Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Daydreaming in Obscurity

I was writing in my journal this morning, an event which only occurs about once every three months. I've joined the "Experiencing God" study at our church.  I know this is an awesome Bible Study and a lot people have gained great insights from it.

The focus of the first week's lessons is on knowing God's will and having a servant attitude towards doing it.  Time and again, I keep coming back to my novel.  It's difficult for me to acknowledge that God could use this story for anything.  I truly have a hard time believing my talent and concept are sufficient to impress an agent or publisher, let alone a readership.  But every time I try to lay it aside, the spirit of God presses on me:  Finish the book.  So I'm finishing it, little by little.

It's much easier to daydream in obscurity than to actually accomplish something and put it out for the world to view.  I have a pithy little volume called "The American Frugal Housewife" written in 1833 which contains not just a wealth of information on housekeeping, food preparation, and the treatment of illnesses, but some advice on how to manage one's time and money as well.   I think it should be required reading for all public high school students.  It would certainly put modern life in perspective.

In the chapter "Hints to Persons of Moderate Fortune" the author describes a situation in which one woman complains that her friend has become "the idol of the literary world, while I am never heard of beyond my own family unless someone happens to introduce me as the friend of Clio."

"Why not write, then, and see if the world will not learn to introduce Clio as [your friend]?"

"I write! Not for the world.  I could not bear to pour my soul out to an undeserving multitude; I could not see my cherished thoughts caricatured by some soulless reviewer, and my favorite fancies expounded by the editor of some stupid paper." 

The author of course points out the hypocrisy of this response, and goes on to say, "All of us covet some neighbor's possession... Yet most of us could obtain worldly distinctions if our habits and inclinations allowed us to pay the immense price at which they must be purchased."

As I said, required reading.

(Of course, this leads me to wonder, did people really talk that way two hundred years ago, or was it just the literary vocabulary of the upper classes?  Would a young woman in Jane Austen's time really have spoken as her characters do?  While researching the colonial period, I was fortunate enough to obtain a book from the University of Pennsylvania library that included actual newspaper pages from the pre-Revolutionary war days and it was astonishing how formally even the classified ads were written. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!)


Michelle Gregory said...

my favorite quote on God's will is by Howard Thurman: "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do that because what the world needs are people who have come alive." i don't know if writing makes you come alive, but it's something to think about.

Christine H said...

Writing definitely makes me come alive, Michelle. Publishing makes me shrivel up like a stray pea in the corner of the freezer.

Marcia said...

"It's much easier to daydream in obscurity than to actually accomplish something and put it out for the world to view."

Oh, how true!

Though we'll never really know, I suspect there was a much bigger difference in formality between written and spoken English in "the olden days." Even in our lifetime, we're seeing that writing is becoming much less formal, and people are forgiven for "writing just like I talk," which was once not proper.

Christine H said...

I believe it was one of the things that made up the class distinction. Remember in "Emma" where Emma puts down Mr. Martin for being so coarse and clownish in his manner? I shudder to think of what she would say of us.

That said, I did notice when I was working at U. of Penn my use of language was noticeably different than it is now that I am not in academia. I also recall a time when, as a young adult, I began to intentionally "dumb down" my speech in order to fit in with my peers. I was very well-read and had been carefully taught how to use proper grammar, which, sadly, made other young people think I was stuck up.