Writing is a Grass Dance. Welcome to my pow-wow

I am not an anomaly.

Well, I am kind of an anomaly, but in regards to writing, no, not really.

I am a mood writer. When the passion, the spirit hits me and all the stories in my head, and the characters need to be released so everyone can see them and know they are real: I write.

I certainly realize when I read another writer’s comment that they completed so many words in one day or week, they are proud of what they accomplished, and they very well should be.

I certainly realize when I read another writer’s comments where they encourage and suggest everyone should write at least so many words a day because that is what successful writers do, they are just trying to be encouraging and they very well should be.

The flip side of such comments can be construed or misconstrued to suggest, if you don’t or are not able to produce so many words a day, 1) you are not really trying, 2) you are not committed enough, or perhaps 3) you are not disciplined enough.

I always ask, what is your definition of success?

Some of the most celebrated writers are not the massively prolific kind. Many never achieved any kind of success or fame on even a local scale until after they died. (Not something I personally aspire to.)

Because writing has been a part and need in me since I was eleven, it’s something I think about or do, to some degree or another, every day. Perhaps because it is so integral to me dating back to a time I was not consciously aware of my need, I don’t feel pressured in any way (or try not to) to produce, nor do I feel the need produce simply to be producing. I don’t feel unaccomplished or unfinished if I don’t. In fact, (and no I’m not crazy) it’s like my characters tell me, “We’ll wait another day. We know you have it in you, when it’s time we’ll come out.” I can thank them for that.

Each day I greet them, I review them, I reacquaint myself with their idiosyncracies, but if I don’t have the mood quite for someone, I’ll see them again sometimes. I let it build: my view, my image, my panorama of their lives. When they don’t feel like talking, when they don’t want to be bothered with me, then it’s their choice too. We speak. We understand each other. After all, we are old friends.

When I do something, I wish to do it to the utmost of my abilities. I want to be as close to the best as I can be. That is what my characters and stories demand, and what I demand of myself. I would rather only produce one outstanding masterpiece in my life, than dozens of average, mediocre or common results. That’s just me.

My point is not to down anyone, but to emphasis EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT. Not everyone can write 10,000k a day or a week, or even in a month or a year: it doesn’t make them less than anyone else. It doesn’t make them any less creative. It doesn’t make them a less accomplished or clever writer.

Here it is. You were wondering why I titled the article as it is without having said anything about all about dancing thus far:

Dancers at a local pow-wow

I have a pow-wow coming up this weekend. I’ve not been to one all year, which is really unusual for me. Not that I haven’t felt it, but that circumstances (health, depression, lack of motivationetc.) kept me away. Just like writing, it has to come to me of itself.

When I’ve gone to countless pow-wows in the past, sometimes I dance, drum or sing, but more often not. Like writing, I have to feel the mood, it has to rise in me like the drum, making my feet move before I am even aware of it, my body sway, my shoulders. I’m hearing myself singing the songs and didn’t know I was speaking. And then when I stand at the sacred circle’s entrance, and have the smoke waved over me, and the sky above is a face, and I hear everything and nothing, and my body is not my own, but every body throughout time which gave seed into my being….and like a whirl of magic it all comes together and it FLOWS outward. My arms are flying, my feet, my hair, I feel tireless even when sweat is pouring down my back. Nothing like it in the world! Just writing now about it brings tears to my eyes.

THAT is how writing is to me. That is how sacred an obligation I feel it to give my characters life and their stories meaning. That is how it comes together for me, and I feel it when it comes, as if all the planets are aligning and the sun and moon are together in the sky over me as I spread my arms.

You can’t force something like that. I don’t try. When it comes it will, and it’s all the more precious for me when it does. I am satisfied when it’s not there, satisfied enough, because like the dance, I don’t doubt my words.

The story of the grass dance, arguable, and you’ll find that out if you talked to different tribes, but this is how it was told to me, the short version that is. It has a certain pattern. It begins with a strange, limping gait, almost pained, and slowly as the beat deepens, lengthens, the dancer moves more freely, shoulders, knees, everything swaying, until he’s spinning, joyous, wild, reaching, until the tempo drops again, and he makes himself smaller, the limp comes back, the moves: lower, slower.

“There was a young man with a twisted foot. When it came time when the People gathered together, and they drummed and sang, swaying over the grass, beneath the sun and sky, and then into the night, this young man wanted to be among them. He was ashamed of his foot. He’d heard the ones who said he couldn’t do it, shouldn’t try. He prayed to Man Above, he said please just let me dance this one time, please. And Man Above listened.

The young man went into the circle with his limping gait. All could see how painful it was for him to move, but he made his circle with the rest. As the music swelled, his pain vanished, his leg straightened, with rejoicing he whirled and twirled as fast as the rest. He was the best, and as he danced, tears ran down his face, and he raised his arms in thanks to Man Above. But the song neared it’s end, and the pain was coming back, his breath was strained, his arms closer to his sides, but he made to the end beat, proud.”

The grass dance is one of my favorites to watch. I don’t know if I’ll dance this weekend. If the mood comes upon me, just like writing, I’ll do it with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength. That’s how I do everything.

Here’s a great example of a competition men’s grass dance.Enjoy!

4 thoughts on “Writing is a Grass Dance. Welcome to my pow-wow

  1. Hi Red Haircrow:
    Love your post. Putting out a challenge for ten-k comes from my “teacher” side that seeks to encourage. I do try to stress it’s not about the word count, but what you put into it, be it 100 words or 100,000. When I start my classes, I ask students to commit to one sentence five days a week. Each week I ask how many days did they write, and it varies from 1-5-7. We talk about the difficulties in making time, and the struggle to stay focused. Napoleon Hill said “Goals are dreams with a deadline.” Any writing goal is just that, a place to consider dreams. The hope for me with the 10-k challenge was to foster a sense of support no matter what the goal. Each week I email with writers from all over as we wade through what worked and what didn’t. The importance is to share the experience, and help one another with the goal.

    Success is an interesting topic also. I think success is personal and can’t be measured in numbers and publications, but as you said, in the development of one truly great masterpiece, and such, as it’s defined by you as great. Margaret Mitchell and Harper Lee are two writers that come to mind that had one novel, a masterpiece, to most standards.

    Great post and topic. Good luck at the Pow Wow. HL

    1. Oblique movement is typical of me, so my reply is also. I read a sci-fi/fantasy book by M.A. Foster, it’s in the Ler trilogy. It’s called the Day of the Klesh. On this planet humans had been bred to do certain things, be certain things, even if it caused them to be so far removed from other “humans” to a level of unrecognizable as that species any longer.

      I mentioned this because one group appeared completely human, but what set them apart was a powerful reality of being each an ultimate storyteller. They spent their entire life wrapped up a dream to produce their “Odyssey”, their “Dune”, each was brilliant, unbelievably high I.Q.s perhaps with a touch self-centredness by necessity, no ability to interact commonly with others unless it regarded their own compulsion. When you said one truly great masterpiece, it reminded me of that.

      Yes, I say again, everyone is different. I am just stupidly contrary in a way. If I set such a goal, the mule kicks in and I aggressively can’t do it, and actively resist suggestion. It’s almost absurd to observe even by me. If I don’t think about any objective sometimes I can do 10k in a day. Psychosomatic creativity with too much high-spirited angst. I believe encouragement is very much key to some.

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