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  • Writer's pictureChristensen

The Agony of the Untold Story

This Tuesday, I’ll get a strange opportunity. I’ll be having a short conversation with James Patterson, the guy below.





Did the picture help? Maybe not. Let me try to give you a bit more. You possibly have seen some of the movies that were taken from his books: “Along Came a Spider” and “Kiss the Girls” He is probably one of the most prolific writers of our time (and possibly the most well-paid).[1]


So, I have a lot to learn from him.


What will I ask this giant of writing? Simply, how can one go from being a hobbyist to a full-time writer? A tall order. But I’m hoping that he will have an in-depth answer instead of just “write and write even more” and “submit and get published”. I hope and pray he might have more of a step-by-step guide to how I can start a full-time writing career.


I’ll write a blog about what he says. 😊


Back in 2016, I was able to get some time off from teaching (that’s another complicated story to tell), and I used this time to write out a novel that I had been mulling over for years. Since then, I have been praying if a writing career is where God wants me to invest the talents He has given me. I enjoy writing. I enjoy story-telling and just living through my characters. I have always enjoyed reading a good novel, and writing is just an extension of that. But can I make a career from it?


I’m going to find out.



WHY A BLOG?


“I remember. I blogged the whole thing.”

-Creed from “The Office” (season 3 episode 23)



I would have loved to have been a writer for this show!


Honestly, I hate blogging. I told my wife today that it felt awkward putting my thoughts and feelings on anything out there because, well, I am not an expert on politics, psychology, movies…most anything other than teaching. Though, I hear that this is one of the ways to get your “voice” out into the canyons of readers. So…here is my blog. 😉 If you find any enjoyment in these entries, then great!


Yet, I also see it as practice. I used to assign a weekly journal to my writing students (until they complained). I did so because I think that one of the best ways to improve your writing is to…read. It is better to read what accomplished scribblers have written, but it is second best to scribble oneself.


Ironically, I have vlogged (or done an audio journal) for every day the past four years (except for a few days in that time). Why? To help me cherish the memories with my wife. I didn’t want to get old and forget the times with my wife, so I thought I would record what I did, felt and thought during our time together.



WHAT ELSE DO YOU WRITE?


“You can make anything from writing.”

-quote attributed to C. S. Lewis (but many quotes are attributed to him)


Poetry, short stories, plays, novels…mostly fiction. I have written over 1,000 poems. I have a lot less short stories, plays, novels and such. But I’m increasing those day by day! I also have news articles, essays, Christian devotionals and other mumblings. Though, I greatly prefer writing fiction.


I find non-fiction to be tedious. Recently, I was asked to write devotionals for this magazine, and I had the dickens of the time writing them because I didn’t want to fictionalize anything. I felt as if I was lying if I added anything that wasn’t truly there. And, let’s face it, real life tends to be rather boring.


So, I prefer to stick to fiction. Or fictionalize real-life.



WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH?

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” - Maya Angelou, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”[2]


Shhh… Don’t tell my employers! But I would love to do full-time writing. I know that making a career out of writing is similar to winning the lottery or getting hit by lightning. But I guess I’ll dance in a few storms and see what happens.


Though, seriously, I would love to stay home with my two-month-old son and write the stories that crawl around in my head. With the computer screen in front of me, I would then be able to reach over and caress my baby son’s cheek as I mull over how to express the next plot twist.


That is the goal!



My boy! So cute! <3


I can’t live this dream until it “brings home the bacon”. But that is my ultimate ambition in all this.


And I would love to see some of my writing make its way onto the silver screen or the tube.


Short term…I just want to have fun.



HISTORY OF MY WRITING:


“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all, to keep alive in our hearts a sense of the inexpressibly human.” -Richard Wright, American Hunger (page 453)[3][4]


I can’t remember the first time I wrote a fictional piece. I know that my mom had to homeschool me when I was in second grade because I was far behind the other students in the subjects of writing, reading and math. Yet, I also remember composing my own stories shortly after that. I have fragments of writing that go back to an early age.



That's the Suzuki Samurai that I won when I was 13.


I do remember when I started writing poetry. I was in fifth grade (so maybe ten or eleven years old), and I had a tremendous crush on this teacher. The class had a poetry writing section that lasted maybe a few weeks. I’m not really sure. Yet, I remember showing my teacher poems I had written on the sun and flowers growing, and she would exclaim how wonderful they were. They were probably crap, honestly. But that got me hooked. I enjoyed seeing how my poetry brought a smile to her face and just seemed to affect her. And that is what good writing does.


Eagle Scout Christensen

Then, in ninth grade, Ms. Brown really challenged my writing. I remember sitting in her class with her leaning over my desk. “That is a good line, Chris, but how about looking at it from this point of view?” I should try to find her and thank her because this is really when I became interested in writing.



And in my undergrad, I wrote for the student newspaper for a bit. Loved the comradery of putting together a newspaper. I also was able to get published by the newly minted Tarleton literary magazine, The Anthology. You can follow the link below and read some of the poems that were published there (check volumes 1-5).[5]



That's me my freshman year. All black. Long hair. Hated pictures (except for newspapers).


Yet, after my undergrad, I felt God calling me to teaching. That is also a long story, so I’ll just say that I put any idea of having a writing career on the back burner. And it stayed there percolating for the next sixteen years. I did some writing during that time, but I never really sat down to write a story or play. Except for journals. I did creatively write what was happening to me. But I didn’t pursue any sort of writing career because I felt that my course in life was teaching.


