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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Chariot and the Devil

 People ask me this question a lot: How do you become successful?  How do you make a living writing?  I've always wanted to do that.  How do you do that?  Is it worth it?

My standard answer is: I'm lucky.  I've been fortunate to have good fans.  And yes, it's worth it, all of the sacrifices are worth it to be here, making a living doing the thing I love most.

That's the truth--especially the first two sentences.  That last one is also true--at the same time it is the most appalling lie.

I love writing.  I love the way it makes me feel, I love the way people respond to it.  My entire life has always been about the story, and being a writer is being the story.  And that's amazing.  I'm not kidding--it's like sex, and the porn tape of the most amazing sex you would ever be privileged to witness or have is on a continuous loop through your brain, except it's not just sex, so it doesn't get boring, nobody gets pregnant, and there is no chafing.  Oh, and the people having the sex look way better than I do, so that's a major plus.

But at the same time writing is an amazing, primal ride, it's also the curse.  In fact, it's almost exactly like the Chariot and the Devil.

Now I've talked about reading tarot cards before, and how amazing it is when what seems to be a simple story, told in the symbols on the cards, turns out to be somebody else's life spelled out in careless runes.  I am continually surprised at the writers I know who either read tarot actively now, have read it in the past, or are constantly captivated by the people they know who do read.  To me, it's only a natural progression-- writers tell stories.  The symbols in the tarot cards tell stories, and the writers interpret them.  Very often they use the context of the symbols-- the person who is getting the reading-- to interpret that story, and thus the reading becomes personal, becomes real, becomes true.  I've forgotten a whole lot about my teaching credential work (because hey! 23 years ago!) but I do remember endless discussion about the interpretation of words and symbols, and the heartbeat of literature as defined by a pre-awareness, a present awareness, a conflict, a climax, a resolution, and a suggestion of the future.  Most tarot readings follow this same structure-- for people who read or write a lot, interpreting the structure is practically instinct. 
And the symbols themselves are also instinctual.  They are elementals, parts of our world, parts of our psyches, parts of ourselves. 

Thus it is with the Chariot and the Devil.  

The Chariot is the card of journeys, of forces that bear us from our intended path, the card of the warrior who is cut off from any influence but the road under his feet and the control of the opposing powers at his command.  The Chariot is the card of being swept away, of doing battle with the elements, of being taken away from our homes and our comfort by mighty things beyond our power to control.  Sometimes you can bear your cart back on the intended path, and sometimes you have no choice but to hang on for the ride.

The Devil, too, is a card of primal forces.  He usually holds humans in bondage--he is the power, the addiction, the surge of things that we can either break free of or draw strength from--but even his strength is an addiction that will either kill us with the surrender of our own egos or that we will expend more strength fighting to break free. 

Writers know these cards really really well.  

Sometimes when we sit down to write, we are swept away by the Chariot, and the feeling is… exhilarating.  We are in control!  We are bearing that clattering cart on a journey, and the wind and the sea and the earth are sweeping under our feet, and we wield our sword and we are gods!!! 

That's writing.  That's the journey.  That's what we do when we take living, breathing human beings from Point A to Point B.

It's incredibly addictive.

It holds us in thrall.

I've talked about the dragon before, and how it rides me or I ride it, but it's always about the ride.  I've bemoaned my house, and my mourned time with kids, and wondered, constantly wondered, if I am doing right by myself, and my family, by jumping on that Chariot every goddamned time it beckons.  Can I break this addiction?  This primal force thundering through my veins?  Is the ego-death of becoming other people worth it, every time a character haunts me through sleep, through cleaning the house, through moth infestations and chores I don't do and chores I should make the kids do, and mementos of my children's childhood-- 

It's one thing to say, "Yes, mommy is working!" but Mommy lives to work, she thrives on work, and breaking apart the ego to the parts that have died in work and that must survive to raise children and run a house is difficult, it's exhausting, it's like breaking an addiction or fighting a battle that rages continuously.  

I'm writing.  Get up and clean the kitchen.  I'm writing.  Get up and take the kids for a walk.  I'm writing.  Feed the goddamned dog.  I'M WRITING. TALK TO YOUR HUSBAND! I'M WRITING. ENGAGE, GODDAMMIT, ENGAGE!

 I'm writing.
If I don't learn how to stop, it may one day be the only human contact I can manage.  The Chariot may have borne me from all those I love, from all that is human, and the Devil may have me in thrall forever.

Melodramatic, of course.  A life and death struggle from a fat woman at her computer at the kitchen table, in a room filled with moths and office furniture, but meant to prepare food.
But it feels real inside my head. 

I'm taking the kids for a walk.  So I'm not writing.  We're going swimming tomorrow.  So I'm not writing.  I'm cooking dinner instead of having Mate stop for takeout.  So I'm not writing.  I'm watching television and knitting with the family.  SO I'M NOT WRITING I'M NOT WRITING I'M NOT WRITING.  

I'm not writing.  I'm practicing ego resuscitation. I'm remembering the things that make me human.

So I can take those things and use them to control that Chariot, enslaved to the primal forces of the most insidious devil mankind has ever battled. 

The Devil of creativity, the entropy that creates apathy, the thing that drags us away from our families and our loves, from our pride and our homes…

And creates homes and families and loves and prides that we will never have.

So is it worth it?

Well I say it is.

I believe it is.

But I'm the warrior on the Chariot, I'm the ego in thrall to the Devil.  
I clearly believe what I'm saying-- but ask yourself.  

You know who I am.  You know what my cards are.  Am I trustworthy?  Can you control those cards? If you can, jump on the Chariot, and strike up the conversation with Old Nick.

You too can be part of the ride.





2 comments:

Carolyne Kleinman said...

Some days, the dragon wins. Some days, the journey is worth hijacking the chariot for. Then, there are the days that the Chariot drug you out of bed and you're on the Highway to Hell, with an OCD conductor asking for the pink shiny ticket.
It's all good when you know that however the deck is stacked, you have have the grand and terrible Gift to write about it.

Hugs, Amy! Write On!

Christy Duke said...

What an extraordinarily passionate response about writing. I loved it. I loved the tarot cards references and a vision of you on the Chariot.
You fascinate me, always, with what you put to paper with pen.

Keep on writing. Hire someone to clean the house :-(