A Personal Inciting Incident – What Made Me Do It?
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To ensure that I would graduate, my teachers prepared work for me to do at home. All of the assignments were pretty easy and straight forward… except English.
I was to write in a journal every day, read novels and write papers. Journal? Check. Read? Check. Write? “What Should I write about?” I asked my instructor. He sent me a series of articles he had picked up from various sources. He told me to choose one, and comment on the subject matter or write about how it made me feel. I did all of them.
One in particular really awakened my imagination and opened my eyes to the world of the weird. It was a piece titled “Fire Walking in Ceylon”.
Wow! Everything about the story was new to me. Where was Ceylon? What is fire walking? Why do people do it? Who had the idea to do it in the first place? What kind of magic was this? Why don’t the ‘walker’ get hurt? This was totally new to me and exploded my complacent reality to smithereens.
My questions continued, and I began to do research on these new subjects. For example, Ceylon turned out to be Sri Lanka, a large island nation about 20 miles south of India. I was intrigued that a country would find it important to change its name while keeping its heritage intact. The strange nature of their monkey stories about captured princesses for evil magicians expanded my young view into an exotic land and culture. Their dancers and royalty wore pointed hats of jewels and pointed shoulder pads, pointed fingernails and pointed this that and the other thing – kind of spooky, yet alluring. I had to know more. But first, the fire walking.
I was fascinated that people from all walks of life would endanger their feet with these red hot coals. For me, a paper cut is bad enough, but burning your feet?! It was all the more vivid for me, because I couldn’t walk even without burned feet. There was much more here than a dare. Finding out why, took me into the world of paranormal and spirituality. I am still intrigued with the genre, to this day. Strange, but true.
I found out that some people believe if you can achieve a thing that you, at first, think is impossible, it can break the chains of fear that bind you. Meditation of various forms is suggested to get your mind into a state that it will believe anything you tell it rather than believing what it sees and nothing more. This is what separates the human mind from the animal kingdom; a cat or dog would no more walk through a fire pit willingly than a human would cut off their own arm. The conscious mind must also take part; one must decide to do this, then the subconscious mind is contacted through meditation or suggestive thought, if you will. Then the body melds with the higher brain functions and allows the individual to avoid harm during the experience. I still wonder, after all these years, if I could do it. Investigating the paranormal can be a life’s work and still just scratch the surface… so instead, being in too much pain at the time to meditate, I read up on cultures of Asia.
History is always influenced by geography. I saw how a mountain range or large desert affects not only a tribe or nations travel but their attitudes, superstitions and religions. Take the Chinese and their dragon lore. It explained the mist rising from a crevasse that you wouldn’t want your children to play near, so you tell them this story that grabs their imagination and voila you have a traditional myth lasting hundreds of generations. Then someone includes gemstones growing between the dragon scales and now you have my attention! So I studied geology of the region which in turn took me to gemmology. The gems of southeast Asia are plentiful and extensive. Apparently, one an take a shovel and, with eyes closed. drop it blade first into the ground and you have a gem mine! Topaz and moonstone; ruby and sapphires. I eventually became a gemmologist through the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) in Santa Monica and did further studies with the Fellowship of Gemmological Association (FGA) Great Britain.
The real purpose of this story is to illustrate my writer’s path and to illustrate how one can be bitten by the writing bug anywhere, anyhow and at any time. From this assignment on, I wrote about what I saw and thought, what I hear and read about and of course, I wrote about things I did, places I went and people I met. Now I write what the characters tell me to write; characters that I (almost) believe have found me and realize I can be a conduit for them by way of the written word, to tell their stories next to my own.
So, if you are interested in being a writer and you find yourself asking “What shall I write about?” then you need to live a bit more, read a lot more and ask 10 times more questions than you do right now. Then try to answer them. Don’t worry – your characters will find you.
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