TL Greylock is the author of The Song of the Ash Tree trilogy, of which the third book Already Comes Darkness has just been released in February. If you like norse sagas and vikings, I've heard a lot of good things about these books. The first, Blood Tainted Winter, is waiting to be read on my Kindle. Here, though, Taya shares what else occupies her mind when she's not miming Midgardian skalds of lore ...
I’m afraid, sometimes, that I’m too good at being a duck.
Sneaky Timandra, sneaking in her own quotes ... tsk tsk tsk
Let me explain.
Chances are you’ve heard the expression “like water off a duck’s back.” This is usually a good thing:
Bullets can ricochet as harmlessly as water off a duck’s back
Insults can be shrugged off as effortlessly as water off a duck’s back
Failure can be shaken off as smoothly as water off a duck’s back
And usually I would argue that this is a good thing for me, too. I tend to excel at taking things in stride, at not dwelling on what I can’t control, and letting go of mistakes.
But I wonder if, every now and then, it wouldn’t be better if I felt things just a bit more, if things stuck with me and demanded some sort of reprisal on my part.
I’ve thought a lot about this since the US presidential election last November. (I could probably just write “the election” and you would all know what I refer to as I’m sure anyone reading this gets cartoon bug eyes and steam coming out their ears at the very thought of November 8th, but, you know, for posterity. When we’re all octogenarians, we might not always remember how the US government went off the rails thanks to an orange demogogue.*)
In the days after the election, I was incensed. I was living in a bubble of sustained fury the likes of which I had not experienced before. And it felt…nice? I’ve never been politically active, nor have I been a crusader for any causes, nor do I tend to get all that worked up about politics (because politicians are stupid, duh). But this mattered and I wanted to do something. I still do. I refuse to be a duck when it comes to our new president and the fear-mongering hatred that put him in office.
It was only a matter of hours after it became clear Trumperdink would win that I started seeing a common thread in social media postings within the writing community. Battle cries about using writing and books to combat hatred, racism, and bigotry. Fierce inspiration from marginalized writers who vowed to stand tall. And softer but no less insistent encouragement to all writers to, as Chuck Wendig put it later in a blog post, “write despite.”
My priorities as a writer have always been two-fold:
Tell a good story
Tell a story I want to tell
These are basic and damn near universal, I should think, but they served me well during the creation of my series The Song of the Ash Tree. I certainly don’t feel ashamed at not having any loftier goals than these and for me the telling of The Song of the Ash Tree was profound simply because it was the first story I told that I felt I was meant to tell. But lately a third priority has been rattling around in my skull, demanding my attention:
Tell a story that needs to be told
Up until now, I have been content to let some nebulous others do this. After all, someone else has more right to it, whatever it may be, right? Someone is louder, more provocative, more thought provoking, more eloquent, more persuasive, more demanding, more, more, more, more. Not to mention someone has a larger audience. And above all else, someone would do it better than I could because that someone owned that story. I am not oppressed. I am not marginalized. I am white and straight and able-bodied and have lived, in the grand scheme of things, an extraordinarily sheltered life. I am left to wonder if anything I say would ring true.
It might not. But I have to try.
Because to not try is to be a duck. To not try is to accept the world as Trumperdink and friends see it. As they want to make it.
I don’t know what form this new priority will take. It’s jostling around with all my existing story ideas, fermenting, and I can’t decide if these are jigsaw pieces that will connect—or if they even are part of the same puzzle. I don’t know if I have to revolutionize how I think about everything or if that’s even possible. It’s all very uncertain in my mind. In all likelihood it will take time and a great deal of trial and error to figure it out. And judging by the number of times I’ve used “it” in this paragraph alone, clearly I’m not even certain how to define what I mean. And to be honest, I’m pretty much terrified—terrified I’ll fuck up, terrified my voice is far too insignificant to be heard, terrified I’ll hate the process and the result (because continuing to enjoy storytelling does matter), terrified that I’m blinded by some sort of romantic, lofty notion that I can help, terrified I’ll get it very, very wrong—which is the same as fuck up, of course, but one can’t emphasize that enough.
The fact that it’s two months after the election and I still feel the need to create something that defies bigotry gives me hope. This may not seem like much of an accomplishment—nor am I saying it is one—but it’s something. One of my biggest fears about the aftermath of the election was that liberal, privileged white people would gradually lose track of their anger, that everything that we saw as outrageous and reprehensible would become normal and accepted because it wasn’t directly hurting us. This is happening. And you know what? Yes, life has to go on. I can’t be irate all day, every day. I can’t fume constantly over the latest cabinet appointment or smoke-and-mirrors tweetstorm. I certainly can’t scroll continuously through the echo chamber that is my Twitter feed. I have to go to work and write up practice plans for my hockey team. I have to eat leftover Christmas cookies and edit my manuscript (yes, in that order). But I refuse to let this go. I refuse to let this roll off my back.
Instead, I’ll put it on my shoulders and carry it.
*Psshh. Who am I kidding?
Thanks, Taya, for not 'ducking' out, but writing this personal post. You can find more about TL Greylock and The Song of the Ashtree here:
Next up on Where is My Mind: Josiah Bancroft
Be the first in line to get news and updates delivered directly to your inbox. Join House Whitecastle today!