Icebergs have always symbolized a goal, habit, or lifestyle someone wishes to have. I get a lot of “oh, I’d love to write a book!” when people find out I’m a writer. That mentality is the top of the iceberg, not even a quarter of its mass. It’s the stuff below that truly separates those who are serious and those who aren’t. Who has the discipline, willingness to sacrifice, and patience to make it to the bottom of that piece of ice? I can’t help but recognize the iceberg of my own creative evolution as writer, artist, and thinker. Here I sit five years and twenty-one drafts deep into my novel, Project Stripes, and yet I am unfolding layers I hadn’t even realized were there until now.
One morning at breakfast, I was searching for ideas for chapter titles; they come from song lyrics that inspire the events or overall morale of the story in question. (Read Scoring Story for my take on the symbiotic partnership between music and writing.) I decided to look into lines I’ve already used in earlier chapters to see what meanings I could find already assigned. This was one of those times when you reach out your hand and the fish is already in its grasp–a MUCH bigger fish than seen in water.
The opening chapter of Project Stripes is “chase the wind.” I chose it because it comes from one of my favorite Pixar films Brave and because of one of the elemental motifs of the story: air. So I was unsurprised to find a link to Youtube for Touch the Sky and other songs who used the line. What I did not expect was Urban Dictionary to be listed as the first site after the videos. Curious, I followed it here and read the phrase had a definition: “a task that is meaningless; void of purpose or virtue; a circular path, leading to no particular destination.” The definition could not better describe Arthur (Project Stripes’ MC) at the beginning of the novel or the quest he embarks on. My interest was further peaked, if that were possible, with the additional reference to the Old Testament book Ecclesiastes.
Ecclesiastes does indeed make quite liberal use of the phrase, ending almost every paragraph with “and a chasing after the wind.” The purpose of this book is, in my interpretation, to show how material and earthly pursuits are futile, impermanent, and not as fulfilling as the pursuit of spiritual richness and a faith in God. I won’t get into my personal grievances with scripture but wish to see this as yet another enforcement to a theme of Project Stripes: to pursue something that’s important to you, even if others can’t see its value. This theme branches from my own personal experiences as a writer living in a culture that–to me–doesn’t value the pursuit of the arts, until you’re famous or successful. There is endless praise and admiration for the already established yet little for those of us working to get to that point. In any case, I’d like to call back the iceberg.
Two and a half years separate my naming chapter one “chase the wind” and my discovery of how deeply the phrase goes to relating to Arthur’s journey to becoming a man. It started as a simple homage to a song about freedom and independence; my subsequent research shows me it goes deeper than that. Just when I think I’m approaching the bottom, of ascertaining the full volume of the thing, I discover I am wrong.
Continuing from here I wonder what else there is in my story I haven’t noticed myself yet. What else could there be in addition that my readers will find that I hadn’t intended?! It’s one of the things I love about art. Each person will read the same story differently because we see ourselves reflected in the narrative, characters, and world. Always be looking out for ways to enrich your work and make it as introspective and engaging for your readers as possible. Delight when themes or lessons are found intended or unintended. This is a great way to contribute to the literary world. Avoid publishing shallow stories that do nothing to challenge the reader in their own life. Why should the characters in literature be the only ones who have to change? Pursuing writing may be outlandish or unstable to Muggles (and it is), but that doesn’t mean it’s “a chasing after the wind” if you put effort and meaning into it. Besides, that’s half the fun, pursuing a dream nobody else can see but you.