Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, September 21, 2007

Five Words I Met on the Way to Heaven

by Kerry Blair

In the parable of the talents, a wealthy man gathers three of his servants and entrusts them with his goods while he is away. To one he gives five talents, to another two, and to a third he gives one talent -- each according to their several abilities. As you probably recall, the first two servants doubled what they were given while the third servant dug a pit in the earth and hid up his talent in order to “keep it safe.”

Do you ever wonder if Matthew and Luke missed somebody when they retold the tale? In latter-day revelation -- and indeed in His life teachings -- Christ makes it clear there is a fourth type of servant as well. While some of us are digging pits, and others of us are going merrily on our way multiplying our talents little or much, there is a fourth group who pause in the enrichment of their own fortunes to consider their fellow laborers. When they see another servant hide up his talent, they drop what they are doing and rush to help.

I know this kind of person well. The Master has often set them along my path because He knows that I am without doubt that third servant. Call me Martha. (Having written that, I recognize that it is a discredit to a worthy woman.) The point is, I have raised being “careful and troubled about many things” to an art form. When Luke called this kind of mortal mania “cumbered” he knew whereof he spoke. (And I’m not just saying that to make up for pointing out his possible journalistic oversight earlier.)

To use writing as an example -- since it does come to my attention from time to time that this is a writing-related blog -- I intended from childhood to make use of that meager talent. But being careful and troubled about things like school and marriage and children and callings and . . . whatever, any talent I might have been given was soon buried under an avalanche of life. It would still be there, in fact, if it weren’t for my best friend Joan -- one of those fourth types of servants.

Not only did Joan first encourage me to write, she dragged me along to her writer’s group and applauded my first pathetic attempts at novelizationing. (I suspect that's not a word.) In real words, she stooped to dig my one tarnished talent out of the dirt each and every time I dropped it. (Stepped on it. Buried it. Abandoned it forever.) Joan knew me too well. She recognized that I was determined (if not destined) to spend more time obsessing about not having as many talents as everybody else than using the measly one I did have. One day, in total frustration, she yelled at me:

“Just write a stupid book!”

Turns out those were five of the most meaningful words I ever heard. They were so wise, in fact, that I wrote them down and still have them framed and sitting on my desk. Don’t obsess, they remind me. Don’t despair. Be careful not to borrow trouble. Just write a stupid book now and worry about being a no-talent loser later. That simple phrase has so much power -- it’s worked nine times for me! -- that I’ve been thinking of copyrighting it and selling posters during NaNoWriMo. (But I’ll give it to you free of charge today. You’re welcome)

There are so many servants like Joan -- incredibly talented people who are going about their Master’s business in the way He truly intended. While magnifying their own talents all out of proportion, these people yet take every opportunity to teach and bless, build and edify others. If I started to name the ones who have profoundly affected me -- Jennie, Marsha, David, Cheri, Margaret, Janette, Marnie, and those guys who blog here the rest of the week -- I’d be listing all day. So instead I’ll silently bless their names (as I do every day) and wait to sing their praises until I get to the other side of the veil. And take voice lessons.

In the meantime, I must confess that I misplaced that lousy talent yet again. (Okay, okay, so I chucked it down a well the last time that “careful and troubled” thing hit.) Fortunately -- and thanks to a couple of those aforementioned fourth servants -- I think I still see a glimmer of it down there somewhere. Maybe I’ll finally stop obsessing, fish it out, and write a stupid book.

It’s not like I haven’t done that before. (You knew I had to say it before Rob did!)


At 9/21/2007 11:59 AM, Blogger James Dashner said...

Well said, Kerry.

I've always told people, if they just hang in there and finish one stupid book, the next one will be way easier to finish, and much better writing.

At 9/21/2007 1:30 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Yeah, Kerry, write another stupid book for us! =)

I'll send you some stale-by-the-time-they-get-there powdered sugar donuts, if that will inspire you.

At 9/21/2007 1:47 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

Ah Kerry, I've often wished I could write stupid books as well as you do. You make me laugh, cry, and do a little pondering. I've often comforted myself by saying I write a different kind of stupid book than you do and maybe my kind is needed too, but then I read yours and find myself thinking, How does she do that? I wish I could be so eloquent. I'm truly glad you're writing again.

At 9/21/2007 3:08 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Woohoo! I'll be first in line to buy the next "stupid" book you write. Fish that talent out and get writing! (though in your case you're going to need a wheelbarrow to carry all the talents you fish out--you're one of the most talented people I've ever met in my life).

