St. Onesimus

There are probably a million times more aspiring writers than there are actual perspiring (working) writers.

The reasons why people want to write but don’t or haven’t is probably an even larger number. I know, my own reasons for not being published until I was 49 are long.

Many times in my reading of articles on writing and chapters in books about the “writing life,” I find that procrastination is a common trait amongst writers. Some go through elaborate rituals before they type the first word.

If we were rational, we’d just give it up after a fashion, recognize that “wanting to be a writer” is an elaborate self-deception that masks a lack of willingness to do other things. We “want to be a writer” because we fantasize about “working from home” and getting paid to daydream.

Anyway, eventually something happens and we either die unpublished or we manage to see something of ours in print. Whichever comes first.

So why is it painful? Why the long, drawn out process from “wanting to write” to actually writing and getting it done?

Is it the raw naked terror of seeing something of ours in print, out there for the world to see… and the world hates it? Bad reviews? Or just that it feels like we’re prostituting our fantasies and when they’re published, they are no longer ours?

Anyway, there’s a point to this post and I’m getting to it right now: February 16th is the Feast Day on the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar of St. Onesimus. Who is he? From my other blog, Sober Catholic:

“In St. Paul’s Letter to Philemon, the Apostle reveals that Onesimus, a slave of Philemon who escaped, possibly with stolen property of his master’s, has been with him for some time and has been of valuable service. Onesimus has also been baptized and as such is now a brother in Christ to Paul and Philemon, as the latter is also a Christian. However Paul is convinced that due to the Christian charity that Philemon has shown in the past, he will take back Onesimus and greet him as a brother, equal in dignity and will not punish Onesimus or re-enslave him.

And so Onesimus is sent back to Philemon by Paul, with this Letter as a sort of greeting and passage.

I’ve always been intrigued by this. Imagine you’re Onesimus. You’ve been a slave. There must have been a reason why you escaped. Was Philemon cruel? Or did you just have an instinctive aversion to being considered property of another? You just saw an opportunity to leave and took it? Anyway, the punishment for escaped slaves was most likely death. Probably painful and not quick if you’re also guilty of theft. And now your new friend, whom you’ve been serving and who has treated you like an equal, a person, is sending you back to your old master. With full confidence that Philemon’s Christianity is all that is standing between you and a painful termination.

Would you want to return?

I didn’t think so. Me neither.”

OK, so you have this tremendous aversion to returning to your former master. You’d rather continue enjoying this new life of freedom. It’s safer. (At least I’m assuming he didn’t want to return to Philemon. Maybe he did with full faith and confidence, but I’m thinking he was at least a little nervous. I’m going with “tremendous aversion” or “a little nervous”, otherwise this post and my other one on Sober Catholic would be rather pointless.) But, your current mentor/friend/advisor/boss is telling you that “This is what you have to do. This is important. It’s your mission and job now to accomplish this thing.”

OK, so you have this tremendous aversion to actually physically writing your novel. Or blog post. You’d rather continue enjoying this life of wannabe writerdom. It’s safer. No bad reviews. No one illegally downloading your ebooks and depriving you of your just income. But your family/friends/Facebook writer buddies/fellow indie authors/annoying conscience are all telling you that “This is what you have to do. This is important. It’s your mission and job now to accomplish this thing.”

Now, I’m not necessarily equating writing with returning to a former owner. But writing, or the desire to, does have an enslavement-like hold on people. It’s hard to overcome. Either way, whether it’s giving up the dream or forging on ahead with creative courage.

Now, as a Catholic I believe in the intercessory power of the Saints in Heaven. That “great cloud of winesses” in Heaven that St. Paul mentions are observing us, and if God permits, can hear our wants and dreams. Since they’re closer to God than we are, we can ask them in a prayerful manner to interced for us. (If you don’t believe in this and think that people should only pray to God for intentions, then don’t bother to ask your friends or family members to “pray for you” next time you’re in a bad way. It’s the same thing.)

