The Sacrifice of
By Jolene Dawe
Odin hung on the World Tree to gain the
runes. It wasn't an easy sacrifice, as the story goes. Depending on your
source, he either hung by his neck or pierced himself to the trunk of the
tree by his own spear. Either way, he bled. He suffered unrelenting hunger
and thirst. On the ninth day, he saw shapes within the Well at the foot of
the Tree. He reached down, struggling despite the pain, and picked those
shapes up. They were runes, mysteries of the North, filled with power and
magic. With the runes, one can manipulate wyrd.
It's sort of like writing.
Actually, it's a lot like
writing. In the Norse pantheon, Odin is a god of, among other things,
inspiration and communication. He (along with his two brothers) is
responsible for giving humankind breath, intelligence, and consciousness.
His hunger for knowledge is insatiable, leading him all over the worlds,
When he climbed that Tree, he didn't know
what was going to happen. He knew he'd be sacrificing himself, but he
didn't know what, if anything, he would gain from it. This is a feeling
many of us have when we sit down with a blank page and start writing. All
we know is that there are words within us that must be let out. Often we'll
have some idea of what we want to do with these words; other times, it's
just the need to write. We sit and we type and we hope that something good
will come from it.
We sacrifice time that could be spent on
other projects and activities. The sacrifice could be big or small -- a
relationship, or just a few hours in evening. The point is, we are willing
to give these things up to write. Like Odin on the Tree, we don't know if
we are going to lose everything for nothing, or if we are going to give
everything up only to gain back ten times more. It's a decision we all have
to face, in one form or another.
You cannot write without putting the time
into it, and when you have a day full of responsibilities already, carving
out a chunk of time to write can be near impossible. So we sacrifice
reading that novel sitting on our to-be-read shelf, or we sacrifice a night
out with friends, or we sacrifice that new movie we want to see. The
sacrifices are often ones we would rather not make -- I like going
out with friends, personally, and I want to read more than I do now, not
less -- but then, if they weren't, they wouldn't really be sacrifices.
Then I start a new project, like Odin
picking up a new rune, and the mysteries within the story captivate me.
There is awkwardness and pain and excitement and a whole world of
discoveries waiting to be made, and for a time, the awareness of what I'm
sacrificing in order to write falls to the wayside. I create. I shape. I
control the wyrd of my creation. I use inspiration to communicate with the
world around me, and the world, in turn, feeds the inspiration. Sometimes,
the inspiration is an endless banquet, feeding me until I can eat no more.
At other times, I have to root around in a seeming desert to find the
smallest bits of nourishment. Either way, my awareness is focused on the
creating, on the shaping.
It's after the project is finished that
the awareness returns, and with it, the fear. What if the sacrifice was too
dear? What if I risked all for nothing? What if it never pays off? For
me, these fears are more chilling than the fear of a blank page. For me,
this is when the fear of failure sets in.
And, for me, this is when I look to Odin
and the Tree. I'm reminded that I am not the only person, not the first
person, and surely not the last person, who has to give up in order to
gain. I'm not alone in my willingness to risk much to gain much. There's
no guarantee that I'll ever gain anything beyond the joy of writing, and
that's okay. It's not going to stop me from reaching.