Monday, February 2, 2009

Parting Inspiration from the Original Cyberpunk

I know it is a bit of a departure from my normal fare, but I found this to be just too irresistible. You might find the quote below to be a bit incomprehensible without a little background. The Ranting Room is/was a blog devoted to developing skills in writing fiction. It's host has moved on to bigger things, and left with an inspiring bit of fiction. The story is that the author has contact with the ghost of Richard Nixon (yes, the former President), who is relating his time in Purgatory, reminiscing about old times, and lamenting past mistakes:
"That's right," Nixon said. "I gave my enemies the sword with which they did me in." He nodded again, and then took one last gulp from the glass, finished it off, set it down, and stood to leave. "But do you know what is an even greater mistake, and one I never made? "It's not giving them a sword!" he said, as he began to fade away. "Whenever you say or do anything, you put weapons in the hands of your enemies and your critics. But whenever you're so afraid of those hypothetical weapons in the hands of hypothetical critics that you say and do nothing, that is a greater folly still. In fact, it goes beyond folly. It's a crime." Nixon had become just an outline now, a rippling shape of a man between me and the bookcase. "Especially for a writer! If you are not putting your heart and soul out there on the line every time you sit down to write—if you are not every day putting new swords in the hands of your enemies and critics—then you are not doing your job, and you are not a writer: you're merely some sort of craven, timid creature that looks and smells like a writer and mimics the motions."
Bethke, the host, follows it up with a little speech given by Theodore Roosevelt. I'm no longer a fan of TR, but I have to say, he really has a point in this speech:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

—Theodore Roosevelt, "The Man in the Arena"

Go read the whole thing if you get a chance. It'll make your day. It certainly made mine. A lot of times when I'm throwin' my thoughts up here, I feel a little hesitant. I know that a lot of what I say and what I think is off-putting to about 95% of the population. I know that it could get me into trouble. I am painfully aware that there are others out there saying much the same things I am but with a lot more skill and eloquence, and I know that I will certainly make a lot of mistakes that may come back to haunt me (who knows, maybe like Nixon's ghost!) But reading something like this really inspires me to keep it up, despite everything. Makes me want to go out there and do something stupid!

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