So, the next time you are having an aversion to actually doing some writing, just assume it’s hopeless and you can’t overcome it yourself. Just as St. Onesimus had to return to Philemon to rectify the damage done (he did steal something) but only did so at St. Paul’s urging, so too can you get over your feelings of pain or whatever and return to the actual act of writing.

Say a prayer for St. Onesimus’ intercession. Ask him for the courage to face whatever fears about writing you have.

And then get to writing!

Posted in Prayer, Saints, Writing | Leave a comment

I see… people in need of intercessory prayers

OK, that’s not quite as pop culture-iconic like the movie line, “I see dead people,” but that’s what I’ve been seeing over these past few years.

What?

All right, here goes: Ever since I relocated to western New York State in 2007 I’ve been seeing people who remind me of persons I’ve known in the past. Could be anyone: old school mates, work colleagues, whomever. At first it would be just in my current parish during Mass. In fact, I blogged about it previously “…This brings up something else, a phenomenon I’ve noticed at my home parish, and nowhere else: Every so often I see people who bear a striking resemblance to someone from my old, hometown parish, either a physical similarity, or “something about them” is reminiscent. Odd. It would be one thing if I experienced this at other parishes, but that has not happened, only where I attend Mass now. (Source: Strange Sightings in Church.

Well, it’s changed. It is no longer just in my home parish, it is happening in a lot of other places and numerous times a day. They are no longer just people “from my old, hometown parish,” but people from throughout my life, its various periods and places lived. And it’s not as if these people were particularly special to me, sometimes I’ve forgotten their names.

Wierd.

So, what to do? I pray for them. There must be a reason I am beset with this “gift.” For some reason, in a mysterious way that the Lord isn’t sharing with me, I have been selected to perform the Spiritual Work of Mercy known as “praying for the living and the dead” on a daily basis.

I already have an interest in death and dying and the afterlife (see my death blog “The Four Last Things – Death. Judgment. Heaven. Hell.” So perhaps this is a more practical application.

This is also applicable for use in a protagonist in a novel that’s on the backburner…

Hmmm… I wonder…

Posted in Me, Solidarity, Spirituality, Works of Mercy, Writing | Comments Off

Lacunae

Sometimes it is within the lacunae of the day, or of one’s life, that you discover meaning.

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Sometimes I get overly excited about an article that comes across my social media feeds. The one in the attached link at the end is one of them.

Normally when I share something online, I quote some interesting snippets. But not this one, please READ THE WHOLE article.

It would appeal to people highly critical of the “modern world,” and about how things are done and what that’s done to us.

Also, if you grokked “Small is Beautiful,” by E.F. Schumacher, you’ll dig this piece.

Against Productivity

Posted in Distributism, Economics, Outside, Social networking, Spirituality | Comments Off

In the Land of My Exile…

I might be doing it again. Changing the name of this blog. Oh, no. How whacked is that? ;-)

I’ve been thinking, and now is a good time for this before this blog gets really noticed. It’s not as if I publicize it beyond automatic feed distribution to Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Twitter and my other two blogs. I don’t really do anything to make it well known. So for the time being, while it’s “finding its way” as my primary blog to yammer about writing, reading, and whatever else that may cross my mind and possibly motivate a blog post, now is a good period to continue contemplating its title.

I may revisit an old one. The previous title was “In the Land of My Exile I Praise Him,” which was from the Old Testament’s Book of Tobit (13:6). I felt that was fitting. This place (the country I live in on the planet it sits on) is not my permanent home, nor my true home. Heaven is. (Well, “permanent” if I make it there…) “And to “praise Him” is something we believers all should be doing, in our prayers and meditations, in our words and works, in the way we live. We are in “exile” here, just passing through this transient place, on a pilgrimage to where we’re meant to be.

