Thursday, February 14, 2013

seeing myself in story, myth, fantasy

The world I'm writing is the world I needed when I was young, and a place I continue to crave. I was having a conversation the other day with a good friend; we were discussing my current project and he asked me why I'm writing it. I told him that when I was growing up I was completely enamored of story, mythology, fantasy. But when I wanted to retreat into that world, place myself into myth in my imagination as children do, I had to change everything about myself. I had to change the color of my skin, my eyes, my hair, where my family was from.  I couldn't read a book or listen to story and think that's my story, my myth. It always belonged to someone different from me. The underlying message to a child who doesn't see herself in story is you don't exist. Even when I moved past children's literature into middle grade and young adult fiction I didn't see myself. It took me years to realize that that kind of invisibility creates shame, a shadowy self-hatred. And the undoing of that shame and self-hatred is a long process that often involves a lot of anger. I'm just coming out of it.

Yesterday I read this article. Even more confirmation that what I'm doing is necessary. I also realize I need support in doing this. I am writing genre. I'm writing an imagined place fit together with various influences and sometimes I'm terrified of criticism.

Before bed each night I'm reading Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces. What a glorious, thick, heady book to get lost in, and found in. I read with pencil in hand, underlining, writing notes to myself in the margins, putting exclamation points next to passages that rip me open. Passages like this:

Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream; both myth and dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamics of the psyche. But in the dream the forms are quirked by the peculiar troubles of the dreamer, whereas in myth the  problems and solutions are directly valid for all mankind.

Passages like this fuel me when I'm feeling low about my work. What I'm doing is necessary. Placing myself into myth for all mankind. I'm not feeling particularly low about my work these days but sometimes the scope of what I'm trying to create is daunting. I have to remind myself, and allow myself to be reminded by outside sources and influences, that this path of artist and creator has been mine since before I could articulate it. And I have to continue to honor it.

 I've created a vision board of sorts above my desk. I've printed out pictures of my characters, or what I imagine my characters to look like. They are pretty damn beautiful. Gorgeous in fact. They don't necessarily fit into contemporary ideas of beauty, but they are beautiful to me; they convey strength and grace. They're fierce, each a warrior in their own way. Beautiful brown people. I don't just see their faces above my desk, they're the faces of my family, of the people I work with, strangers on the street who look like me. 

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