Wuxia Novelist: A Writer's Blog

Wuxia Novelist: A Writer's Blog looks at the broad range of issues encountered by me as a novelist working in the Chinese wuxia (heroic fiction) genre. I have, however, a very broad background and this blog will not narrowly focus on one genre of literature, rather I will consider books, movies, and ideas that relate to my life as a writer. For more information about my background please visit my author's website: www.thedragongateinn.com or www.facebook.com/WuxiaNovelist

Location: United States

Check out my author's website: www.thedragongateinn.com for everything you could ever want to know about me.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why I Write

I enjoy corresponding with my readers and with those of you interested in the topics I cover in this blog and on my website. The other day, I received a very interesting e-mail from a reader who hopes to write wuxia novels – yeah! One more! In discussing these interests this reader asked me why I write and added remarks by Amy Tan, the great Chinese-American writer, about why she writes.

Basically, Ms. Tan says she writes, “because I have questions about life, not answers.” She goes on, “Writing to me is an act of faith, a hope that I will discover what I mean by truth. But I don’t know what that will be until I finish.”

I find her comments very interesting and would like to try my hand at understanding why I write.

When I was in college and graduate school, I wrote as part of the historical research process. No doubt, it is also a way of discovering the “truth.” But, as I’ve noted in previous blogs, I moved away from that type of writing into fiction. And I share with Amy Tan, and numerous other fiction writers, the belief, the faith that we can tell stories to both discover and state the “truth” as we find it. But such statements, for me, seem almost clichéd. So I tried looking deeper to see why I write, past my obvious love for the wuxia genre, for medieval China, for that whole geographical and cultural region.

No doubt like many writers, I write to discover myself. To dip into that magical zone where the writer seems to go trance-like and the words and images flow like a strong current through our minds – the so-called “automatic writing” or whatever – maybe the endorphins produced by exercising our writer muscles. No doubt, I am addicted to that. I’ve read some writers criticize such excess, such “lack of control” – probably because they’ve never experienced it!

But push as much as I might down into my psyche, what pushes back is a saying by the great Japanese Zen master, Eihei Dōgen (永平道元) (1200-1253 A.D.):

To study the Way is to study the self;
To study the self is to forget the self;
To forget the self is to be enlightened by the 10,000 things.

(sorry, I don’t know the translator)

In ancient Chinese, the “10,000 things” was “code” for the world (literally, “all the things in the world”). And the “Way” is, of course, the “Truth”, the “Path of Life.” So Dogen is advocating the study of life or “truth” through opening oneself - by forgetting the self - to all the things that make up the world, that make up life. Seems like great advice for a writer – and for everyone, in general.

I like to think that’s the basic reason I write. But I also have another reason.

One of my teachers in Taiwan told me that just writing to entertain or even for self-discovery is not enough. He said that to be a responsible writer, I should write to make the world a better place. I believe that by opening the culture of medieval China, specifically Tang dynasty China, to the world I might be able to offer alternate ways of understanding “the 10,000 things” and perhaps improve the human condition.

I have found much that is admirable and inspiring from medieval Chinese culture. Perhaps, others might likewise find some value in a glimpse of that long forgotten way of life. So it is interesting for me to take ideas and attitudes from that period of history and look at them under a contemporary lens – even though my stories might seem to be set in medieval China.

At the core of all our cultures is a common human nature. I believe we can all learn from each others experiences to better understand ourselves and eventually our common human condition. Storytelling is one way of sharing experiences that can function as a path to mutual understanding. And, as I’ve mentioned, in previous blogs, I think the globalization of storytelling is moving us in that direction.

I write to understand and to facilitate understanding among those who are curious.


The Innkeeper


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