First, I’ll honour the Earth, from which I came and to which I’ll soon return. This I’ll do with my work, my sincere effort to write with technical skill and artistic substance. The spirit of my ancestors will illuminate my way through the darkness; they will guide me to an understanding of my responsibilities and be my strength when my arms begin to tire and to weaken.
In a previous post I wrote about the way that my work has changed me. In this post I want to write about what some of those changes mean in practice, in the way I tell the stories and about the stories I choose to tell.
So the writing ‘with technical skill’ is pretty self-explanatory, though I must point out that it’s more than just good grammar and clever sentences. It’s learning and using the various techniques of storytelling — it’s about writing character centered; well paced; rhythmically structured; and sensually evocative stories. That’s the easy part. Relatively, anyhow.
I can hear you now.
“Yeah?” you say, “relative to whose idea, whose nightmare?”
It’s true. The hard part is what I called at the beginning of this post ‘artistic substance.’ That’s where a writer, an artist, has to open itself to the spirit. You must be sincere. I can’t tell you much more than that. But I can show you, in my own work, what it means to me.
Right now, in the story I’m working on, it means that I must be respectful and accurate about the religion, Vodoun, that is so deeply embedded in the tale I’m telling.
Though a work of fiction, that does not intentionally portray or resemble anyone, living or dead, it’s set in a very real context and makes references to very real events and places — places like Haiti, and events like the Earthquake of January 12, 2010.
Vodoun tells me that a human being is a mystery and that there’s much about the world that I do not understand but my acceptance of those ideas does not mean that I operate my craft without a rudder. I use my own moral compass to keep me on track with the spirit.
That’s beyond logic, I know, but logic has it’s limitations. It’s good for doing geometry but fails as a tool when you’re calculating the moral value of your actions.