Monday, August 1, 2011
Getting Past Our Demons
Encouraging picture, yes? Greek Sphinx, legendary eater of men unable to answer her clever riddles. Guardians, usually of roads the hero desperately needed to traverse.
We are the heroes of our stories. No, we may not be in the stories we tell by name, but we're there. We push pens and get blisters typing. We stay up until the wee hours of dawn getting in just a few more words.
Sometimes, however, we arrive at an impasse. A road block. Writer's block, some call it. Or fear. Or our own, self-defeating subconscious.
Perhaps it's more than that, though. Perhaps it's our inner Guardian sent to purify the story that needs to be told.
There she is. Looming, sitting defiant in the middle of the road, licking one paw, razor sharp talons flexed and waiting. She knows we're coming, knows we have no choice but to approach her. When we get there, she'll ask us the riddle and we'll have no choice but to answer.
What if we get the answer wrong?
What if indeed.
So it's wrong. So she eats us alive. We're wounded beyond recognition and limp back to our starting point, back to "Once upon a time" when "Happily Ever After" was so close.
And we start again. Yes. It's that simple. Sometimes, what we write isn't right. Right as in not true to who we are, who we need to be. Sometimes we tell a tale simply because it's what is "hot" or "now" or "what best-selling-so-in-so" is writing. The Sphinx knows. We fail to answer her riddle and we must die to self. It can take a long time before we resurrect and find our voice, but rise me must.
Sometimes, we're on the right track, have the right story, but the words are coming out all wrong. We try to sound like "you-know-who" or "our-favorite-author". It's forced, contrived and the Sphinx knows. And she flings forth her riddle and we hem and haw and stutter and she slashes at us with those razor-wire claws and we scurry away to lick our wounds and whimper.
But we know she's right. We know what we said was all muddled and disjointed. It's not until we let our own blood splatter the blank page that we can write what it true. We cannot be afraid to die to what we "want" to say or what we "think" will impress an editor or agent. Nor can we fear exposing ourselves to the elements, opening up our veins and letter the truth pour out freely with not thought of our own health; only the health and life of the story matters.
Then we can approach the Guardian with confidence. Then can we step up to the plate, look her square in the eye and ask her a riddle. Why? Because now we know the story. Now we know the truth.
And now, she lets us pass.