Archives For overcoming

Creed II is coming this fall; as with all Rocky stories, it’s about overcoming obstacles, going the distance. Fundamentally, that is the element of story itself: a character who wants something, endures hardships, and overcomes obstacles to achieve that thing. The fact of the matter is that life is story. We are all of us living a story–living stories. Where we get tripped up is that we often delude ourselves into the belief that life is a movie about moi.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I don’t want to speak for you, but in my life those times when I think I’m entitled to this, that, or the other thing–that life owes me–are generally the darkest, bleakest days. Not to say that there’s not such a thing a healthy belief in one’s self, one’s abilities, but rather that this requires an honest, humble assessment.

And it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I, we, need others around to: encourage, rebuke, guide, cheer. Often we have to get out our own way to hear just what others have to say. I mean it’s true in life, and it’s true in the Rocky films. Rocky wouldn’t be the Rocky we’ve all come to know and love without: Mickey, Apollo, Adrian, Paulie, and now Creed. And Creed wouldn’t be who he is without Rocky by his side.

That’s really the crux of it: we, like Rocky, have to be willing to put in the hard work, believe we can even when it feels like we can’t, listen to the wisdom of others, get out of our own way, then invest in others, and pass the hard won lessons on.

Not to put too personal a spin on it, but my wife and I are in a season now where we are facing difficult health challenges, are in a season of transition as our oldest child is preparing to leave home, and our younger one approaches the teen years. All in the midst of financial concerns, helping our aging parents, looking towards our own retirement years (not really all that far off). And honestly some days it doesn’t feel as if we’re overcoming at all.

It’s rough. But it’s life. And if there’s one things that’s true it’s that if there’s any blessing to pain, any comfort in it, it’s that it means we’re still alive and kicking. Still in the arena. To feel pain one has to be alive. Let’s be honest: the dead don’t feel it. And truthfully, more than the good times–the easy times–it’s the hard times that shape us. If my faith in God has taught me anything it’s that. In a sense, Rocky (and Creed after him) is like Jesus, “who for the joy set before him endure the cross (the training, the blows, the scorn), despising the shame.”

So, yes, the hard times shape us–If we allow them to.

I’m still walking through it. My wife is walking through it. And chances are so are you.

How do you go the distance in your life?

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I’m a fan of well-crafted stories. If you know anything about his writing process, nobody spends more time crafting books than Dean Koontz. Seriously. His process–continually revising a page until it’s just right, then moving onto the next–would drive me crazy. But it works for him. Some accuse him of being formulaic, of being inferior to King. That may be.

There’s no discounting his success. The numbers don’t lie. And when he’s hot, he’s hot. Witness: Watchers, Strangers, Intensity, Lightning, and Odd Thomas. (My friend, Ricky Anderson stayed up into the wee hours last night reading Odd).

In my estimation, there’s more to Koontz’s success than just adrenaline-laced plots that keep the reader turning pages (as welcome as that is). No, it’s his characters. They feel like real people–people facing insane situations overwhelming odds, and yet somehow holding onto hope. These people could be you, me, or the neighbor down the block. And his villains are more, or less, than human. Their motivations are real, and they never see themselves as villains. Like Satan, Koontz’s villains usually see themselves as the aggrieved, misunderstood, party. Thus they are justified in their own eyes.

Like most Catholic writers I’ve read, Koontz isn’t afraid to let his villains be villains. Thus he portrays evil as it is. And thus the light of hope, of the protagonists, shines out all the more brightly in contrast. That is what I love about Koontz: he is an eternal optimist: no matter how dark, how bad things get, there’s always hope. Good will triumph on the end. (Now this is not say that his good guys aren’t flawed people–they are. They overcome these shortcomings, confront themselves, and the darkness in their own hearts).

The genius of Koontz is that, while not writing sermons, his work is infused with his faith stamped upon every page. His is the voice of one calling us out of the darkness into the light. It will, like life itself, be a bumpy ride. If you know any of his personal story–raised in poverty with an abusive, alcoholic father–you know that Dean is an overcome. He doesn’t see himself (or his characters for that matter) as a victim of circumstance.

By extension, he is calling us into the same life. We are not victims of circumstance unless we choose to be. We, like the people of which he writes, can overcome whatever life throws at us.

In this way, Mr. Koontz is an evangelist.
An evangelist of hope.

Have you read any Dean Koontz? What are your favorites?

#Prayer Request: Update

randomlychad  —  September 26, 2011 — 8 Comments
'Clavicles hurt when they break.' photo (c) 2011, Samantha McNamara - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

For those that have been following my blog in the last week or so, it has been generally overtaken by meditations on the place of pain in our lives, me questioning my worth, and more specifically regarding a trial my my wife, Lisa, is going through.

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I don’t know about you, and wouldn’t presume to speak for you, but as a blogger by the time Friday rolls around, I’m tired.

My tank is trending towards empty.

It’s not that I’m out of ideas–it’s simply that I’m too spent to execute on them. So back into the well they go to await the new week.

I don’t know about your workflow, but I find it works best for me to take weekends off to rest, reflect, recharge.

Which is why I say that some creative blocks simply aren’t; sometimes you’re just tired, and need to take time away from the keyboard. Get out, look at the sky, read a book, take a nap, or just play.

Unlike at the gas station, where it is frowned upon, your creative soul functions best when it is topped-off. And higher than the highest octane fuel is just some simple downtime.

I say this in all seriousness: downtime is the best creative Ex-Lax I know. Clears the logjams, lubes the gears, gets one’s mental motility back on rhythm.

In conclusion, don’t feel guilty (trust me: guilt is one of greatest ways to get oneself well and truly blocked) when you feel the need to take time away; in fact, give yourself permission to do just that. Take a break.

You’ll thank me. Now, time for some pinochle. 😉

This post is part of a synchroblog on creative blocks, which you can read about on Thoughts About Nothing.