The Great Vast Empty

I’m working on the new novel, revising the structure again, based on a very good seminar I saw at Convergence via Lou Anders called Screen Writing for Novelists. I learned a lot and it gave me a lot of ideas, and tomorrow morning while Bryon is revising curriculum at work, I intend to squirrel myself away to a book shop and do some writing. Just like during the semester.

I find myself wondering why I should write this book. Now, I’m not looking for succor. I will write this book. I’ve got all the excellent bells and whistles. Themes, what it means, what the characters mean to each other, what I hope the reader will take away. It’s all there.

And…you know, that’s…writing a book. Which is an activity I primarily do for a good time. And…seeking a good time is sort of strangely hollow at the moment. I…had a massage today with the husband for the anniversary. That was nice, but you know, it felt superfluous.

As a matter of fact, the only thing that I’ve done the last few days that didn’t feel superfluous was taking the cats to the vet. That felt purposeful and needful, even though our poor dear Sekhmet was pretty much tortured this time around. BTW, she’s on kitty prozac now. We’ll see how that goes.

So, here’s a culture shock I didn’t anticipate but should have. Rather than feeling angry about the injustice of the country I visited, I feel like my life is soft and lacks purpose. No, really, that’s what it feels like. We aren’t kidding anyone here. The trade offs of my soft, cushy life with its focus on intellectual endeavor are many, but I’m on the ground here and not doing anyone any good. Except Bryon, who is happy to have me home and loves me enough to make a life with me.

Life is about enjoyment as much as purpose. I will smile and carry on until the culture shock fades and I’m back in my own life again. I will feel thankful that I have a life where I can write books and exchange ideas and be well-treated. I don’t want to live in a world where my only movements are dictated by my survival, in spite of what this must sound like. And I know that teaching is my purpose. Writing is my artistic endeavor, but I am all about getting students to think about the world around them.

Still, it was nice to build something and feel how much it mattered. You don’t get that every day, and it’s made quite an impression.

I…guess I got taught. Which is like getting served.

Right now I am a stranger in a strange land, and that land is my own life. Since my own life seems alien to me, I’m not sure I need to be imagining another layer of existence on top of this one. Right now, my fiction feels like the most trivial thing in all of creation, and it’s strange to be going through the motions of doing something I usually love so much, because I usually love it so much.

Your art is safe. Another side effect of this experience has taught me that answers to the meaning of life can be found in all sorts of places. That’s the straw I’m clutching at to see me through this. Perhaps the question I’m trying to figure out in my culture shock, what is the worth of this life I live, perhaps that’s what I should be writing about.

Eh. Go read something less emo. Scalzi’s in a dress and Hines is making player cards. Nothing to see here but maybe jagged existentialism.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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