As I mentioned in this post, I, Blog, I rejected “In the Land of My Exile I Praise Him” as being a little pretentious, at least for me. But what if I shortened it…

Now, “In the Land of My Exile…” is still somewhat Biblical, but not overly so (not that being “Biblical” bothers me). But with the ellipsis at the end, it adds an air of mystery. It just hangs there. What exile? What land? Where’s home? What does this mean? Is this just another idiot blowhard pundit pretending to be profound or literary in their self-examinations and introspections, as if anyone really cares?

It also is kinda science-fictiony/fantasyish, which is somewhat along the lines of the fiction I’m slogging through. The current novel I’m working on, as well as another work set in the same place with some of the same characters (see It wants to be a novel, but perhaps later) are more like “contemporary fiction with fantasy elements grafted on.”

I was thinking of “The Blog With No Name,” and have three blogrolls entitled “The Good,” “The Bad,” and “The Ugly.” Or maybe they’d be just groupings of “important” posts. I can also have a picture of me in a wide-brimmed hat for profile picture and favicon. But I quickly dismissed that idea.

So, like I said before, “Don’t come here looking for profound, insightful commentary on current events, Catholic or secular”, but I may take a look about the land of my exile and beyond, see what I see about me and write about it. Could be deep, could be something you’d rather print out and use as birdcage liner or do-it-yourself cat litter.

It’s still “Paul Sofranko’s Blog” regardless of the title. I read somewhere that a writer “has to” have a website/blog to “engage” people and “showcase” their stuff.

So…

  • my primary blog to yammer about writing, reading, and whatever else that may cross my mind and possibly motivate a blog post
  • take a look about the land of my exile and beyond, see what I see about me and write about it.
  • “contemporary fiction with fantasy elements grafted on.”

Hmmm…. a title to encompass all that…

Posted in About this Blog, Blogging, Me, Writing | Comments Off

Five AM should not exist

I awakened at 5AM this morning, a few hours before I normally have to (and on my day off, to boot!) so I can drive a ways past the village to get blood drawn and urine collected for testing. Had to switch to a new doctor for a few resentful reasons that won’t be explicated here. So the bleedin’ and the peein’ was requested at my physical a few weeks ago.

Five ante meridian does not exist on my homeworld. Denizens of my planet need sunlight to awaken, otherwise we are foggy of brain and need mass quantities of coffee later. So foggy was I that I almost opened MS Word instead of LibreOffice to write this post’s draft.

The world looks almost post-apocalyptic that early in the morning, when all is dark and sentients are missing. There are all these buildings standing about, but few humans anywhere. Those that are about, all look, well… as if they have agendas that differ from the norm.

I’m back home after a nap, and as I’m too blurry-brained to be able to do my Morning Prayers (not even the Rosary) all I’ve been capable of is to fly through StumbleUpon sites. I picked my “Fantasy Books” and “Fantasy Art” categories as I’ve reading “The Lord of the Rings” again.

This post is an attempt to get over my typical “blogger’s block;” that feeling that if I haven’t blogged in quite some time, I can’t again, ever. It’s usually cured by forcing myself to write about something, anything, and then the block is broken.

I sincerely wish to blog most every day, across my three blogs (see feed links in the sidebar). But I’ve been saying that since I started blogging in 2007. {{{sigh}}} Perhaps someday.

Off to pray.

Posted in Blogging, Outside, Personal, Prayer | 2 Comments

Writing to discover

In my exploration of the culture of Catholic writing, I’ve been reading Flannery O’Connor.

I find much inspiration in her approach to writing as a Catholic and I’ve discovered two quotes of hers that I can relate to. I think all writers need inspiring quotes from other writers to keep themselves going. ;-)

I have to write to discover what I am doing. Like the old lady, I don’t know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it again.

I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.

Both are via QOTD.org.

I’ve discovered what Miss O’Connor talks about stir within me as I write. I sometimes do not know where I am going with the plot until the plot itself takes me there. This may sound odd, but I think other writers will understand this.

