Jim Ware is the father of six children, a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary, and a freelance author living in Colorado Springs with his wife Joni. A Celtic music enthusiast, he enjoys playing the guitar and hammered dulcimer at Irish sessions around town. He is also the author several books, including God of the Fairy Tale and Finding God in the Lord of the Rings (with Kurt Bruner). His newest offering, The Stone of Destiny, is a young adult fantasy novel that weaves together elements of Celtic myth, the medieval“science” of alchemy, and legends of the Holy Grail.
The following article originally appeared in the “Author By Night” column of Christian Fiction Online Magazine:
Bungled But Blessed
by Jim Ware
Once I wrote a piece about C. S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair (for our book Finding God in the Land of Narnia). I titled it “Bungled But Blessed.” That’s a pretty good description of my life—particularly my life as a writer.
On a couple of occasions, well-meaning friends have asked, “How have you managed to write books while raising a family and holding down a full-time job? Do you stick to a regular, disciplined writing schedule? Do you make a plan, map out a strategy, and set aside a certain amount of time to write every day? Do you do your best work in the morning or at night?” I never know how to answer these questions. For one thing, I’m nowhere near that highly organized.
In some ways I’m a lot like Pierre Bezhukov, the quirky protagonist of Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace. Pierre is a confirmed bungler. Half the time he doesn’t know what he’s doing or why. Most of the time he doesn’t really care. He exhibits pretty poor judgment in a number of critical situations, and as a result he winds up in a lot of trouble. But in spite of his faults and flaws, Pierre has a way of stumbling into interesting situations, and for some strange reason good things happen to him along the way. By the end of the story, the bungler ends up blessed.
It’s sort of like that with me and my writing. I’m not a “real” author. I’m just a guy who likes good stories—always have, always will. Meanwhile, I do my best to hold down a job and maintain a meaningful life outside the workplace. I get up in the morning, go to the office, and try to please my employer. At the end of the day I come home to my wife and kids. Once in a while we watch Leave It To Beaver re-runs. On weekends I take long walks with my dogs in the hills behind my house. I read books—lots of them—listen to music, learn new songs, and play tunes with friends at local pubs and coffee houses. I eat, sleep, pray, and dream. On Sundays I go to church. Sometimes I even find time to fool around with story ideas. In the process, things happen to me. To date, the list includes twelve or thirteen published books.
How has this come about? I’m not exactly sure. Why has the bungler ended up so blessed? I honestly don’t know. I guess it all comes down to grace. As Tolstoy puts it in summing up the story of Pierre, “If we admit that life can be governed by reason, the possibility of life is destroyed.” In other words, it’s not about schemes and strategies or how smart or clever or talented or disciplined I am. It’s all about the plans and purposes of God.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the value of hard work, and I know that a publisher’s deadline can be a wonderful stimulus for the lazy and unmotivated. My theory is that if something has to be written, it will be. In such a case, necessity becomes the mother of invention. Under these circumstances, the physical act of writing, like water spilled over a tessellated floor, tends to find its way into the cracks and crannies of a busy life. Looking at it from a purely human perspective, I guess it would be fair to say that if you care enough to make a start and keep chipping away at the block of stone, the work eventually gets done. All this I understand. But I also believe with all my heart that nothing comes about primarily as a result of my own efforts. Everything depends upon the One who is writing my story and adding His blessings to my bungled efforts.
Morgan Izaak, the hero of my fantasy novel The Stone of Destiny, is another bungler who ends up blessed. The big difference between Morgan and Pierre— at least in the beginning—is that Morgan has very definite ideas about what he wants. What’s more, he’s come up with a detailed plan for achieving his goals. His mother is dying of cancer and he’s determined to see her healed. As a result, he pulls out his father’s old books on the “science” of alchemy and starts working day and night to confect the fabled Philosopher’s Stone, the materia prima, the Elixir of Life which is supposed to cure every disease. When he hears rumors of another Stone of supernatural virtue and magical power— Lia Fail, the Satisfaction of All Desire, the legendary Stone of Destiny of Irish myth—he arrives at the conclusion that there must be a connection between the two. From that point forward he refuses to rest until he’s solved the mystery and claimed the prize as his own.
Morgan, as you can see, is highly motivated. Though bullied, belittled, and scorned by his classmates, he’s a regular Type-A personality in the making. He’s smart, inventive, focused, and intentional; in a hyphenated word, he’s purpose-driven. The only problem is that, for reasons beyond his control, his meticulously orchestrated schemes don’t work. In the end, he botches everything through slavish devotion to his carefully laid plans. It sounds like a tale with a tragic end, but it isn’t; because in the final analysis, when all is said and done, Morgan still ends up blessed.
“How so?” you ask. Ah—that would be giving the story away, wouldn’t it? If you really want to know, you’ll have to read the book.
In the meantime, if you’ve got a hankering to become an “Author By Night” in your own right, I’m afraid I don’t have much advice for you. All I can say is, set your pen to paper (or your fingers to the keyboard), put one foot in front of the other, and start stumbling down the rocky road. Work as hard as your schedule permits. Pray and dream and trust. Do the best you can, but never forget the words of the wise king: “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless, the Lord’s counsel—that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).
For more information about Jim and his writing, visit his Amazon Author Page.