David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the month “July, 2015”

147 Blog Posts–A Reflection (2015-07-10 Daily)

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

—Thomas Edison

 

I have to admit: this writing thing ain’t easy. Writing is as much an exercise in mental conditioning as it is in physical execution, and many times I’ve taken to heart Jesus’ lamentation to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane: “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41b KJV). Yeah, I’ve got some weak flesh, but don’t we all?

After I pressed “Publish” last Tuesday on my 147th blog post, almost twenty-three months after I launched post #1, I wondered about my sagging spirit as I continue to persist in this vocational marathon. Even though I have a reputation for dogged perseverance (just ask my wife), recently it’s taken every drop of motivation to coax my imagination toward the finish line . . . wherever that is. But yet I go on because I don’t want to miss the blessings—I love how God lines my path with hidden treasures for me to find along the way, some big, some little, some subtle, some downright amazing. God is so doggone good!

When my seven-year-old daughter, Hannah, was a competitive gymnast, she spent 25 hours a week in the gym honing her skills and building her body. Her goal was the Olympics and Mary and I promised we’d never stand in the way of that dream. We always assured her that somehow we’d manage both the time and the financial commitment. Her job was to work hard and have fun. For six years she persisted under the determined tutelage of coaches who believed in her more than she believed in herself, and in November of 2014 their hard work and perseverance paid off: Hannah became the North Texas State uneven bars champion for her age and division.

Throughout the years leading up to this accomplishment, the coaches constantly reminded Hannah and the other budding Olympians to scratch one word from their vocabulary: “Can’t.” “You can do it,” the coaches would admonish the girls when they used the “C” word. “Just keep trying.” As a result, many of the young ladies placed well in local, state, regional, and even international competitions. They trained despite the soreness, despite the desire to give up, despite splitting the beam or over-rotating a back handspring. Always they brushed themselves off and finished the routine. Always they smiled through the pain and embarrassment. Always they demonstrated perseverance and validated the timeless words of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans: “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3b-4 NIV®). And the fulfillment of hope does not include the insidious word “can’t.”

So when I pushed that “Publish” button in WordPress last Tuesday, I sat back and reflected on what I can do—what we all can do—and how building this blog has helped me to persevere in my call to write. Here goes . . . .

 

  • Writing is difficult but worth it.

    For a season I managed to write full time, and in that time I cranked out two blog posts a week, wrote and published two books and edited several other books, one of which became both an Amazon.com and a USA Today bestseller. As the jaws of financial reality began to close on me, however, the Lord provided a stunningly well-timed (and blessedly flexible) opportunity to re-engage with my inner electrical engineer, preventing my family from selling the house and living in a second-hand refrigerator box under a bridge.Even after 38 years of writing, though, the road to publication (and sales, especially sales. Like Pi Patel screamed onboard the lifeboat: “I surrender! What more do you want?”) continues to be a most challenging, tiring and thrilling byway to navigate. Writing is the second hardest thing I’ve ever done (marketing is the first and most mysterious), but it’s truly the most difficult thing I’ll ever love. As Thomas Edison once said, “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” I guess two out of three ain’t bad.

 

  • It’s a great way to write a book.

    If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ve had the opportunity to read most of the original manuscript for The Epiphany of Joy, half of The Other Side of the Covers and, in some form or another, the entire manuscript for A Matter of Perspective (you probably didn’t recognize that one. Now you’ll have to wait for it to come out to see what I’m talking about!). Blogging is a great way to write a book. Why? If you’re anything like me, once I commit to doing something, I usually do it. I do my best to walk the walk and talk the talk.Two years ago I committed to posting regularly, and that commitment keeps me coming back to my desk, sitting down, turning on my computer, and writing. There are days I don’t want to do it, but I do it anyway. There are other days I don’t feel creative, but I write anyway. And there are days the prospect of cleaning commodes is more appealing than researching an article, but I reluctantly put down the toilet brush, pick up a pen and dive into the world wide web anyway. And before I know it, I’ve got a manuscript, and what’s even better, it’s been test-driven by readers in real time. It truly is a great way to write a book.

 

  • It’s an excellent way to keep you writing rather than simply talking about writing. 

    I’ve discussed this before, in my “Motivation and the Writer’s Life” series (first post 27 October 2014), but I’ll reiterate: writers write. Simple, eh? But how many writers do you know who talk about writing all the time, but have never written a darn thing except their signature on the rent check? Are these folks worthy of the moniker “writer?” I think not, but that’s just my humble opinion. And you know what they say about opinions . . . .Regularly tending the garden of your blog site cultivates not only a commitment and a desire to write regularly, it also plants the seeds of creativity, experimentation and—dare I say it?—fun! And who knows? Maybe the fruits of your labor will inspire another person to put their hand to the plow and begin tilling their own field for the benefit of others. Okay, enough with the gardening metaphor . . . .

 

  • It’s a fun place to experiment with different writing styles.