While I am writing, stuff from deep within me wells up from its dwelling place and pours forth into the story. It could be something autobiographical, some minor bit from my past brought out for character or plot development, or something I’ve read that is an interest of mine that fills a need for the story.

Like the novel that I’m working in that I mentioned in this post. The original story idea was to explore why something at work might have happened; but the story has borrowed heavily from my beliefs and interests. I had no idea that they’d have to be made manifest in it. This might make more sense if I discussed the particular story details, but I’m not going to for the moment. The story started out as one thing, and as I wondered about this or that, I just drew upon miscellaneous knowledge of mine, and finally they’ve fleshed out the plot to be something greater than the original intent. The original idea is still there and is at the crux of the plot. But the novel is becoming so much more than the original idea.

And I’m loving the fact that as the story is progressing, plotlines are now coalescing into a cohesive whole; there are coming together at an appropriate point to give the novel direction. Rather than a whole bunch of different plots all contained in the same file, they are now giving the novel its identity. Meaning, I think I’m at that point where readers will enter into the “meat” of the plot. All the main characters have been introduced, the plots laid down and now stuff is happening to drive it forward towards its conclusion.

Which I have no idea how it will end, but thats OK. Based upon what Miss O’Connor said up above, the ending is somewhere within me, waiting to be discovered.

To paraphrase Miss O’Connor: I will write the novel to discover what the ending is. I won’t know what the ending is until I see it. (And this next may fall under my belief that “writing is therapy”, and I won’t paraphrase her, but repeat the quote): I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.

Posted in Catholic Writing, Flannery O'Connor, Me, Novel, Writing | Comments Off

It wants to be a novel, but perhaps later

About a year ago I wrote this post on a short story that decided by way of creative inspiration that: It wants to be a novel.

It was going fairly well, then some things in life got to happening and it was set aside.

And then earlier this year I got a new real-world job, details to be disclosed at some other time.

And then… Something happened at this job that got me to thinking creatively. Someone did something that I thought was odd, and that there JUST HAD to be a story behind it. So I got to thinking about the possible story behind the event, and decided that it had to be explored. Writing about seemed to be the best way and so off I was, on to another story.

I didn’t think about length, at this stage in my life I don’t care too much about such things and am just happy that I’m inspired to get story ideas and the overwhelming desire to write them.

I guess it also means that as I’ve matured as a person (which is about time as I’m over 50) and am taking this maturity into my writing “career,” such things occurring could mean that “writing” is becoming a vocation (something meaningful to do as well as to earn a living from) and not an avocation (something meaningful to do, like volunteering).

Why? Because of the seriousness of it. It’s less and less that I’m an “aspiring” writer and more that I’m an “actual” writer.

This new story has taken possession of me. While not obsessed with it as I have marital and job duties, and so on, I am occupied with it. When not actually writing, I am thinking and plotting.

But, I am writing. And in doing so, I am learning more about the creative process and also about me.

More on the latter in another post (I have to look up a quote. a-HA! “Search is your friend.” I found the quote -actually turns out to be two of them as they’re related – and they deserve their own post).

Posted in Novel, Personal, Short stories, Writing | 2 Comments

Flannery O’Connor—Catholic writer

Flannery O’Connor died fifty years ago today. She was, and remains, an American writer of great talent. I say “remains,” because she lives on in her work; she has achieved immortality and her work is alive and vibrant to this day. If you are an American Catholic with writing aspirations, or even writing accomplishments, please become acquainted with her stories if you are not already. You will learn quite a lot about the writing craft and what it means to be a Catholic writer.

Miss O’Connor said, “The Catholic novel is not necessarily about a Christianized or Catholicized world, but one in which the truth as Christians know it has been used as a light to see the world by.”

More on that here: Flannery O’Connor’s Religion and Literature: Dogma and its Implications for Art, by Tami England Flaum.

