Thursday, February 10, 2011

Making Peace with the Dancing Bears -- February 10, 2011

Like most writers, I’m an avid reader. Since my earliest days of “See Spot run!” I’ve been hooked on the written word. The masters of yesteryear have shaped my conscious thoughts in ways even I can not explain.

What is it that gives a book such majesty? What injects mere words with the ability to change us, enhance us and lift our lives into something infinitely more worthwhile than what we had before?

As a writer, I’ve pondered this question many times. Is it structure, plot, character, poetry – what is the one key ingredient of a truly great work?

Here’s the conclusion I’ve drawn: on its own, none of these elements will produce an outstanding book, although each is usually blended with technical skills in the best of literary works. Mere punctuation will not sprinkle a story with fairy dust. Poetry alone, thick with personal meaning but devoid of universal appeal, will not liberate our subconscious from the trappings of the mundane.

No. The only sure way for a writer to capture his readers is to harness the power of being comfortable with his voices. Beloved books all have one thing in common: they invite the reader to sit with the author and explore his innermost workings, that menagerie of thoughts and ideas, joys, sorrows and horrors that are unique to each of us.

A writer must reach deep into his psyche – soul, if you will – and pull out whatever icky mess he finds there. A well of experience, the mucky stew of the past, is the key ingredient of any work of art.

Sometimes, on a good day, we’ll look inside ourselves and find only joy. Those are the days when our stories will be at peace, when our minds become aviaries filled with colourful winged creatures who sing to us of golden moments in the sun.

The next day we might find ourselves staring into a black pit of snakes, our guts wrenching with anger, doubt and self-loathing. Then the villains in our minds will rule the day. The world will experience their wrath

Behold the poisonous power of the serpent! He, too, is part of this universe. He, too, deserves his moment in the bright light of understanding.

Only the brave can dive into this unknown territory, day after day, never sure what we will find. The compassionate among us can view each of our inner ‘animals’ with a touch of love and a river of understanding.

Most people are unable to face what lies within their minds. They are not comfortable with the voices – they shrink from the gnashing teeth, the bloody claws of their own demons.

But, of course, those people are not writers. We are a hardy lot. We’ve learned to live in peace with all aspects of ourselves.

When we hear the rumbling of the dancing bears, we do not run in fear. Nay, not at all. Instead, we writers don our finery and dance along, grinning and growling with the best of them!

Donna Carrick, February 10, 2011

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