    Way back when Sonny and Cher were still a couple and dirt was all we had to play with, I wrote humor in the style of Erma Bombeck. In fact, my ninth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Carr, once told me I was the Erma Bombeck of the adolescent generation (this was in the late ‘70’s). I relished her comment so much I neglected to point out to her that I was a guy, not a girl. Being compared to Patrick F. McManus of Field and Stream fame would have been way more appropriate.As I grew in my craft, I experimented with writing and illustrating a comic book, then I began delving into horror after I discovered Stephen King, Robert McCammon and Dean Koontz. For years I wrote horror, poetry, newspaper articles, and a monthly column for an industrial newsletter. Later I dipped a toe into essays, then finally jumped feet-first into Christian inspirational writing, children’s picture books and chapter books. I love experimenting with different styles and forms, writing in first, second and third person, telling stories from both female and male points of view, and writing prose poetry. I can’t get enough of it! And what a better place to play with words than in a blog post?Blogging in different voices, styles and forms is not only good practice to keep the creativity muscles flexible yet strong, it’s also a fun environment to let loose your wild and whacky. As Erma Bombeck once said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” Amen, sister Erma!

  • It’s inspiring and exciting to receive comments from readers all over the world.

    As I’ve mentioned before, when asked “Why do you write?” my response is always the same: Because I have to. I write because that’s what I’ve been built to do. In my younger, more idealistic years, I told my parents I’d write even if I ended up selling my work out of the trunk of my car. Now that I’m older I sell the work out of the trunk of my SUV. I’m still hoping for a 1967 Ford Country Sedan. Sure did love those station wagons back in the day.I’d be lying, though, if I said I didn’t give a wit whether or not anyone read what I wrote. First of all, I couldn’t make a living giving everything away, no matter how altruistic that may sound. But in reality, I’m in this not only because it’s my calling, but also because I have hope that one day I can make a decent living at it. What did the writer of the Book of Hebrews say? “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NABRE). And I’ve seen lots of evidence indicating I’m living out my calling. Just look at my smile! And my 98/67 blood pressure. I sure didn’t have that when I worked for the aerospace industry.That being said, I appreciate it when readers not only take the time to read what God has moved me to write, but also when folks type up a comment, a word of encouragement, or an opinion to contrast or complement (or compliment) my post. Those little sacrifices of time remind me that I’m touching at least a few people out there who took a moment to read my heart’s outpourings. After all, words are the most powerful force in the universe (just look at what God did with the Word!); I write not only because I have to write, but because I also hope to inspire my readership and somehow touch their lives in a positive, life-changing way.

So there you have it. Blogging has kept me consistent, structured, focused, inspired, and persistent. It fits well with my personality of fierce commitment and quiet perseverance, and it has been an anchor upon which my writing determination is moored. It has opened the door to being creative, and has closed the door on the fear of failure. It has provided a platform to present my talent and a tool to promote my work. Above all, blogging has given me the opportunity—even permission—to let go and let God in a very powerful, very real way. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If blogging allows me 1,000,000 ways that won’t work and one that does, then it will have all been worth it. After all, I have no doubt the next blessing—and blog post #148—is just around the corner.

 

Copyright © 2015 by David C Hughes

 

The Clockmaker (Part 3 of 3)

As he entered the cramped space he shined the lantern on a small table upon which sat a cuckoo clock made of dark linden wood. Horace admired the clock, its familiar face and intricately-carved top-piece stirring memories of him and his parents in much happier times. He set the lamp on the floor, blew the dust off the clock, removed it from the table, and placed it on the hook from which the princess’ clock had hung. With reverence he drew the weights and set the clockwork in motion. The timepiece still ticked as strongly as it had the day his father had presented it to his mother. He held his breath and advanced the minute hand toward the twelve. The bird sprang from its trapped door with a hearty cuckoo and Horace exhaled—the bird looked identical in size, shape and detail to the cuckoo nesting in the princess’ hair.

Perhaps the clockmaker had visited the king as well while traversing the kingdom, Horace mused as he stopped the mechanism. Yes, he thought. Perhaps the new king was as fond of the clockmaker’s wares as my father was. He shut and locked the door, doused the lamp and crawled into bed to contemplate the young woman, her pin and the resolute march of time.

That night he slept soundly and awoke refreshed and … happy.

The next morning, as he prepared his portion of gruel and a single boiled egg, a knock came from the shop door despite the early hour. When he opened the door a man dressed in a dashing costume wordlessly presented him with a letter sealed in red wax stamped with a single monogram: “A.” Bidding the man farewell, Horace quickly opened the parchment with shaking fingers. It was a summons from King Aloysius himself, requesting his presence at the castle immediately. His heart leapt. He forgot about his breakfast, hurriedly washed, donned his best outfit, and dashed to the castle gate.