At 9/21/2007 4:19 PM, Anonymous Margaret said...

I've always thought there were more than the 3 servants mentioned. Leave it to you to identify the 4th so wonderfully. I will be so happy to read any "stupid" book in any form you write it. You are my inspiration.

At 9/21/2007 6:26 PM, Anonymous marlene said...

All right, Kerry! I'm soooo glad you are back among the rest of us "stupid" book writers. By the way, I went to the only LDS bookstore in the whole of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut, and I got a copy of The Heart Has Its Reasons and a bunch more books. It was so fun to read through the authors names and say to myself, I know her/him, although its just through the blog and books. The book store is a small room in her basement but she lives close enough to the main highways that people can stop there on the way to the temple. I hate to say this, Kerry, but she is now all out of your books and a few other authors that I snatched up.

Don't think that your books don't mean much. Out here it is so refreshing to "step" into a book and have Mormon characters--people like your ward members who use your vocabulary, think your kinds of thoughts, even love your kind of humor (humor out here is different). Just being there made me pretty nostolgic. So thank you for returning to us. We need you, Kerry, and all the rest too.

At 9/21/2007 8:13 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...


The talents that shine the brightest are the hardest ones to bury permanantly and your shine like little suns. I would be very unhappy to learn that I would never get to read any more of your stuid books. (Bet you're wishing you hadn't coined that phrase now!)

Thanks for sticking with it.

At 9/21/2007 11:33 PM, Blogger wom said...

I am new at this, You made me laugh, and it felt good inside.

At 9/22/2007 7:32 AM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

That was an absolutely excellent insight into the parable of the talents. Why didn't you write this post before I taught this lesson in Sunday School?

At 9/22/2007 9:59 AM, Blogger Cheri J. Crane said...

Not only will I rush out to buy your next book, but when the posters are ready, I'm going to buy several copies to decorate my computer room. ;)Excellent blog, my talented friend.

At 9/22/2007 10:16 AM, Blogger Rebecca Talley said...

I love, love, love your writing. I'm reading "Ghost of a Chance" (even mentioned it in my blog) and have been laughing and admiring your voice in that book. You make it look so easy!

Great insight into the parable of the talents.

At 9/22/2007 11:02 AM, Blogger Josi said...

I've got a bucket, some sturdy rope, and a pulley. I keep it around for just such Martha moments of cumberness. I also have a jackhammer, a paint scraper, industrialized degreaser, and tweezers if they ever come in handy.

What a great blog--and what wonderfully stupid books you write. Now go write another one!

At 9/22/2007 3:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is soooo great!
I've read all of your books at least twice. I'll buy any "stupid" book you can dish out. You are so talented.

At 9/23/2007 8:53 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Gosh you guys! I would have worried about your comments going to my already big head, but fortunately Sariah just reminded me of some of the words you meet (in evaluations) on your way to . . . not heaven. Sigh.

Did I really say I was going to write another stupid book? It must have been subliminal or Freudian or something. Or maybe I meant I'd write one someday. You know, like when Rob grows up or Jon sends me another chapter of his opus or pigs fly. Sometime like that. :-)

Or maybe I'll start tomorrow simply because you all are the kindest people on the planet and you bless my life with both joy and hope! (And some other emotion I can't name, but it's all warm and squishy-feeling.)

Thank you. Really.

At 9/25/2007 12:44 AM, Anonymous Jen said...

OK - I thought you already said you were writing another Shade mystery. Are you being totally honest with your fan club??? What are you talking about "some day" you'll write another book?? You've already PROMISED us another book and had us do a silly "name my book" contest that you promptly lost all the entries for blaming it on a computer crash! Tell me you are already in the midst of writing the afore mentioned novel!!!!

At 9/25/2007 12:52 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Oh, Jen! I'm so busted! (See what happens when you put up a web site?) In my weak defense, I retrieved about 89% of the entries for that contest and awarded a very nice prize, thank you very much. :-) And no deception -- I swear! I'd finished the 3rd book before giving up writing for Lent. (Or something.) I'm just waiting for permission from the powers that be to put it up on my web site. (And waiting. And waiting.) In the meantime, I'll put a couple of chapters up soon, okay?

And how very sweet of you to notice! Next silly contest I come up with, you win by default! (I think I can trust you to remind me.)

At 9/25/2007 1:22 PM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

Kerry, you feeling funky about writing scares me. If someone as awesome as you tried burying her talents, there's no hope for someone like me. You had better be writing another stupid book, because I'm waiting to read it! Loved your parable edit. You are incredible.


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