Ginnungagap – or – The Blank Page

Before there is something, there isn’t quite nothing, because there is always the possibility of something. This is the blank page, empty but waiting to be filled. In Norse mythology, the blank page that waited to be filled was known as Ginnungagap.

photo-1433086981895-12ca61d33d40Ginnungagap is the yawning chasm, the bottomless abyss, the primordial void. It wasn’t exactly empty. Strange mists flowed through the void. In the north, the mists gathered to become the intensely cold Niflheim. To the hot south, they became Muspelheim, land of fire and home to the demon, Surtr.

Deep within the mists lay the Well of Life, Hvergalmir, and ice was gathering over top. That grinding ice was filled with life and the first two beings came into existence. Ymir, father of all ice giants, great and terrible, was created alongside Audumla, the magic cow who licked the salt from the ice and in turn fed Ymir with her milk.

While Ymir drank from Audumla, the magic cow’s raspy tongue uncovered more beings from the ice. The first one to be released was Buri, first of the Norse gods and grandfather to Odin, who with his brothers would slay Ymir.

As time went on, the world tree was planted and the broken body of Ymir was used to craft the nine worlds of Norse cosmology, and the chaos of Ginnungagap found structure. Though in the final battle of Ragnarök, the fire demon, Surtr, will return the cosmos to a state of possibility, we can enjoy life today.

In writing, or any creative endeavor, we know this cycle well. In the beginning, we have little more than possibilities and a blank page. But as the mists swirl over our creative well, the ideas take shape and we give them life. To one end of our mind, we are tempted to burn what we have created and to the other extreme we want to lock it in a drawer and freeze it in time. But if we can find the balance to let the well do its job, we l’ll have a project worth crafting.

At first, our idea is a monster, a father of ice giants. But along with our Ymir, we have a magic cow slowing licking our good ideas to life. In time, those good ideas will triumph over the bad ones, allowing us to build a world from Ymir’s bones, skull-cap, and eyebrows (seriously, Odin and his brothers used every part to create our world), and a better story comes to life.

It all starts with a blank page, with Ginnungagap.

Next time, we’ll look at how to protect our creations during the final battle of Ragnarök, or as it is known to writers, the submissions process.

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Creator of Worlds

Over the weekend, I started creating a new world. Well, maybe not a whole world. But a town. I started creating a town.

But there’s still a lot to consider when you create a town.

I was working at Rock the Coast on behalf of Baker Book House, running the booth, selling CDs, books, and jewelry. But in between customers, I was dreaming up people and places, names, jobs, and small histories. I asked my coworkers for help in figuring out the businesses that must be represented within any small town. We came up with quite a list:

Grocer, Police, Volunteer Fire Dept., Gas Station/Convenience Store, School, Plumber/Handyman, Construction, Pastor, Bookstore (maybe you don’t think this is necessary, but I do), Mechanic, Electronics Repairman, Barber/Beautician, Doctor, and so on.

It goes on and on.

And the thing about creating is that everyone needs a story, a place to live, something to do for money, something to spend money on, hobbies, loves, flaws. And every person, business and building needs a name.

It takes a lot of creative energy.

I can understand why God needed a rest after six days of non-stop creation. And he wasn’t just working on a small town. He was doing it all.

Perhaps I have a god complex, but I really enjoy the creation process. I always have. As a child, I made stories with my Lego people, created places for them to live, jobs for them to have, and reasons for them to do what they did. In college, I was hooked on The Sims, starting characters, building houses, and the rest. And I recently posted how much I enjoy creating new characters for another computer game (Diablo II).

Creating something from nothing but thought is intoxicating!

And so I am creating my small town. Moose Lake, Michigan. And I can’t wait to fill it with stories.

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