Upon arriving he presented the summons to the guard who quickly dispatched a paige. As he waited, Horace examined the outer wall and observed above the gate a bird carved into its face: a cuckoo, the very bird adorning the princess’ fine head of hair. He had not noticed the bird before, never being this close to the castle’s entrance. He cocked his head and grunted, but he had no further time to ponder this symbol before the princess herself, escorted by six handsome ladies, welcomed him.

“Horace the clockmaker,” she greeted. She took his hand and led him into the castle keep. “My father is excited to meet you. He and my mother are even now awaiting you.”

Horace allowed himself to be escorted by this fine lady, who, even at such an ungodly hour appeared as radiant as she had the evening before. His eyes, though admiring the princess’ alluring gait, also removed themselves from time to time to absorb and appreciate the castle and its adornments. The princess led him through the great hall, beneath a grand archway, and down a long corridor to a heavy door beside which stood a pair of guards dressed in maroon uniforms and leaning on glistening pikes.

“Wait here while I announce you,” the princess said. She giggled as she opened the door and slipped through it, closing it quickly.

Horace nodded at the guards, but they continued to stare straight ahead. What filled their minds he could not begin to fathom as behind him stood a mere blank wall carved from solid limestone.

A moment later the princess opened the door and beckoned him to enter. As he stepped foot into the dimly-lit room, what he beheld caused him to waver. He blinked and his mouth dropped open. From floor to ceiling, on all four walls, hung cuckoo clocks of a variety he could not have imagined in his most whimsical daydreams. The chamber resonated with the ticking of at least a thousand of them, but even as the noise rattled his ears, his heart beat to its underlying rhythm, time arranging chaos into a sublime and wonderful order. His foot began to tap. As his eyes darted from clock to clock, they were suddenly drawn to the presence of both the king and the queen reclining on couches at the far end of the room. He gasped. His face flushed. The royal couple rose and approached him with vibrant smiles.

“Horace the clockmaker,” the princess announced as her parents drew near.

Horace bowed deeply. As he stood again, the queen, as beautiful as her daughter, extended her hand. He kissed it. “I am indeed honored,” he said, his voice trembling.

“As are we,” the king said. “Please, sit.” He waved and an attendant placed a cushioned chair next to Horace.

Horace complied with the king’s wishes. The princess stood behind her mother and smiled.

“You have a gift, Horace the clockmaker,” the king began. “My daughter delivered this exquisite clock carved in the tradition of the finest Black Forest craftsmen.” The king waved again and another attendant produced the clock he had sold to the princess the night before. It rested on a pillow of royal purple trimmed in gold.

“Thank you, your majesty,” Horace said, wondering if addressing the king as “your majesty” was appropriate. He had never spoken to a person of royalty before and had only heard the phrase used once or twice.

“You are very welcome.” The king leaned forward. “I imagine you are wondering why I have called you here this morning,” he said. “Simply this: I need a clockmaker.”

Horace’s head swirled. “A clockmaker? Sire?”

“Yes, such as yourself. You see, I was a clockmaker once, many years ago. I made all of these.” He swept a hand around the room. “That was before my brother passed away and I took over the reins of the kingdom.”

Horace started. “You mean you. …” He looked at the princess, at the bird in her hair, at the clocks surrounding him, at the one he had crafted. “You are the clockmaker who sold my father our cuckoo clock so long ago.” Horace felt tears well up. “You are the reason I persisted—for my mother’s memory and for my father’s honor.” He slid out of the chair and knelt before the royal couple, bowing his head. “I am indeed humbled.”

“Please rise,” the king ordered. Horace stood and took his place again in the chair. “That winter,” said the king, “so long ago, I sought out all of the clockmakers in the kingdom and presented them with a single work for purchase. Those who bought I noted. Those who did not I blessed and continued on my search. To the richest I imparted wisdom and bade them farewell. To the poorest I also hid a dozen pieces of gold in the casing of each clock I sold, believing that even rubbish could be turned into something useful in the hands of the right person. I believe those that respect time will eventually master it. And you have.”

Horace sat up, not believing his ears. He looked at the princess. She nodded.

The king gestured toward Horace. “Of all those to whom I sold my clocks, only one has fulfilled my hopes. That one is you.”

“Thank you,” Horace whispered.

“And now, kind sir, I again ask you, would you accept the role as royal clockmaker?”

“I will!” Horace shouted. He caught the princess’ eye once more. “It is my honor and my duty, sire.”

The princess laughed, hurried around her parents and embraced Horace robustly as the king and queen stood to welcome him officially into their employment. He took the princess in his arms, knowing in his heart that time now celebrated with them, its investment in patience now manifesting in the full glory of its intentions. He fingered the bird in her hair and in that moment time showed him a glimpse of true happiness in his restless contentment and revealed to him an undeniable truth: here he stood as the last of a long line of clockmakers. And the first in a long line of royal clockmakers.

Time danced most gaily.

 

-THE END-

 

Copyright ©2015 by David C. Hughes

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