You might be aware we have just emerged from another New Year celebration, a lunar one. From the new moon at the beginning of February until the full moon a few days ago, people all over the world went above and beyond their usual activities to acknowledge this new phase of life. Curious onlookers such as myself are fascinated by some of the rituals and customs of these typically culture-specific happenings.
I am particularly interested in the Tibetan world and its myths and traditions. In Tibet and in many other places, including Houston , people participated in community activities this month associated with bringing in the Year of the Fire Monkey. According to tradition, the challenges of the Fire Monkey year include balancing an aggressive competitiveness with the more nurturing skills of creative sociability and patience.
What does this have to do with you or with your writing? I use this bit of information to illustrate one of many ways mythology can inform our activities and, in particular, our writing.
As you know, good writing requires the writer to have a good imagination. Without that, a reader will have trouble imagining or seeing what the writer had in mind. Take the image of a fire monkey, for example. What do you see? I don’t know about you, but I see a feisty creature, one who is probably full of both mischief and fun. There’s a certain energy here that feels empowering and very playful.
Good writing is like that, too. The reader feels energized as the writer’s playfulness comes through in his or her words.
Consider author Lisa Unger. I am inspired by one of her blog posts in which she says: “There is, after all, no more fascinating or gripping mystery than the human mind.”
I also love her idea of spelunking our way through the mind’s dark cave. To figure out what our fictional characters are all about, we need a flashlight or (better) a headlamp pointed toward whatever it is we might discover to help us get to know them. Imagine yourself wearing a headlamp while poking around in a dark place you just know contains interesting characters and intriguing plotlines.
If it helps, you can even imagine a chatty little fire monkey perched on your shoulder and pointing out what he sees. Who knows? Perhaps something unexpected will come to light and you can write it down, see where it leads.
Let’s return to mythology once more. Oh! The images. So many of them. Again, shine that headlight. From King Arthur’s world to the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses to the obscure mythologies of people we have yet to meet or come to know, the possibilities seem to be unlimited.
In the blog post referenced above, Lisa Unger writes: “I have a very high opinion of my readers, and readers in general. I know them to be wise and intelligent, and – maybe more than any other type of person – open-minded. They are spelunkers like me, always willing to go deeper into the darkness just to see what’s there.”
Whether in Houston, Tibet, or anywhere else in our physical world, we can quickly tap into the mysteries of our own minds and access imaginary worlds which can be used in our stories. All it takes is confidence that something worth writing about is actually there, and a willingness to look for it.
Keep writing, then write some more.