Today I listened to one of Rob Bell‘s recent podcasts. He’s looking back at some of the books that he’s written over the years and giving a quick take on how he views them now, several years after writing them.
It’s interesting to hear his thoughts on some of his earlier work as I just recently went back over some old essays and was surprised to read some of the things I wrote. In the podcast Rob mentions a children’s book he wrote about a boy named Dickie Shoehorn (such a great name). He tried all the things to get the book published but it never happened. Dickie Shoehorn now sits in a crate in his storage room.
It made me think of the novel I wrote a few years ago. It was about a girl named Ruby Byrd. I also tried all the things to get the book out into the world but it was not to be. I still think about Ruby sometimes and wonder if some day I might be able to reanimate her and rework the writing so that I can share her story.
Imaginative acts — even purely mental combinations,
like the thought that a certain cloud resembles a top hat–
carry real weight in the universe.
A child who makes a pun, or a shepherd who looks at a batch of stars
and thinks, ‘That part is a throne and that part is a swan,’
is doing something which counts
in the universe’s reckoning of order and decay–
which counts just as those mighty explosions
and strippings of electrons do inside those selfsame stars.
This jolly view… gives the artist real work.
With his thumb in the dike he is saving the universe.
And the best part of it is he need not find a publisher, or a gallery,
or a producer, or a symphony orchestra.
A completed novel in the trunk in the attic
is an order added to the sum of the universe’s order.
It remakes its share of undoing.
It counteracts the decaying of systems, the breakdown of stars
and cultures and molecules, the fraying of forms.
I know I might just be reaching to make meaning out of something that was a very deep disappointment in my life but I do thrill to the idea that my novel in the attic (er, GoogleDocs) is an order added to the sum of the universe. I’ll take it. That’s enough for me (most days!) to keep going, keep writing, keep creating.
So here’s to Ruby and Dickie Shoehorn and all the other characters we don’t yet know — might never know — and all the paintings and songs and creations that are doing their part to counteract the decaying of systems, the fraying of forms. Here’s to all the creators carrying real weight in the universe, even if nobody knows it.