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

Leave a comment below to win your choice of any Carrick book found at our website:

Contest closes at noon EST on Feb. 13, in time for Valentine's Day. Be sure to let me know how to contact you, in case I draw your name out of the hat!


  1. The amazing thing about a dancing bear is not how well he dances, but that he dances at all.

  2. Many dancing bears to make peace with in my past, Donna. This is so true! I'm really just learning this, but have experienced the halt of my writing due to not being able to get real with an issue.
    Great post!

  3. This post is very meaningful to me, Donna. Thanks for posting it. Bear wrangling is a hazardous occupation.

  4. I see what you are saying. And I'd have to have The Noon God!! I love your books Donna, because you simply write so beautifully!

  5. Donna,
    I so enjoyed that metaphoric enhanced blog post on what makes writing work. Thanks so much for sharing your thought on this matter.

    I'm dancing right along with you!

    Be refreshed,

  6. Thank you for your comments, friends! This post grew out of a mental picture of the bears that came to me this morning. I was pondering the question of how to make my work more meaningful when suddenly I heard a g-g-r-r-owlll! LOL

  7. Donna, I would leave a comment without the thrill of winning a book.
    You certain touched a few chords with me, as I am certain you did with yourself and others.
    Love these words of yours "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."
    Thank you for writing this.

  8. It is the journey that matters...not the destination.

  9. Icky mess, indeed. I think you have nailed down exactly what makes a book compelling. It's authenticity. When they say "write what you know" it means you have to get your hands dirty. It's not always easy, but sure worth it when you're honest with yourself.

  10. Great post Donna, I think as writers we have a responsibility of sorts to explore our emotions directly and thus make our stories that much more real. We all have dancing bears inside us :o)

  11. And the winner is..... Caroline! Thank you all for participating. Hope you'll join me next time -- watch for details on FaceBook and Twitter! Caroline, I'll be in touch right away for your book choice and mailing info...

  12. Great contest!

    treerose AT yahoo DOT com

  13. I may have missed the contest but I can't resist commenting. Gosh! You make writing sound like self-flagellation. I do hope you get some pleasure from it too. I know that I do.

    I agree that it is the whole process of writing that gives the words the power to affect us so profoundly but I can't resist sharing with you a favourite game I used to play with my primary school classes. The power of a word. I can make you think of an elephant. There I just did it. ;-)

  14. Such a great analogy! Writer don't run from the dancing bears. We get right in there and embrace them!

  15. Thanks, Carolina! It's always fun for me wrangling those bears...and monsters... Well, if not always fun, at least always interesting! LOL

  16. I love this post, Donna. And, yes. Boy. Can I relate. It's when I'm peering into that abyss, when I've had to cross-over to the other side, that my writing slows to a trickle. I don't think I've learned to trust myself.

    Great, great post. Cute bears. : )

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