In the course of this human’s daily events, once I begin to feel the dream-webs lift from my mind, I brew a fresh pot of tea, play with the cats, and allow my thoughts to mosey along paths both cosmological and mundane, reasoned and stochastic. The other day, I started thinking about words.
Magical, mystical, wickedly creative, oh, the glorious power of words and we who wield them.
“In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God.”
But this is not just a Judeo-Christian notion. The Popol Vuh – or Mayan Book of Creation – speaks of how Sovereign Plumed Serpent and Heart of Sky came together at the beginning of time.
“…And then came his [Heart of Sky’s] word, he came to Sovereign Plumed Serpent, here in the blackness, in the early dawn…. they joined their words, their thoughts….And then the earth arose because of them, it was simply their word that brought it forth….”
Now this notion (naturally) draws me down a whimsically syllogistic rabbit hole: The Word is divine; the divine create with words. Writers create with words; writers are divine.
Hey, makes sense to me.
Ok, we writers may not be divine, but we do cloak ourselves in Creator’s motley as comfortably as jeans and broadcloth. Mind blowing for gods to shape the universe in the round of a word, yet that’s what we do every day. Out of the chaos of random thought, the void of the blank page, we create whole worlds and the beings who live in them. Earthsea, Darkover, Yoknapatawpha County, OZ and East Egg, Wonderland and Wessex – the list of literary terrae nova are legion. Even places we think we know, like Richard Wright’s Chicago or Edith Wharton’s New York, are, in authorial hands, transformed into alien landscapes ripe for exploration.
And so we string one word after another, counting our hours from phrase to sentence to paragraph to tome. We weave tales of myth and wonder and supernal genesis. For words are creative. With them we name things and by naming them bring them into being. They are active, breathing life into those named things, making them romp and fly and do handsprings through the treetops. They are descriptive, coloring and shaping the world it might be recognized and marveled at in all its beauty and strangeness. And that is without even touching upon the mind and heart, the emotional power of words. The power that reaches out across our inherent aloneness and makes people feel and think and remember, even change their lives.
Complex stuff. God stuff.
Which brings me to a story. More memoir than fancy (though there are tangential Dragons); just a little something I thought I’d share.
Two years ago my book, The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook, was making its way into print. In anticipation of this event, my publisher invited me to the Book Expo of America in New York. Sign some ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies), generate book buzz, and spend two days in Gotham with all stripe of book folk – authors, publishers, agents, librarians. Commercialism be damned, for a writer, what could be more delicious?
Not to mention the swag!
A convention neophyte, I was quite unprepared for the booty laid out like Smaug’s hoard, just there for the taking. From simple promotional bookmarks and house totes, to signed copies of the year’s (hopefully) hottest titles, one was limited only by one’s interests, greed, and in the case of acquiring a major author’s John (or Jane) Hancock, no small amount of stamina. Even though I was hobbling about on a broken leg at the time, I returned home with several bags – now weekly filled with groceries – and a far from shabby passel of books. For all that, my favorite BEA keepsake was from the folks at the American Heritage Dictionary of English Language: a modest white 6” x 4” oval magnet, adorned in black Arial with the deceptively simple gnome:
Every morning since, I rub the sleep from my eyes and focus on this reminder of how I am defined by the words in my life. They are my tools, my paint and canvas, soil and seeds. I shape them, play with them, with luck make them croon like armadillos and pirouette on the wings of a damselfly They represent me to the world, my ideas and dreams. I am responsible for them, in all their beauty or ugliness.
I am my words; my words are me.
As logophile, whimsical scribe, exacting editor, wielder of words.
As a writer.
I give you my word.
About the Author:
Shawn MacKenzie is the author of The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2011), and Dragons for Beginners (Llewellyn, 2012), she is an editor and writer of sci-fi/fantasy. Her fiction has been published in Southshire Pepper-Pot, 2010 Skyline Review, and as a winner of the 2010 Shires Press Award for Short Stories. Shawn is an avid student of myth, religion, philosophy, and animals, real and imaginary, great and small.