Writing *asa kraiya* : origin and process
When you start a story young, you don’t analyze it much. You just do what feels right, having a youthfully-inordinate amount of faith that it will turn out well, and don’t worry too much about the psychological or philosophical mechanics of it. Or perhaps even if you do, you aren’t ready to really penetrate them yet, so it won’t happen. At least this is the case with me.
I started writing about Chevenga when I was around 14. His story has undergone many changes since then, most notably in the last four years or so, the main change being “became much longer.” But certain elements, such as the Lakan and Arkan Wars, his personality, characters like Krero, Kaninjer and Skorsas, and, most central, his foreknowledge, have always remained the same, being the structural bones of the story.
I maybe hold the record for “longest time writing about a character without knowing what he really is.” It was always fascinating to me why I was obsessed with this particular one enough that I could never finish with him no matter how much I wrote, in the way impenetrable mysteries, enigmas you are fairly certain you’ll never solve, are fascinating. I sometimes made myself wrong for not knowing, but didn’t care enough to stop writing.
I got the answer, finally, on July 29, 2012, when my spirit guides told me during a conversation about book marketing. But before that, I had the urge to go deeper with Chevenga even though I didn’t even really know what that meant. I had to go out of his world and into mine to really get it, but I could sort of circle in around the edges within his world. Maybe you somehow know that if you play around with the right parameters, you’ll hit creative pay dirt. That’s what happened with asa kraiya.
The most central thing—his foreknowledge—always begged the question of the alternative: what if he survived it? How might that happen? In our imaginative adventures role-playing, Shirley and I played around with various scenarios, mostly involving characters of hers saving him through giving him warnings. I found none of those compelling. It was when I somehow arrived at the notion that something within him had to change for him to survive that I realized it was the only way that made sense, and inspiration hit. Everything followed from there.
I wrote the book over two separate periods with a lengthy hiatus in between. I started in the late 1990s, writing maybe half of it before getting pulled into other internal explorations and spiritual research between 2000 and 2007 or so, explorations and research that were necessary, I understand now, to enable me to truly complete it. As you know, since you were there, I started the second stint, writing/posting concurrently with the first sections of PA, in March 2009, and finished it January 2010. Now I’ll be taking the third run at it, to bring it up-to-date with the current PA. (I’ll let you in on something: my main reason for rewriting PA—all 821 posts of it—was to make asa kraiya make sense.)
For me, analysis and inspiration can be almost synonymous, and while Chevenga always had the same analytical streak I do, in ak both he and I kicked it way up. ak is where he—and I—unlock the secrets of who he really is within his context, and unearth the levers that truly determine his destiny, giving him a shot at least of getting his hands on them.
I’m sure you’ve gathered that Chevenga for me is an alter ego. Thus asa kraiya is not only about him getting his hands on the levers of his destiny, but about me getting my hands on the levers of mine. I didn’t understand me at first any better than I understood him. My childhood was very much about being traumatically brainwashed out of my own truth, and I started wanting transformation in my early 20s. For various reasons, mostly fear, inertia, big blank spots in my understanding and the complexity/size of the job, it took a long time, and was stepwise. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I got the information that made it really accelerate in 2000, after the first stint of writing asa kraiya. Or that it accelerated again, starting in 2010 or so, after I finished the book online.
Ak, in which Chevenga has a spiritual awakening, is very much about my own spiritual awakening, too. Raised as an athye’s athye, taught to suspect and dread anything spiritual, I wrote about things that scared the shit out of me, quite literally… I was often afflicted with emotion-based diarrhea while writing during that first late-90s effort. I’d run to the can, then come back and keep writing. Between 2009 and 2010, fortunately, the experience was more purely ecstatic.
There are two basic keys, as I see it, to transformation. The first is that it always starts with a leap off a cliff. You cannot see what you’re leaping into; if you could, you wouldn’t need transformation. The only way to do it is to trust—trust yourself, trust the others telling you you’ll be fine, trust in the Eternal, however you conceive It—so as to overcome the fear. The leap is something like: signing up, i.e. putting down your money, for a course or a run of therapy… accepting sponsorship into a twelve-step-group… applying for a job outside your comfort level… making a formal commitment to a spiritual path… etc. Chevenga does this near the bottom of Post 003.
The second key is fear itself—to use it as a guide. In other words, the most effective and fastest transformation you can get is by facing and chasing down whatever it is that you’re most afraid of. This is best done with as little grimness as you can manage—in other words, have fun with it—and with lots of positive, confident support. Chevenga has Surya, who is as confident and positive a source of support as you can imagine (his name means “certainty”) and… well, you’ll get to see the level of fun attained as our hero, who didn’t think he had a lot of fears, looks them right in the face for the first time. Which reminds me of another key to transformation, which I call “the 180-degree principle:” you find out often that things are not only not what they seem, but are the precise 180-degree opposite of what they seem. Whether in real life or in a book, this makes for lots of surprises.
I thought asa kraiya was just going to be a story of a difficult sacrifice and a change in attitude: it ended up a deconstruction of Chevenga’s whole life, each phase of which I entered into often with as little planning or awareness of what was ahead as he does. I was stunned to see his life had a coherence I distinctly did not remember planning, or had even seen. The bones of the logic were all there. Writing ak, I didn’t create them; I disinterred them.
This was why ak has been the peak writing experience of my life so far (even with the shits). The subplots, such as the political stuff, I invented or co-invented as usual; the main plot of his transformation I did not invent, but had revealed to me. Thus I actually never knew exactly what would happen next. It was a bit like being a reader, except that the scenes and words weren’t going to be on the paper until I put them there, so I got to enjoy the joy of creation, too. When I hit the last sentence and there was no more ak to write, I cried.
So—that’s what ak means to me. Of course I do not write books, I induce them, as Lois McMaster Bujold said, so that ak will mean to you whatever you need or want it to, and that will have nothing to do with me other than through what Surya calls “the universal commonality,” those things we all share by the fact of being human. May it bring you benefit as it has brought me. Enjoy.