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Absent Mindfulness

Because I’m the editor, I’ve seen the guest post that’s going to run tomorrow. And since Brittany hit on a similar topic Wednesday, I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon and we might look as if we planned this to be a “Two Worlds” theme week.

Back when his translation of Homer’s Odyssey was about to be released, Robert Fagles was interviewed by Time magazine about the book. (Despite being 19 years old, the article is behind a paywall. Sorry about that.) Here’s an excerpt:

Fagles recalls a day during his long labors on the Iliad when he was standing in line at a Princeton, New Jersey, bank. “I suddenly thought, ‘Don’t these people know there’s a war going on?’“ The Trojan War, of course.—Paul Gray, “Scoring a Homer,” Time magazine, Oct. 28, 1996

I keep this 19-year-old clipping because Fagles so perfectly sums up how every writer feels, at times. We are so embedded in our storyworlds that we have difficulty participating in what passes for the real world.

When your fantasy realms are filled with dashing heroes, beautiful women, and brilliant conversation, who wants to deal with regular boring old flawed humans?

But we must, mustn’t we? These people around us, who so get on our nerves because they are not like us, are exactly like us. They are made in the image of God, as surely as we are, and deserve as much respect as we do, regardless of their obliviousness toward the wars that rage in our writers’ minds.


Illustration © agsandrew • Fotolia

Writers, especially speculative fiction writers, are not so much absent-minded as we are absent-mindful. Our minds are worlds away, but we are keenly aware of those worlds, because we built them. We would much rather be in them than in the so-called real world, with its endless wars that lack heroes capable of saving the world in a single decisive moment.

Who wouldn’t?

But then, that’s exactly why we are here. Not everyone has the gift of worldbuilding. Our job, then, is to be aware enough of reality to sympathize with those regular boring old flawed humans—the ones standing in line at the bank who don’t realize that in our worlds there are wars going on. We must sympathize with them, because if we know them well enough, we can craft the worlds into which they will choose to escape.


About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

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