Mythology, “Real Beliefs” and Fiction Writing

I swear I’m not dead; on the contrary, I’ve been doing so much living that I’ve barely had time to write for school. I haven’t written a line of my own fiction in a while. It is frustrating, but I must cut my little writer self some slack; live has happened a lot these last couple of weeks.

I can’t remember if I told you, but my mom just moved to the US. The week of her arrival, and the days that followed, were insane: I had to clean my brother’s place before she could move in with him (my little brother is the most typical 25-year-old bachelor, so I was scrubbing, bleaching and organizing for a long while), I had to guide my mom through the immigration process (and double damn, I discovered a new hate for government offices), then came the shopping (not the let’s enjoy a nice day at the mall, but the let’s suffer trying to find a complete wardrobe for a woman who doesn’t like anything)… and then, and then, and then…

Do take into consideration that I live a couple of hours away from my brother and mother, so commuting, studying, and keeping up with deadlines leaves me with very little Magaly time; yes, blogging is Magaly time that I've had to sacrifice in order to sleep. Things are getting better though, and I’m assuming that if I do a bit of focused writing this weekend (stay home, incommunicado) I’ll be able to get back to a confortable spot within my constant-always-almost-behind-state.

 Yesterday I started taking steps toward writing normality. I resumed my search for a local writing group. I was really excited about one in particular because the members said they wrote dark fantasy, urban fantasy and horror. I met with them before class, for they said they wanted to meet me face-to-face, and maybe read some of my stuff, before officially accepting me. I was thrilled to find a sense of organization. I walked into someone's studio apartment, greeted the five writers in the room, and started reading a list of guidelines I had to agree with before joining. The first group rule read: “Good fiction writers should care not to slander real belief systems”.

My initial reaction was WTF is a real belief system? Then I shook the thought, picked up my laptop and purse, and got ready to leave the room, knowing that I had failed (AGAIN) to find a writing group that worked for me. I tried to exit as discreetly as possible, but it was hard to do when everybody in the tiny room was starting right at me. I flashed them my best I'll-pretend-you-are-not-insane smile and started gathering my stuff while backing away.

“We could meet a different day or time,” said the writing team captain (no joke, she calls herself The Captain).

“Huh?” I asked, but I was actually thinking, if I run for it, they will forget I ever came here. Damn, where’s my umbrella! “Oh, um… I have to finish reading Twelfth Night and an article on traumatic memories and magical realism. They are due this afternoon. It’s important.”

But my excuse was lame and late, and The Captain knew it. “That was due yesterday,” she said.

“Where’s my umbrella?” I asked. “The big red one with the button that says ‘Get thee behind me, bitches’? It was a present.”

“It’s the writing quota, isn’t it?” The Captain insisted. “It’s okay if you are a slow writer, work as fast as you can. You’ll meet the…”

“I’m not a slow writer!” I’m not sure why, but that comment really pissed me off. Maybe because I haven’t been able to write as much as I want lately; school and life are just happening too much and too fast. “I’m not joining because I think your writing philosophy is ridiculous. I would love to stay and discuss the particulars, but I have writing to do and little time to do it.”

The Captain picked up the paper she had expected me to sign and looked from the yellow sheet to me. “Really? What part of it?” She had the balls to look sincere.

“The part about not slandering ‘real belief systems’ comes to mind.” I saw my umbrella hanging from the door knob, and I walked to it.

“But that’s the first one on the list,” said The Captain.

“Exactly,” I agreed. “I was afraid reading further would dictate that my fiction had to honor the real political parties, the real god, the real race, the real gender, or any other kind of real close-minded bullshit.”

I’m not sure what The Captain said to that. I don’t even know if she said anything at all, for I had grabbed my big red umbrella and walked out before she had time to close her gaping mouth.

That weird episode made me think about one of the questions asked during a Penguin panel at NY Comic Con 2010. I can’t remember the exact words, but it had to do with how the authors dealt with the established traditions, beliefs, and mythologies they borrowed from, in order to create their fiction. I can’t recall the precise answers either (it has been a while and I don’t have my notes with me), but I will never forget the pride that filled my writer heart after every single member of the panel suggested that they didn’t go out of their way to offend anyone, but that at the end of the day they wrote fiction, and good fiction writing shouldn't be restricted by something as uncreative as what someone else had deemed proper. 

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