Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

9/20/10

My summer was filled with writing, but in a manner that is different than I am used to creating.


The experience was interesting and more marketing that creative writing or journalism. In the process, I met scientists, astronauts, engineers and learned about diversity in the ways we think and function.

'

This brought me to a subject that I wrote a lecture on titled, "A Shared Landscape: Art and Dreams." The walk through this lecture was wild and woolly, and truthful as I entered into myth and its power over modern society, you--our readers, friends, family. And how inside of story there is always a common spine.



Myth does not deny things. On the contrary, it expresses life, simply purifying and returning things to innocence by offering them a natural justification. Myth's gift is a clarity which is not an explanation, more pure story at its core. As writers, the request of the myth/story is to sit in the stuff, the life that carries us and moral evolution.



Which in a quite writerly manner brings me to dreams and learning. Why do we dream? There is new evidence that considers the possibility that some dreams result from the brain's effort to educate itself, even as we sleep. The study gathered 99 volunteers, put them on virtual maze for an hour. Then half of them took a 90 minute nap. The other half stayed awake, relaxing or reading. After nap time, they were again asked to confront the maze. Those who had not napped showed no improvement. Most nappers showed improvement, but four specific nappers who reported dreaming about the maze showed startling improvement--10 times higher for maze dreamers.



Dreaming our stories is a good thing. Our stories, modern-day myth, teach all of us concepts like good and evil, of how to be the hero or heroine, to overcome the sinister villain. Time passes and story remains at the heartbeat of civilization, teaching people how to remain just and kind, even in the darkest of times.



When writing my beginning drafts of my first novel, Strong Moon Tonight, I struggled with the villain. A writing mentor suggested that I think of the meanest behavior in the world, the meanest person I could imagine. Then, I took it a step further and decided to imagine taking that villain-image to lunch, what would the villain have for desert, and why? Might they choose chocolate ice cream or vanilla? For me, in coming to understand the villain, humanity was carried into the challenge of evolution, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and good and evil was defined.



Throughout history people often look to heroes/heroines to help them overcome what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles and the majority of these stories of triumph are circulated through art: painting, film, and books written and read by us.









8 comments:

Stephanie said...

The nap study is amazing. And now I no longer have to feel guilty for napping...

betsy woods said...

oh, make me smile.

Diane Adams said...

Love your discussion about myth. I agree that stories give clarity to issues in our lives.

Edie said...

Yes, we do often look to heroes and heroines (from books and other art forms) to overcome obstacles in our own lives. Very interesting post, Betsy!

Christy said...

Love this discussion of myth and dreams. What a fascinating summer, Betsy. Glad you are back!

David LaRochelle said...

I agree. Stories do give us role models of how to behave, not in a preachy way, but examples of how other people have tackled problems. Personally, I'd rather have kids (and adults) looking to the characters in books as role models, than what I've seen on many TV sitcoms.

Lauren said...

Betsy, what a wonderful post! And what an interesting summer you had. Your discussion of why myth and stories is provocative and I for one, have always been inspired by characters in books, stories, and even movies and TV (when I was little I wanted to be Mighty Mouse-- and save the world!). Thank you!

Mark said...

Very thought-provoking post, Betsy. I still remember the first time I heard Joseph Campbell's take on myths and the hero's journey, and how much it impacted the way I view stories and my own writing. The dream stuff is interesting, too. I relate it to how many authors/artists talk about "sleeping" on an idea/issue/project and waking to find the answer has come during the night!