Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Year of the Ox

Sharon Wildwind

You might recall my rant last year about how the Year of the Rat and I weren’t suited for one another, so for my own benefit I’d renamed 2008 the Year of the Parrot.

This year, you won’t get any dissension from me. I wasn’t born in an ox year—my animal won’t come around for several years—but the ox is particularly well-suited to some thoughts I’ve had recently about being a writer. And yes, I know I’m jumping the gun. The Year of the Ox doesn’t officially start until January 26th, but this being a week of new things, resolutions, etc, I decided to throw caution to the winds and blog about oxen. Incidentally, throwing caution to the winds is a very un-ox-like quality.

The Ox

A leader, dependable, patient, a lover of peace and quiet, eloquent, kind, caring, and blessed with common sense. On the down side, ox people don’t take kindly to being told what to do, and they dislike change intensely.

Those qualities—with one exception—are mystery writers’ hallmarks. The exception is that not every writer I’ve met dislikes change. Some hate it, some embrace it, and some tell change to get the heck out of their way, they have books to write.

Above all, being a writer means patience. There’s the waiting for the . . . . fill in the word of your choice: agent, publisher, first contract, cover art, Advanced Reading Copies, reviews, royalty statements, next contract, and dozens of other events that never come along as fast as we want them to.

It takes great eloquence to confront the blank page or computer screen. To write the fifth book when the other four haven’t sold. (Yet.) To realize in chapter twelve that what we’d planned isn’t going to work, and change direction, even if it means going back to that scary blank computer screen in order to get the story right.

In a spate of cleaning on New Year’s Day, I decided to cull my e-mail address book. I found e-mail addresses for over a hundred mystery writers, and I didn’t delete a single one. Those writers are my tribe. I continue to be immensely grateful that every one of them have always been generous with their kindness, caring, and liberal doses of not only common sense, but uncommon humor. Where else would I find a group of people who know how to blow up cars, interpret blood spatter patterns, and use commas correctly?

The all-encompassing Internet overshadows a long tradition of writers supporting one another with the simple expedient of a pen, paper, and postage stamps. Sigrid Undset, a Norwegian Nobel Prize-winning author and Willa Cather, an American writer, carried on an extended, supportive correspondence for twenty years. It was only when Undset came to New York as a refugee during World War II that the two women finally met.

So I have a proposal for all of us in the mystery community. Dig out those pens, paper, and stamps. Send more real mail to other writers this year, even if it's just a "Hi, how are you?" card. And when you do, add a little something special at the end.

This is my clumsy attempt at writing the Chinese symbol for Ox. I’ve appended a little something extra to the numbers for this year. See how the numeral "9" is sprouting ox horns? I propose that throughout this year we mystery writers add horns to our nines every time we write to one another. Our secret handshake, as it were, that we are here to be patient with one another; to be elegant, kind and caring in our dealings with one another.

In other words, this year, let’s be a drove of oxen.

Writing quote for the week. Heck, I’m going for a personal best this week and quoting myself.

Writing is a marathon. Warm up, write, cool down. Eat right. Drinks water. Exercise for stamina, balance, and staying power.
~Sharon Wildwind, mystery writer


Darlene Ryan said...

Having sat in traffic more than once in China waiting for an ox to decide to move down the road I can promise you the real thing does NOT like to be told what to do.

Lonnie Cruse said...

I'm happy to join your drove, Sharon! Great post.

Sharon Wildwind said...

Darlene, in Viet Nam, the coming year will be known as the year of the water buffalo. Having seen water buffalo, I can confirm that they're exactly like your Chinese ox.

Sandra Parshall said...

I was born in the Year of the Monkey, which supposedly makes me an "erratic genius" -- and, lucky you, Sharon, very compatible with people born in the Year of the Rat. I wish I did have the strong will of an ox!

free tarot reading said...

Chinese New Year for 2009 is on the 26th of January: the Year of the Yin Earth Ox.

In Chinese Astrology each sign is represented by an animal. There are 12 animal signs in total, each corresponding to a lunar year, with each sign also having 5 elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal & Water). In certain years, particular elements are more prominent. For instance in 2005, the ‘wood’ element is very prominent so therefore it is 2005, Year of the Wood Rooster. The special combination of the Sign and Element only occurs once every 60 years.

As Chinese Astrology is one of the oldest types of Astrology, the origins of naming the years after animals is unknown. But a popular legend is that Buddha (c.563-c.483 B.C) invited all the animals to visit him, and as a demonstration of thanks to those who came, he dedicated a year to each of the animals according to the order in which they arrived: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.