Chihiro and the beleaguered river spirit in Spirited Away

2010. It’s the beginning of a whole new decade. I want to start this decade by being more like Chihiro, the young heroine of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated masterpiece, Spirited Away. There are many points I could draw from the film – especially as an example of fantasy that has reality, truth and humanity at its heart – but I’ll be content with just one, for now.

Forced to work in a bath house run by Yubaba the witch, Chihiro has to undergo many trials in the hope of rescuing her parents, who greedily ate the food of the spirits and were turned into pigs as a result. On one particular occasion, a stinking monster comes into the bath house. He wants a bath, and he has lots of gold to offer in return. Greedy Yubaba likes the colour of his money enough to ignore the foul sludge which oozes from him, filling the bath house and scaring off the other customers.

Chihiro is given the rather daunting task of making the guest feel welcome and escorting him to his bath, which she does with heroic determination. As the monster soaks in the hot water, Chihiro realises that something is stuck in his side, and it won’t budge.

With the help of Yubaba and the other bath house attendants, Chihiro succeeds in tying a rope around the mysterious object. Then she pulls. And pulls. And pulls …

The ‘something’ turns out to be the handle of a bicycle. It comes out, dragging a trail of debris which fills the bathroom. The monster is no monster, but a river spirit, poisoned by the waste of humanity. Chihiro’s actions set him free, and he rewards her with a gift; medicine, which she later uses to help a friend.

It’s not easy for Chihiro, but I love the fact that despite having to struggle to the point of exhaustion, and despite the pressure that Yubaba puts on her, she doesn’t crumble. She’s strong enough to wade – literally – through the adversity. She digs deep – again, literally – to help the river spirit and get to the root of his problems. In the process she finds out that he is not at all what she, or anyone else, expected. And she finds out a little bit more about her own capabilities.

She comes out stronger than before, and we see a new Chihiro, who is selfless and brave, hard working and caring.

I guess it’s not hard to see where I’m going with this. It’s the old tale of courage in the face of adversity, courage and fierce determination that wins the day.

Sometimes writing is tough, sometimes it feels like I’m Chihiro wading through the sludge, but lately – lately I’ve pushed myself more and more – and the results are not what I expected. At the end of each day I have at least 1,000 more words on my hard drive than I started with that morning. The process of writing is therapeutic, and once I’m warmed up it can even be an inspiration in itself, when conversations take flight effortlessly, plot points jump out and characters start flexing their vocal chords. Ideas crop up that might not fit into what I’m writing at that particular moment, but that doesn’t matter; they can be drawn upon later. My creative side is getting stronger and gaining momentum.

I want to become a braver writer, a more hard working writer. I want to dig deep and get to the root of my writing. Find out what makes it tick. Follow what inspires me, write what I like and kick out my inner editor until the sensitive first draft is finished and ready to be worked on with the red pen.

This year is going to be the year when I start updating my blog more than once a fortnight. It’s the year when I’ll write more short stories – because I find short stories a real challenge. It’s the year when I’ll finish my first novel.

Ask me how it’s going in a week, and feel free to give me a good arse-kicking if I’m not living up to it.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Sources of Inspiration for the new year:

  • Author Allison Winn Scotch’s website: A great author website and blog which I only just came across today. I found her blog, ‘Ask Allison’, really helpful – especially this article here.
  • Author Hélène Boudreau’s website: Great advice on everything from plotting to synopsis writing and working with agents.
  • Funds for Writers: Hope C. Clark’s award winning writer’s resource website and newsletter.
  • Twitter: connect with other writers and follow writer chats using hashtags. I’m on Twitter (@miss_rosie); I chat on #amwriting frequently (more info here) and stop by #pubtips sometimes. Also, have look at other people’s #2010writerlyresolutions (started by Hélène Boudreau). Much inspiration to be had! Twitter is a goldmine for writers. Seriously.
  • A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: I recently came across this blog by following a link on Twitter. Published author Joe Konrath offers his wealth of hard-won experience in publishing FOR FREE. It’s gold, all of it.
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