the younger priests for an infor­mal get-togeth­er at the lake. As the new­bie, I was meet­ing most of these men for the first time. I was on my best behav­iour, but I had been well-coached by my pas­tor not to reveal my true (con­ser­v­a­tive-tra­di­tion­al) views light­ly, and I sus­pect­ed that I was not entire­ly among friends.

Over a game of cards, the voca­tion direc­tor made a com­ment that if we need­ed any­thing, we had only to ask. One of the sem­i­nar­i­ans unhesi­tat­ing­ly quipped that he would love to have James Bond’s new BMW, with the machine guns and rock­et launch­ers built in. “Oh, sure,” was the response. “You know, the bish­op has one of those. It says ‘Eat this, Ratzinger’ on the front.” Gen­er­al laugh­ter fol­lowed.

I was inward­ly appalled. I had nev­er before bro­ken bread with “lib­er­al” Catholics, let alone sat up late into the night drink­ing and play­ing cards with them. And to hear a priest speak flip­pant­ly about the man I saw as one of the cham­pi­ons for the preser­va­tion of the Church, well, it was very dif­fi­cult to make my laugh­ter seem heart­felt.

But that was many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away. I some­times don’t rec­og­nize that skin­ny young me, sit­ting at that table laugh­ing ner­vous­ly. So much has hap­pened in the inter­im, and the world looks so very, very dif­fer­ent. But now I have seen my first con­clave, how­ev­er brief. A new pope holds my fer­vent alle­giance. A baby son looks to me to show him how to be a per­son of faith. I am a Catholic as I have nev­er been before, and every day finds me tak­ing that Catholic iden­ti­ty more and more seri­ous­ly. At this rate, I could be a bright young Catholic intel­lec­tu­al before I know it. That is the goal now, and I can hard­ly wait.

On the eve of the conclave

The pope is dead.

Nev­er before in my life have I heard those words pro­claimed, and for the past two weeks I have been repeat­ing them to myself, over and over again, as if the news were too much to take in all at once, but must soak in grad­u­al­ly like the first spring rain. Cer­tain­ly it is a strange time to be alive, and to be a Catholic. My emo­tions are strong, and mixed. There is sad­ness, grief that a great man is dead, that a holy life is end­ed, that a con­stant in my life is sud­den­ly gone. And there is excite­ment and curios­i­ty about what will hap­pen now, who will emerge from the com­ing con­clave to fill the Chair of Peter, and what aspects of the Church will come to the fore dur­ing the 265th papa­cy.

But should­n’t I be wor­ried? Should­n’t I be a afraid? The man who emerges lat­er this week upon the bal­cony clad in white to bless the city and the world will be in a posi­tion to influ­ence the course of his­to­ry through­out the world, and the actions he will take (or not take) will rever­ber­ate in the lives of bil­lions of souls. I take some com­fort in my belief that the Holy Spir­it will indeed be at work as the car­di­nals make their choice from among them­selves of the next leader of the Catholic Church. But they are all human, too, and there have been good popes, and many less good, through­out the long his­to­ry of Chris­ten­dom. Who knows which kind we shall see next? I hope and pray that it will be just the man that God knows we need.

Job Dreaming

How many times do peo­ple ask you what your “dream job” would be? I am not ready for that ques­tion. Most­ly I don’t know, and usu­al­ly the inkling I do have about the top­ic is not some­thing I wish to share with this or that par­tic­u­lar inter­locu­tor. But I have been doing a lot of pon­der­ing of late regard­ing a slight­ly more con­crete angle on this dog-eared con­ver­sa­tion piece.

What would my ide­al work­day look like?

Let me paint you a lit­tle word-pic­ture. I rise ear­ly, prob­a­bly with the morn­ing cho­rus just before dawn. I exer­cise (per­haps yoga?) for 30–45 min­utes, then make break­fast for my wife and myself. After that, wash, dress, and head off to work.
My office would be locat­ed in a tall build­ing in beau­ti­ful Down­town Min­neapo­lis. I don’t know what I do there, only that it has reg­u­lar hours, excel­lent ben­e­fits, and it pays me enough so that my fam­i­ly and I are able to live above the pover­ty line and pay all our bills on time. I prob­a­bly wear a suit most days, except per­haps on casu­al Fri­days, when I sport a com­fy polo in sum­mer, or a sexy sweater in the cool­er months.
After work, I stroll down Nicol­let Mall and catch hap­py hour at one of the swank (and now smoke-free!) water­ing-holes that crowd upon each oth­er there. I order a pint and spend a relax­ing yet focused hour with note­book and pen, let­ting my words take shape upon the page. Then I take the train and bus home, help my wife get sup­per ready, eat, and do the dish­es. After din­ner I spend time with my son, read to him, sing him to sleep, put him to bed, spend some time with my wife, read a bit in bed, and then off to sleep…

That is, for now, my ide­al work­day. What would yours be?

A new beginning to an old favorite

Well, here I am again.

I have been rag­ging on the idea of blogs for the past cou­ple of days, but that has­n’t tak­en the edge off my own desire for a viable forum for my own idle thoughts. The print ver­sion of The Float­ing Egg is not dead, but it is cer­tain­ly in tor­por right now, for a wide vari­ety of rea­sons. So the alter­na­tive has long been appar­ent: an elec­tron­ic ver­sion, which not only can be more live­ly and imme­di­ate, but also more flex­i­ble, free of many of the time con­straints that for­ev­er defeat me, and reach­ing a wider audi­ence than I have done in the past. And now I take the first steps to mak­ing this a real­i­ty.

This will be a mul­ti-stage effort. This is a big first step, and we will see how suc­cess­ful even this small effort is for me as a writer. If I find I can real­ly do this, then we will grow more ambi­tious. In the near future I hope to see this blog move to be an inte­gral part of my new web­site, but I am hap­py to be blog­ging with Blog­ger right now.

So check back, spread the word, and I hope that there will much of both sass and sub­stance to be found at this address before too very much longer…