Have you thought about your passion lately? I believe that fiction should embrace a higher purpose, at least the fiction I write. That doesn’t mean a quick beach read doesn’t have a place, if you look hard enough you can always find theme…even in the beach read. I’m pretty passionate about the South of France, and Santorini.
Not that one, the other, the less celebrated, but more important and she never wrote a novel.
I want to know more. I didn’t know what I was going to write about this morning, I just let it come to me. I’m pretty sure Harriet’s passion was freedom. You can see the defiance set in her bull-dog face if you google her images. Picture after picture tell a story of bald defiance. And passion. And freedom.
I was thinking about what I could write about.
It didn’t take me long. Harriet Tubman is today’s Google doodle. I love the civil war era. My first, adolescent scribblings were about a Northern girl in love with a Southern soldier. As I hit the link that took me to Wikipedia’s page on Harriet Tubman, I was already sucked in. Yet as I read more about Harriet “Minty” Tubman, my feelings quickly turned to sobering empathy.
Minty lived over a hundred years ago, something like 1820. Not even she knew the precise date of her own birth. Minty was extraordinary. Gifted. Maybe because, not many slaves achieved what she did. She must have been over the-bar high in intelligence, but she had awareness. Awareness that she was living in a state that was fundamentally wrong when so many accepted their lot. They took it. Not Minty. She once said, she freed over a thousand slaves, and she could have freed a thousand more, if only they knew they were slaves. Awareness. I got the impression she didn’t suffer fools gladly. I was struck by the torture Harriet must have experienced, knowing she or her children could be sold at any moment- what that must have done to her emotionally.
Yet, she didn’t fall down in a pile. The injustice she witnessed made her strong. She helped so many with the underground railroad, at great personal risk, even after she had achieved freedom for herself. She never forgot them. She took on a system that could only crushed her like a bug. I was struck too by the human spirit’s never-ending quest for freedom. I understood why so many great minds from lamented over the human condition and tried to fix it. It all came down to freedom.
I’m not trying to get political. My point is this.
Imagine: you get up at dawn, you go to work, you don’t get paid, nothing. Maybe its picking cotton until you drop in the heat, or maybe your trapping muskrats, like Minty in the marshes, you feel lousy, you get no breaks, and when you get home, your mother or father, or your spouse are gone. Sold. Forever. When Minty was a girl, her mother threatened to split her master’s skull as he tried to enter her cabin. He was going to sell her son. Guess what, it worked. And little Minty, the woman who would become Harriet Tubman, saw a world of possibility open. She saw what a rebellion could do.
Freedom. I think as writers we need to be focused on our causes and our motivations and be passionate and determined to go into the god-awful trenches every day, like Minty, get as muddy and bloody as we can, and then, then we emerge as Harriet, with lanterns held high, till we grab our own brand of freedom. Whatever that is.