“Narratives of Transcendent Origin and Power”

by | Nov 15, 2016 | Articles | 0 comments

Somewhere around a million years ago, I received a gift from a fellow writer, a book called Walking on Alligators by Susan Shaughnessy. I wasn’t familiar with Ms. Shaughnessy, but the book is subtitled A Book of Meditations for Writers, and it has a format similar to a lot of self-help/meditation books: each page features an interesting provocative quote from a well-known writer, a section about how and what we writers do, and then a kind of affirmation, e.g., Today I will write as honestly as I can, or Today I will honor my writing time, and so on.

I’ve never been big on the whole idea of writer’s block (do dentists get dentist block?), but I’ve had periods where I felt uninspired, and other periods where I got “stuck” in a story I was working on and had to go work on something else for a while. This book is a good resource for writers when they need a little inspiration, or even a good kick in the seat of the pants. Some of the readings are great, some aren’t so great, and a few are just plain weird. Of late I have used the book as a source of quotes for various social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Today’s quote comes from Neil Postman, an author I should probably have read by now, but admittedly haven’t. I see from Amazon that he has a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. I like the quote, and decided to use it for an image post on Facebook. Without giving it much thought, I decided to use a mandala for the image in the background, and I posted it and moved on to start this blog post for the day.

Like a lot of provocative (and evocative) quotes, this one led me to muse about culture and politics, about the sacred and the profane. I started to go down a rabbit hole that I honestly don’t have time for today, but I still wanted to get the post out there and have it available for comment. I guess the most important thing it led me to, in my short musing time, is the notion that we need great stories. I’ve written about this before, and will probably write about it again, but “narratives of transcendent origin and power” like those that drove so much of Native American culture are difficult to find in current American culture, at least in popular culture. I hope my own efforts – Brothers’ Hand, Jana, and Miles of Files – have some of that much-needed transcendence.

What about you? What do you think about the need for transcendence, and where are you finding it today?

 

weird

And Now, Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Now that I’ve reached the latter half of my sixth decade, I increasingly hear myself begin sentences “Back in the day…” or “I remember when….” It’s weird. In our eternally youth-obsessed culture, growing old itself is just plain weird.  And the current pandemic has...
censorship

Write Whatever the @#$% You Want

I’ve been stewing on this for a while. It’s been brewing for quite a while. I could probably write a song about it (how about a rap?), but I don’t think I will. This is more of a blog post topic, and it might even deserve a series. And that’s the title and topic of...
break

Taking A Break

Today I'm taking a break from the regular weekly blog post—not because everyone is exhausted (which is true enough) but because we had a four-hour blackout in my neighborhood this afternoon! So now I'm too busy to create anything new, and time has run out....

Lyrics: Why I Write Them, and Why I’ve Put Them Into My Novels

Today's post might look like a lazy man's blog, because I'm copying and pasting lyrics into it from other sources. But the fact is, lyrics have always played an important role not only in my life, but also in my novels. I never gave this much thought until recently,...
serial

If You Don’t Write in a Serial Format, Good Luck With Amazon Classifications

This week’s topic is one near and dear to my grizzled, cynical old heart—adjusting to the nightmarish landscape of book classifications. Some writers have no problem with this stuff, and hey, more power to you. But as I wrote in What I’ve Learned In Six Years of...
music

Music, Music, Music, and “I Could Write a Book”

I woke up thinking about Turkish drummers. It didn't take long—I don't know much about Turkish drummers. —Bruce Cockburn Music has always been a big part of my life. Maybe not everyone who reads this blog knows that, but anyone who knows me does. From the time I was a...
platform

Platform-Building for Authors

A while back, I wrote a LinkedIn article on platform-building for authors, a frequent topic for my speaking gigs and for online posts in general. Today I thought I'd revisit some of that for the blog, discussing how speaking can help an author. Building a platform...

More on Literary Fiction

While I'm recovering from some oral surgery I had last Friday, I'm inclined to just rest and update my blog another time. But I'll be on vacation soon, so I'd rather post something than nothing. With that, I recommend blog readers check out my fellow literary author,...
labor

Labor Day 2022

To all my working friends, and those of you who worked hard until you retired: I'm taking the day off, and hope you are too. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for this quarter's newsletter, appearing in your inbox tomorrow. If you're not signed up, get it here. Happy Labor...

Self-Publishing: The Trouble with Going It Alone

Indie publishing is on the rise but tread carefully. Self-publishing is exactly how it sounds:everything depends on you and you alone. Sure, you get to make all of the decisions, but that also means you have to make all of the decisions. Editing, proofreading,...
self-promotion

What’s The Problem With Shameless Self-Promotion?

While I still find it somewhat hard to believe, I've been on Twitter for almost eight years. I know this not only because Twitter shows Joined March 2015 on my profile but also because, even if they eliminate that feature, I use a tracker called Who Unfollowed Me? If...
MLK

MLK Day 2023

Here’s wishing everyone a safe, sane Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For many of us, today is always something of a day of mourning: not only mourning the loss of a great civil rights leader, but also mourning the turn our great nation seemed to take in recent years....

Twitter Tips for Authors in 2023

If you follow my blog, you probably connected with me via Twitter, whether you’re a fellow author or not. In 2020, I wrote a post about Twitter for fellow writers that got a good response. Three years later, the landscape has changed, but some Twitter best practices...
rails

Going Off The Rails (But Not On A Crazy Train)

Last April, I wrote a blog post called Back on Track With a Work-In-Progress. Part of that post was to talk about the difference between a “plotter” and a “pantser” (and to describe myself as a hybrid of the two, a “plantser”). Another, less obvious motive, was to...
French

Those Tricky French Authors and Their Obsessions

Today’s blog post was originally going to be Write Whatever the @#$% You Want, Pt. III. However, after seeing parts I and II lined up, I decided to call an audible and make it something less repetitive. Somehow the SEO gods have gotten into my head. As I’ve mentioned...
scared

Write Whatever the @#$% You Want, Pt. II

In last week’s post, I mentioned a pretty well-known author who has publicly reported his publisher “wouldn’t touch” a new release, in part because a character in his novel referred to herself as “fat.” I heard this story on a podcast, and I remember thinking, “Wait...
censorship

Write Whatever the @#$% You Want

I’ve been stewing on this for a while. It’s been brewing for quite a while. I could probably write a song about it (how about a rap?), but I don’t think I will. This is more of a blog post topic, and it might even deserve a series. And that’s the title and topic of...
gratitude

Should Every Month Be Gratitude Month?

When I was a kid, I loved Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. I read it daily and collected nearly every paperback volume of the cartoon, so I could see what I’d missed since the comic strip’s inception in 1950.  Certain things stuck: quotes like “happiness is a warm puppy”...
robot

More Thoughts On Robot Writers and The Tech Dystopia

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post here called When Will the Robot Overlords Replace Us? Apparently, I’m fairly obsessed with this stuff, because every time I come here and empty my brain, it seems to come up again. Today is no different. Part of the reason,...