Monday, January 11, 2021

Thoughts on Disney/Pixar's Soul + Writing Update

I know, yet another year where I’m not going to do a recap of my year. No one wants to relive 2020…except maybe for the Mandalorian season 2 part. 😉 So instead I want to talk about Disney/Pixar’s new movie Soul. And announce a few changes that will be coming in this new year. But Soul first. 

My sisters and I watched Soul for New Year’s Eve. It didn’t become an instant favorite the way Inside Out did, and it doesn’t surpass the ones I grew up on like Finding Nemo and Ratatouille, but even so, I really enjoyed it, and it’s one that’s really sticking with me. 

To start off, no, it is not an accurate, realistic, theological picture of how souls work, any more than our brains are controlled by personified emotions working a console. It’s an artistic representation, meant to tell a story with a particular message, and it works. And I’m still thinking about it. 

A little bit about the story: Joe Gardner has always loved jazz and wants desperately to be a jazz musician. But...he's a middle school band teacher. (By the way, I loved how they made the logo music sound like it was played by a middle school band. 😂) When finally Joe's about to get his big break, he falls down a manhole. But he's not willing to die just yet. Fighting death, he ends up in "the Great Before" where he must help soul 22 find her "spark" so she can be born on earth. Or rather, so she can give him her "Earth Pass" because she has no desire to go live life. (I know it all sounds weird. Somehow it works.)

I don't want to say too much more about the plot because of spoilers, but I do want to talk about what the movie says about life. Because that's what's really stuck with me.

We have to live. Just living life matters. It's a purpose, a spark.

Joe is so focused on trying to succeed as a musician he ignores everything else in life. He "doesn't have time" for a relationship, never bothered to actually talk to his barber, doesn't have a great relationship with his mom, and just doesn't even notice all the little things.

22 has no interest in life, but that's mostly because she doesn't really understand what life is. As she experiences life through Joe, she finds that life really is pretty amazing. She eats pizza, connects with people, enjoys "sky watching," and just shows Joe a wonder and appreciation for life.

It makes me remember The Phantom Tollbooth, actually. I haven't read that book since elementary school, but I still remember how it starts out. With basically a commentary on how people don't look up. How people don't notice things. They're just walking along, looking down, and not noticing life around them.

Which is basically what Joe is doing. And he's missing everything.

I know I'm often guilty. I get tunnel vision about whatever thing I'm working on and don't really look around. I don't take time to enjoy the outdoors. I often don't take the time to cultivate friendships, or to maintain them. And I don't want some day to look up and see that life has passed me by. That I've been so focused on that material goal that I forgot about the things that really matter.

I feel like it's an especially important message after 2020, where we were all so focused on the pandemic and all so isolated from each other. Because how many of us were actually living? I know I tended to have an attitude of just existing, just trying to get through the year. And that's not enough, because life is beautiful, even when bad things are happening, and we have to take notice of that. The sun still shines, the flowers still bloom, and hey, we got The Clone Wars season 7, The Mandalorian season 2, and some exciting Star Wars announcements, so 2020 wasn't all bad. We can't give up on living just because something bad and scary happened.

I absolutely don't think it's bad to have goals and things you're working towards. In fact, I think it's very important to have things you're working towards. But if you're so focused on that one obsession that nothing else even occurs to you, well, that's a problem. And you just might end up falling down a manhole.

But you know, I may work really hard all my life on writing books and never end up on the New York Times bestseller list. More than likely, that's how it'll happen. And if I'm always focused on attaining that goal, I'll be disappointed and think my life was meaningless. But if I enjoy the journey, cultivate relationships with the people in my life, and don't discount the little things in life, it'll be worth it. It's not the material goals that matter, it's the eternal. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are unseen are eternal.

And that's what I got out of Soul.


So. Things are going to look a little different around here. Namely, I'm not going to be blogging every week. It's just reality that when you've been blogging for nearly eight years, it's hard to come up with a fresh, new topic for a blog post every single week. Instead, I'm going to scale it down to twice a month. At the same time, I'm planning on upping my newsletter from quarterly to monthly.

Also, I have some plans starting this fall that will more than likely slow down writing for awhile. I'll share more once things are more concrete. Rest assured, I do not intend to give up on writing at all. I'm just not going to have enough time to write at the pace I did last year.

That said, I am working on the first draft of a pirate book that's a Time Captives spinoff about Captain Herb's son and a girl named Anthea Germainia, and I'm hoping *fingers crossed* to get another draft of Acktorek 2 at least mostly done before this fall. I've wanted to write this pirate book for about eight years, since before there were pirates in Time Captives, so I'm excited to be working on it. And of course I'm eager to get back to Emma and Mitchell, but I do need a bit of a break so that I can come at it with a fresh perspective and actually fix the problems with the draft. It'll happen. And one of these days the Crannig Castle audiobook will actually be finished too! 😉