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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in writing

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Why I Stopped Writing

I am writing again (obviously). But the simple act of sitting down and letting my fingers dance across the keyboard took months of struggle. Last year I would panic at the mere thought of writing. I thought I’d never publish another word, ever again.

Writing isn’t something I can do casually. Some writers can kick back and type out page after page in a single afternoon, but I’m not like that. For me, writing is a gut-wrenching, soul-baring practice. I cannot write without reaching deep inside of me. Often I end up encountering aspects of myself from which I would rather hide. Writing peels away my defenses and confronts me with the secrets I keep from myself.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    This is exquisite - so glad to have your voice back in the commons my dear.
  • Carl Neal
    Carl Neal says #
    Good for you! I also have struggled in the past year trying to reestablish my writing voice. Although my situation was drastical
  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan says #
    Thank you, Carl, I appreciate it!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Squirrels: My Writing Muse

Whenever I am blocked in my writing, I watch squirrels. I see them bouncing from tree to tree or chasing each other. At other times, one squirrel will dig up a nut that another had just buried. Once I witnessed a lone squirrel sneaking up on a curbside vendor to steal a nut-bar from her truck. Before the hapless vendor could react, this crafty squirrel leapt off the countertop and scampered off with its prize.

Squirrels inspire me with their activity. Rarely staying still in one place, they leap from one tree branch, grab another limb, and then jump to the ground. This reminds me of my free writing, when I jump from topic to topic. Working with my squirrel muses, I seldom know where they will take me in my writing or where I will finally end up.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Teach Us Those Runes

 Geriht us þat geruni.

“Teach us those runes.”

(Old Saxon Heliand, circa 850)

 

Writing is a magical act.

The old North Sea ancestors had two words meaning “write.”

One was to scribe. That meant “to write with pen and ink,” as the Romans did. This was the newfangled way to write, with a newfangled Latin name.

But the old word, the ancestral word, was to write. This originally meant “to carve.” The first writing that the ancestors knew was the carving ("risting") of runes into wood.

Note which method they favored.

In our hyper-literate society, in which most of us write with light rather than with ink or with lead, we tend to take writing for granted.

We shouldn't.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Fireverse 6: Mythology is Subjective

Mythology is stories, and stories reflect the mind of the storyteller. We acknowledge that when we talk about how a given mythological tale reflects a culture and its level of scientific and social advancement. The individuals who told the stories also projected them through their own personal lenses, not only as members of their culture but as people with internal psychology.

One of the things I learned while writing Some Say Fire, in which I retold as much of the heathen lore as I could find along with original material inserted interstitially, is that it is impossible to write objective fiction about the gods no matter how hard I try. Even though I relate to the gods either as people with personalities or as nature, when I wrote fiction about them they inevitably turned into archetypes. For example, the ways that Fireverse Odin differs from traditional Odin all turned out to be about my real life deceased father. I didn't intend to do that. I didn't even realize that until after I had enough of a draft completed to show it to someone else and my critique partner pointed it out to me; I knew I had turned my problems over to my higher power by giving them to Loki, but I hadn't realized how much that distorted all the other characters in the story.

Only after I had dealt with those issues was I able to get past them and reach the real Odin. In mythology or fairy tale, the father figure is your father, the road is your path, and the mountain is whatever obstacle you yourself must overcome. Everything turns into dream symbolism.

This same phenomenon must surely have happened when the lore that we have received in written form was first written down. The lore contained in Snorri's Edda must therefore reflect Snorri the individual as much as it reflects the lore as he had heard it in his lifetime, and as much as it reflects his culture and the times he lived in.

Fireverse Odin turned into my father and Fireverse Loki my wounded inner child because those are the personal issues I needed to resolve through my creative writing. Snorri's Odin turned into Yahweh and his Loki turned into the Devil. As a Christian with recent heathen ancestors living in the time of conversion, watching his culture be destroyed by the very thing he most passionately believed in--the Church-- resolving the cognitive dissonance between his Christian beliefs and his love of the stories of his culture must have been his greatest psychological need.

The subjectivity of story, even mythology from an oral tradition, is something to keep in mind in interpreting the lore. Some of my fellow Asatruars treat the Eddas as if they were the word of the gods. The Eddas were written by men; men have human needs, including psychological needs. The storyteller shapes the story even if he tries not to.

Image: image from publicdomainpictures.net

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My first book signing!  Photo by Chiri Peterson.  Used by permission.

My first book signing! Photo by Chiri Peterson. Used by permission.

Updated from Between the Shadows, November 22, 2014:

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Fireverse 3: Books Are Magic

Continuing my story of receiving gnosis through fiction writing, it was always obvious to me which parts were inspired, because they felt different from everything else. That feeling would not be obvious to the reader, though. In thousands of hours of writing and being open to receive gnosis, over the course of a year and a half, I had perhaps a few minutes of messages for humanity. They occurred at unpredictable times. There are mediums who contact a god, dead person, or other being and relay questions and answers for someone else, but I’m not one of them. I'm a writer. I receive poetic inspiration.

This is the gnosis I received about what happens to burned books. I sat down to write in my novel, and this came out of my fingers. 

What flowed out:

Loki was sitting on a marble bench reading a book. Odin sat down beside him. “Hello, Loki.”

Loki didn’t look up. “Hi.”

“What book is that?”

“Leaves of Grass. In German translation.”

“Is it any good?”

“Mmhmm.”

“Is it from my library?” Odin received many book sacrifices. Anytime a book was burned in the world, if it was not dedicated aloud to some other god, it always went to him. Sometimes there were whole piles of the same book all burned together. He had not gotten around to reading every title in his library yet. He was still working on all the ones burned together at Alexandria.

“Mmhmm.”

There was a long pause. “I’m going herb shopping in Midgard after lunch. Would you like to come with me?”

“Mmhmm.”

“Are you the father of Zisa’s new puppy?”

“Mmhmm.”

[redacted – unsuitable to print in a family newspaper]

“What?” Loki looked up, blinking in startlement. “Um, peeled, thank you.”

“Just checking to see if you were listening.”
 

What I think it means:

Unless specifically dedicated to someone else, burned books go to Odin. Books have an afterlife.

Further thoughts on this gnosis:

That was the original gnosis, the actual words which flowed from my fingers when Odin inspired me with this message. Later, I put in a scene in which burned books actually show up in his library. The talking scene was gnosis, and the scene in which a bonfire spontaneously shows up in the library, depositing a pile of books, came from my head based on that gnosis.

I haven’t heard of anyone else receiving the same gnosis, but it makes sense to me that books would have an afterlife. Heathenry is strongly infused with animism, and the wider culture in which we live treats books as objects of reverence. We are taught as children to respect books, and not to damage them. Authors sign books like artists sign artworks. The physical book has inherent worth in our culture, beyond the knowledge that is in it. In the US, the three guaranteed freedoms listed first in our Bill of Rights are speech, the press, and religion, of all which are related to books and knowledge. We have book temples; we love books and the knowledge within them so much we've had public libraries for centuries longer than we've had public health care. Our culture has elevated the importance of books above our own lives. Of course, with that much human energy directed at them, books aren't just inanimate objects.

When you read a book, you are a telepath who owns a time machine. You see into the mind of the author, even if the author is long dead. When you write a book, you speak to the whole world, and to the end of time. What an awesome creation writing is! Books are magic.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
I Have Been So Long Away

Summertime...and yet the living is not but so easy.

My rich and full life has kept me away from here for a good part of the summer. I'm not just a village witch, you know. I'm a gardener and canner, and this summer we expanded one of the community gardens and brought another one "online" in my neighborhood.

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