Her fiction is collected in three volumes, her two novels ‘Wise Blood” and “The Violent Bear It Away.” Her short stories are all collected now in one volume, titled appropriately, “The Complete Stories.” There are several collections of her non-fiction, most notably, “The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor.”

I have only recently become familiar with her. Despite having the above four books in my library for several years, I only just read “Wise Blood” this past week, and am now happily making my way through her “Complete Stories.” I won’t be doing reviews any time soon, I doubt I’m qualified. ;-)

The point of this post is this: if one is a Catholic writer and is interested in building up and developing an authentic American Catholic culture, and follows Pope St. John Paul II’s suggestions that Christian art should infuse contemporary culture with the message of the Gospel, then one should study Miss O’Connor’s writings. She’s a good teacher.

If Catholic writers do participate in culture-building, we must look to what those who have gone before us have done. We learn from them, offer to the body of culture what we can uniquely contribute and in turn hope that our work survives on to enrich another generation. The living body of American Catholicism adds to the wonderful breath of diversity that is global Catholicism, offering people an alternative to the sterile materialistic secular order.

Posted in Books, Catholic Writing, Flannery O'Connor, Novel, Short stories, Writing | Comments Off

I, Blog

For a blog that’s supposed to be my “main” online journal, this place doesn’t get a whole lotta love. I’m a writer, and writers are “supposed to” have a website or blog or some sort of online presence. Granted, as a writer I only have two books published and those are selfies, but there’s more to come! I always figured that with the passage of time and writing success (or effort), this place will see more activity.

Or maybe not. Whatever, I decided to do some geeking around with the site (notice that I haven’t called it by name, yet).

For starters, the “name.” I figured I’ll simplify matters and just call it “Paul Sofranko’s Blog.” It’s short, and to the point. I’m Paul Sofranko, and this is my blog. Of course, I have others, but those are specialized, “niche” blogs. (Links are in the Page tabs up top, below the title of this place.)

“Paul Sofranko’s Blog” isn’t very imaginative, but it’s less pretentious than previous names: “Writer for God,” “In the Land of My Exile I Praise Him.” “Paul Sofranko Dot Net” might have served again, but it’s just a notch higher than a minimalist, simplistic title I was looking for. ;-)

The purpose, such as there is one, of “Paul Sofranko’s Blog” will not change; still a place for me to post stuff on writing, reading and whatever miscellaneous ramblings that serve as my interests and that won’t fit into my two niche blogs.

Don’t come here looking for profound, insightful commentary on current events, Catholic or secular. There are plenty of blogs for that written by people who have the time to work out such posts for online publication. Such writings, for me, take time away from the fiction efforts I am trying to work with, as well as other writing and blogging work. I know my strengths and limitations, and I prefer to focus my thoughtful efforts where they’re best capable of being useful. Although I do reserve the right to do that here when the impulse occurs. But I have a full-time job that has nothing to do with writing or blogging for a living, and other personal responsibilities and commitments. In other words there’s a nice life that’s mine and it happens!

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The gardening season is finally here!

Spent a good part of yesterday and today digging in the field off our driveway to put in a vegetable garden. Much nicer soil than where the garden used to be. Nice, dark, rich-looking with plenty of wigglies in it. Wet, too. Veggies should do well.

The old garden had too much clay soil and things didn’t grow well. After 3 seasons, it was time for a change.

As it was still snowing just a few weeks ago, and there was a frost advisory early last week, this weekend’s developments are welcome. Long-term weather shows NO danger of frost. Finally! Going outside is safe! ;-)

I found cheap fencing today, so the original 15′ x 25′ will be expanded to be 25′ x 25′ . Some old fencing may be employed to expand on that, or may be for a smaller garden for other stuff.

I may just be tempted, for “accountability” sake, to post photos and updates throught the year. I had planned on doing that these past few years, but the results weren’t impressive.

Posted in Gardening, Outside | 2 Comments