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Reflecting on My Writing Journey

Sara General

This is a bit of a reflective blog. Now that my stories are available (YAY!), it made me look back on why I write and how my writing has changed and what I hope my writing will be in the future.  I've written about this before, but it occurred to me again what a powerful impact certain experiences have had on my life and how grateful I am for them.

A number of years ago, I became very sick. I went to several doctors but none of them could figure out what was wrong with me. Finally, at the suggestion of a friend, I decided to get a reading done. Almost instantly, the person doing the reading was able to tell me what was ailing and how I could fix it. A month later, I was feeling much better. It wasn't easy, but it started me on a long journey of healing that has transformed my life for the better. In many ways, it was like I had been given a clean slate. I definitely had a new respect and overwhelming appreciation for my people's ceremonies and I will be forever grateful to the language speakers and knowledge holders in my community.           

I also realized that our ceremonies and the stories behind them were real and important. It made me wonder what else in our culture was real and important that years of mainstream education had led me to doubt (or simply not know). Today I feel very lucky to be in a position to learn and grow my appreciation of how cool and wonderful my culture is. Not that the appreciation wasn't there before, but it's deepened the more I learn and the more experiences I have. And so, for the last seven years, I've been involved in this process of learning and listening and thinking. Of trying to live better - to live well. Reading story after story. Various accounts of history. 

Along the way, I've tried to attend more ceremonies and learn more language. The whole process makes me intensely happy though quite honestly, it's been a slow one. Being a writer makes it hard for me to surrender English completely (which would definitely help my Cayuga along) and I am hardly bursting with knowledge of anything. I know a tiny, fraction of a bit and I'm grateful for every time someone or something adds to that kernel, helps me to grow my thinking or helps me learn new words. 

My writing is very different from this learning process, although it's a part of it as well. The things I write about are entirely made up out of my head. They are in no way cultural canon. They are creative works, works of imagination. But in them - there are some things I choose to do. I love my people and my community so most of my main characters love their communities as well, but recognize the challenges their people face and have their own set of struggles they are working through. Because my people have had a delicate history with anthropologists/researchers and our knowledge being exploited at times, I try to be careful of sharing too much of what I know I shouldn't because it's sacred and important and real and a gift. I do that because to this very day, I am grateful that despite many efforts to the contrary - our knowledges and ceremonies and languages survived. I want to help them thrive. But I think I can do that in places other than my writing - by learning and participating and through my work in education. 

So most of my stories are just that. Stories I make up out of my head. A lot of the magic in my books works the way I wish it had as a child playing, as a video game player, as a reader. I loved movies like Labyrinth and The Never-Ending Story and the Last Unicorn and Harry Potter. I wished we had stories like that with characters from some of our oral histories, myths and legends. And so that's what I started writing. Will I always write like this? I don't know. Every once in a while I try to write something slightly more serious and  magic invariably enters the story in some way. And when it happens it feels right. Like my story. The story I want to be writing. The story I should be writing. And so I definitely let instinct and spirit guide me here. Or at least I try to.

What I know for sure is that I will always write. That I am thankful for the opportunity to write and that writing has helped me to bring the things I've learned to life in a creative way. I will definitely keep going and whatever the reasons are that you write, I hope you do too!

Happy Writing!

S