Saturday, February 26, 2005

Shamanstvo!

It started with a snow storm, both a real fluffy white one outside and a metaphorical storm of words, falling form my head. Thursday morning, I woke to find it snowing and the university closed. This was perfect, as I wanted to get a little writing done that day. And boy, did I. I wrote nearly ten pages of the new version of the story I've been working on.

For those keeping track at home, this is the story about the immortal King, with the conniving but not too bright descendants who are trying to kill him. I had finished the first draft of this longish short story last month and been rolling ideas around in my head, trying to figure out how to improve it. It was good but it lacked something. Kevin read the draft and over Thai food, we had a long discussion about that elusive quality that makes stories great rather then just a mildly amusing way to waste a few minutes or hours. Nabokov called this quality shamanstvo, the "enchanter quality." We decided it was a mixture of wonder at the strange and horrific beauty of the world and an attempt to bottle the ineffable.

Tuesday, The Mouse Empire released Miyazaki's animated masterpiece, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind on DVD. I saw this movie as a child, while living in Cuba. I couldn't have been more than ten years old at the most but sitting there in that amphitheater, watching Nausicca and the giant Aum and the Toxic Jungle, it was the perfect example of an artist who had successfully bottled shamanstvo. That movie has stuck with me ever since. I saw it once more, edited all to hell on VHS as a teenager but still, loved the film. In fact, me talking about it was what inspired my wife to buy for me as birthday present, sight unseen, a copy of Princess Mononoke. We've both been huge Miyazaki fans ever since.

And what all this has to do with my story is this: Tuesday night, I watched Nausicaa and remembered the awe. I thought about it all the next day, and dreamed Wednesday night of fungus and wonder and the death of humankind.

Thursday, I awoke to snow and spent the day writing. Friday, I played hooky and spent the day writing. Six thousand words and seventeen pages later, I finished the second draft of the story. And I'm pleased. This is something that doesn't happen often. On the rare occasion that I finish a story, I usually find that in completing it, the idea wasn't worth the time, or the finished product is Ok but needs so much work to make it not embarrassing that it's not worth it, or I've lost the desire to finish it or show it to anyone. But not this time. This is the first time I've written something that I'm proud of. Something that I think has real potential to be great. It still needs some polishing. I've got to dot the Is and cross the Ts but it's all there.

As this story is ostensibly a present for my wife, I'm not going to post it online just yet. This summer, perhaps. Though I'm seriously considering sending the story off to a publisher. So we'll see.

The only reason I wanted to write about this was as a way to try and put shamanstvo into words, to try and verbalise the feeling of finally reaching the long sought after but elusive goal of not completely failing at what I've always tried to do.

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