#3 Summer Solstice & The Climb
We’d been hitting the bottle hard. Bruce had crashed out in the humidity. I soldiered on, cracking open another cider and working on getting sunburned, but something told me that I must have Mediterranean genes in me somewhere. I wondered if they were selfish, but that didn’t make any sense because a gene is a theoretical construct that cannot have a personality attribute. On the other hand I fantasized about turning into a frog and diving in the canal to escape the heat.
In the tent Bruce smiled in his sleep as if he were dreaming the same thing.
I tipped back some more cider and played guitar to the Sun. It was getting close to the Solstice, and I was camping. Procrastinating over this blog would have to wait…….
Under the hot sun the week passes in an atmosphere of pseudo tribal living: an hundred people sharing fresh air and sunshine, the freedom of the countryside and the feel of dirt under their fingernails. It becomes its own little microcosm of allegiances and affiliations, personal power struggles in a cocktail of griping and bitching mixed in with caring and sharing. It’s a social network that binds disparate circles of people together under the one purpose of coming together on the Solstice to do a performance at Avebury stone circle.
During my stay I talk to Lionel, one of my old lecturers who got us all thinking about myths and folk tales. He tells me that he has been writing a paper about the juxtaposition of Apollo and Dionysus in relation to the turning of the constellation Draconis in conjunction with the Solstices. Heavy stuff. It’s taken six months but he’s nearly finished it. At some point we discuss my ideas for relating myth to modern media and he mentions Game of Thrones. Lionel doesn’t know much about fantasy as a genre so I dive into how fantasy is consistently using and recycling mythic content, from the shadow that chases Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea to the crucifixion of Paul Twiceborn for three nights on the Summer Tree in the book of the same name. I mention Tolkien and the foundations of Dungeons and Dragons and how it spilled over into computer games. Then there is Beauty by Sheri S Tepper, and the Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers, all fairy tales and old legends reshaped, reimagined. The list goes on.
Later my posse hits Marlborough and we scare the middle class, Daily Mail reading retirees in Polly’s Tea Room. The cooked breakfast is a necessary ritual:
Returning to camp we swelter for a while until the gong from the communal kitchen signals lunch:
Most importantly though, we attempt to live off of as many of these as possible:
And so slowly we wend our way to the culmination of our trip, but along the way there are camp fire singalongs, communal washing up duties, walks by the canal, a camp quiz and a presentation about the complex issues of warfare based cannibalism in South America. I talk with friends about hiphop, about Kanye and Ice Cube, but also about those songs that contained social and political reflections. I recall something I saw recently coming out of the UK grime scene that fired me up.
Then the night of the performance comes and we make our way to Avebury, bringing drums and fire.
With it all done and dusted there is no choice but to pack up and leave the countryside behind. The good news is that the holiday isn’t quite over as we head down to the coast to disseminate all the gossip over a breakfast debriefing with friends. The heat hasn’t let up, but the breeze coming off the ocean is pleasant as we walk up the sea front, talking. Later I take a stroll up into town and get a couple of records. On the way back I get hailed by a destitute man called Francis and we talk a while about the records I bought, how everything is done on a card and that if he’d known I had a family to support he wouldn’t have pestered me.
“I wouldn’t take the piss,” he says earnestly. We shake hands and I wish him well.
He hopes I enjoy my records.
Later we all go to the pub and discuss writing, publication and amid all the salient points that were made Mikey makes a very salient one for those
The Climb – Looking Up
I’m sweating as I climb. Ahead of me I see those who have been on the same path. Some of them have published, some of them are selling dozens of books an hour…….
It seems to be typical that we compare ourselves to those who we consider to be the best, to those whose name is an industry standard or has achieved a pinnacle of publicity and success. So, we as writers will often compare ourselves either in terms of creativity to those who we think are simply genius at coming up with great ideas, those who are fantastic at prose and dialogue, whose writing flows, or even to those who have achieved a great level of financial success, and although these ideas may overlap, they might not be linked. Heaven knows, I find JK Rowling’s writing to be truly awful, but I marvel at the success of writing and marketing something that gets a huge influx of readers. To be mean-spirited about it I would say that we should all bear in mind that quality is not necessary to be successful, and certainly it makes me feel like administering a mighty slap to my own face when I worry about not be good enough to put into print.
In doing so we undermine ourselves, fostering self-doubt and lack of self-esteem. It is important to remember that these people are in the light because they are the peak of their ascent. We see them because they have, through whatever means, climbed higher than us and as we pursue on our own paths there they are, ahead of us all the time.
Taking A Breath – Looking Down
I stop and take a deep breath, stretch and look at how far I’ve come. Below me are untold numbers of people who haven’t even begun to make the climb. They mill around at the bottom of the slope and call out how they wish they we capable of making the climb.
And you realize, they envy you…..
As I mentioned in a previous post, I was working as a temp in an office and given an hour for lunch I would sit in the break out area and write. This prompted many to talk about my writing, and often in discussions you would hear how they would love to have a gift like that. Is it a gift? I certainly don’t think of it so much as a gift but more of something that I have practiced for a long time. Certainly I have my doubts when asked what I do for a living, and my friends often pull their hair in frustration because I quibble over it and don’t just say that I am a writer. This lack of confidence is in many ways an impediment to publishing, but you just have to remember that you are far ahead of the majority who don’t do anything with their lives, those who will do nothing but say how much they would like to be able to do it.
So, take a breather for a moment and try to get some perspective. I don’t know how far you’ve come, but stick with it and keep working on whatever creative endeavors you are engaged with. Chances are that there will always be someone better than you, but they are certainly few in number compared to those who aren’t even trying at all.