The Insecure Writers! For those who don't remember, it's an online group created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers. You, too, can join us anytime!
Before I get started, I just wanted to say that I'll be doing my first-ever guest post this week, on Friday. So, stop by on Friday for the link and info!
First I just have to say, thank goodness for Shell Flower. I logged on today to write my blog post, and would have totally missed the fact that it was IWSG day if I hadn't seen her post, first. So, thank you, Shell, for dragging my brain out of Ancient Tibet, and into March 2014!
For any newcomers (and hello and welcome to my neurotic ramblings), my current WIP is a journey through Ancient Greece, Tibet, South America, India, London, and Australia. Which means I need to heavily research all of these places (yes, I am insane. As I said, welcome to my neurotic ramblings.)
So, I've had my nose buried in Tibet all week. I'm reading a book called, appropriately enough, Tibet: Its History, Religion, and People, by Thubten Jigme Norbu, a Tibetan monk who also happens to be the older brother of the current Dalai Lama. It's a lovely, if rather dry, read, full of actually useful information (something new for me) about the daily life and religion and outlook of normal Tibetans - not just kings and gurus, but peasants and nomads, too - and I'm very grateful to my local librarian for pulling it off of the shelf and pressing it into my desperate little hands.
It's also a lot. I mean, it's a lot to take in. I'm attempting to understand the world view of a character that's vastly different from my own, and whose culture I am mostly ignorant of - and let me tell you, Tibetan culture, history, and religion are not simple. The country is thousands of years old, with a complex animist religion at the time my character was living (500-600 CE); I've never met a single Tibetan person or been to Tibet; and unlike Ancient Greece, whose culture and mythology form the foundation for much of our own, Ancient Tibet is something I've only barely touched on in my life's learnings so far.
Now, I would never say that writers should only write about their own culture, race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Because really, if I did that, I'd be writing novels full of me, talking to me, interacting with more me. How BORING (not to mention alarmingly self-involved.) I think it's important to go outside of what is familiar; to reach into the unknown, and hope to bring back something to share; something that illuminates, even in the smallest way, what it means to be human. To find not only what makes us different, but also what unites us.
I do believe that. But I'm also nervous. What if I really mess this up? What if I offend an entire nation, for God's sake?
This insecurity, I know, is understandable, but I have to find a way past it. Because right now, it's stifling. Part of what I'm trying to do is find my characters and plot through this research, and the fear is totally stopping me. I have no ideas. I am blank, blank, blank. Every time I try to come up with an idea, my brain starts going, oh my god no I can't make the character a jerk because then people will think I'm RACIST, and all creativity comes to a screeching halt.
So that's my insecurity for the month (year; decade; all known time; whatever.) Next week, I hope I can report back on my plot progress... but at this rate, I may just end up sharing some interesting facts on Tibet. Le sigh.