And I think there was a bit of fear there too. I had always wanted to do something with my poetry. In fact, I had wanted to be the Poet Laureate of the United States. But I just didn’t think there was anything possible. I come from the generation where the internet is still this chasm of overwhelming opportunities. I just never thought of just sitting down and seeing what I could do with my writing. I didn’t know where to go and what to do with it. And the years went by quickly.


Until that fall in 2016 when I found my career in teaching sidelined. Then, I thought, “what else can I do besides teaching?” Maybe God can use my other passions?



POETRY


“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn” – Anne Frank (quote given by the New York Public Library’s facebook page)[6]


As I wrote before, I have over 1,000 poems. So, there is definitely a lot there. In fact, I put together a book of my poetry called “Surprised by Grace”.[7] I mostly put that together because it was on my bucket list. Check.





The title is actually a play on words. One, it is an allusion to C. S. Lewis’ book “Surprised by Joy”. And it also points to a fact about my poetry – it tends to be full of tears. A friend of mine once asked me, “Chris, why is the majority of your poetry dark and somber?” I replied to her that, when I am having a great day or enjoying my time with friends, I am “too busy” to sit down and express that. But when life seems overwhelming, I sit down and pour out my thoughts and feelings into a coded message, hoping someone will pick it up and understand.

I do think that, for me, poetry is a catharsis. It is a scream in the night that is warbled and distorted because there are just no clear ways to say the depths of the agony. It is a tied-up, wounded animal that is finding a way to be free and sooth those lacerations. When I was writing the most poetry, I would often hand it to someone to read with both trembling and hope. I was scared they would be able to see through the words and truly discover the bruised person who created the lines. And I was also hopeful that they would glimpse my true form. So, poetry, for me, was a way to confess my deepest pain. We all need for someone to listen to us when we are struggling, and that was my way of getting someone to listen without revealing

too much.


Plus, I enjoyed a good turn of phrase. It was not just about pouring out my emotions. I also enjoyed the images, allusions and twists that you could do with poetry. One of my favorite poets is e. e. cummings, and I love how his poetry creates this subtleness that just speaks loudly. His poem “somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond” was a pivotal poem for me in that it created this whole world, this whole relationship, in just twenty lines. I could see their relationship and feel the depth of his love and how it awakened him. Another poem that struck me was “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner”. I remember reading that in 9th grade in Ms. Brown’s class. And visualizing this gunner’s last moments of life. I loved the imagery and just the similes to birth. I was hooked in Ms. Brown’s class, and that drove me to write and write. To chase my own dragon.



NOVELS, SHORT STORIES AND PLAYS


Though, I didn’t stop with poems. I have written a novel called “Sunlight Under the Korean Shadow” and am currently writing a few more. Please feel free to visit my website: www.christensenlow.com to see my growing list.





Back in my undergrad, I took this independent study class on playwrighting. During that class, I wrote at least three plays…hidden somewhere in the pile writing I need to scan. One was a comedy about what would happen if the poison Romeo and Juliet drank had just gotten them ill and didn’t actually kill them. My teacher loved it!


I’m going to see what else I can pull together and get published.


And in the meantime…just have fun. 😊



TO END


That was a bunch of rambling! But I hope you enjoyed just looking into my writing and thinking on writing. This Tuesday, I will get to chat with another writer, one more accomplished than me. I hope that I will gain some tidbits on how to just go from here to there (there being full-time writing). All in prayer.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Patterson


[2] https://medium.com/personal-growth/there-is-no-greater-agony-than-bearing-an-untold-story-inside-you-81385bfd4b4e


[3] http://www.oprah.com/spirit/advice-from-the-worlds-best-writers-quotes-on-writing/all


[4] https://books.google.co.kr/books?id=rOrFXETrrCUC&pg=PA22&lpg=PA22&dq=%E2%80%9CI+would+hurl+words+into+this+darkness+and+wait+for+an+echo,+and+if+an+echo+sounded,+no+matter+how+faintly,+I+would+send+other+words+to+tell,+to+march,+to+fight,+to+create+a+sense+of+hunger+for+life+that+gnaws+in+us+all,+to+keep+alive+in+our+hearts+a+sense+of+the+inexpressibly+human.%E2%80%9D&source=bl&ots=K0saSiYs5I&sig=APcxddBGejr2vPs3Y3jUA_Zi1Nw&hl=ko&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjdlaaGjdjcAhUK9LwKHfk1BEoQ6AEwBXoECAUQAQ#v=onepage&q=%E2%80%9CI%20would%20hurl%20words%20into%20this%20darkness%20and%20wait%20for%20an%20echo%2C%20and%20if%20an%20echo%20sounded%2C%20no%20matter%20how%20faintly%2C%20I%20would%20send%20other%20words%20to%20tell%2C%20to%20march%2C%20to%20fight%2C%20to%20create%20a%20sense%20of%20hunger%20for%20life%20that%20gnaws%20in%20us%20all%2C%20to%20keep%20alive%20in%20our%20hearts%20a%20sense%20of%20the%20inexpressibly%20human.%E2%80%9D&f=false


[5] https://www.tarleton.edu/programs/anthology/index.html


[6] https://www.facebook.com/nypl/posts/i-can-shake-off-everything-as-i-write-my-sorrows-disappear-my-courage-is-reborn-/122666471205667/


[7] https://www.amazon.com/Surprised-Grace-Sojourners-Christensen-Low-ebook/dp/B00Q8RU2NE/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1533550767&sr=8-13&keywords=Surprised+by+Grace

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