So I was sitting in a classroom at the University of Oklahoma. This was about a decade ago. I was in my master’s program and it was a special topics course on heteronormativity in American culture. We were discussing James Baldwin’s work, and the professor said, “I love Baldwin’s writing and I don’t know how he does it.” Then he looked at me. We locked eyes for a moment. I’m the only one in this MA program who has a BFA in Creative Writing. I immediately thought, I know how he does it. But before I had a chance to respond, he quickly stated, “And I don’t want to know,” as if he knew I was about to break the spell.

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I’m open minded and enjoy talking to people about their Native ancestry.  Folks get comfortable with me when they know I’m not going to judge them for admiring Native people, so they share their family lore.  If they’re writers, they’ll likely mention a project they’re working on where they have characters who are Native.  Out of respect, they’ll ask, “Can you make sure I’m not doing anything offensive?” and ask me to read their work.  If I have time in my schedule, I’ll gladly do so, but I’ve been busier than usual over the last year and haven’t been able.  This is part of the reason why I wanted to construct this list.  This article is a serious examination of character archetypes for the purpose of creating literature.  A unique approach situated from a Native lens.

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Sometimes I like to say controversial things, like the title to this article: “Being In’din’s a party and everyone’s invited.”  The stodgy conservative Native crowd gets upset with me.  I hear comments like, “You’re undermining sovereignty,” or “Don’t give the wannabes more fuel to misappropriate.”  All this is said with a fervor of control and a need for validation.  Interestingly enough, I always wonder why they need me to validate them.  “Who am I?  I’m nobody,” as my elders say before espousing wisdom.  So let me hand you a little myself.

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I spend a lot of time thinking about love, and what I’m about to discuss here is in the vein of love.  But a love for cohesiveness, a love that desires modalities in cooperation rather than competition.  Certainly, it took the very pessimistic concepts around Baudrillard’s philosophy to engender my thoughts on this subject.  But without Baudrillard I would’ve never reached this conclusive ending:  competition is a mere copy of a copy.  I hear you asking “So then what’s the original source?”  My answer:  inspiration.

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This article is a confession to my gurus.  Well, maybe more of an apology.  Or a humble request for forgiveness.  Okay, it’s a mixture of all three.  Sometimes I can be an asshole.  More so when I was younger and before life kicked my sorry brown ass into submission.  People say they love writers who have had the life beaten out of them.  That’ll be my remaining solace in this whole matter:  I’m only likable after bruises on the side of the face and a gash near the hairline.

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There I am, like you, and so many writers, sitting at my computer and starting a new writing project.  I’m drawing up characters because this story has been running through mind for years and it’s finally ready to go onto a page.  Since I already have a working idea of who my main character is and her antagonist, I now need to weigh her against Karpman’s drama triangle.  What is her good, bad, and ugly?  This is how I’ve drawn multidimensional characters for over 10 years.  But then two other creative forms changed my approach:  Evolutionary astrology and Stanislavski’s method acting.

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#WritersLife was the first thought I had when I woke.  But I couldn’t shake the deep depression taking control of me.  I felt an immense sadness.  It felt like I was so inadequate that I didn’t matter to anyone.  My life was so pointless and meaningless that no one would ever want to connect with me enough to care about my life.  My mind kept circling around about how shitty a human being I was and how it didn’t matter what I thought or felt.  My chest was heavy, shoulders sunken, and I could feel the length of my jaw pulling downward.  I had little energy.  Just enough to zombie through the last two days.

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Someone tells you, “There’s nobody on that piece of land,” and you’re invited to stake a claim to it, build a home, move your family, and grow crops.  Start a new life for yourself.  That was the narrative fed to early European settlers and is commonly referred to as “The Pristine Myth,” meaning the wilderness is untouched and open for the taking.  Then you arrive and find that not only are there people, but they’ve been there for thousands of years.  I’m going to ask you one question:  Has modern day academia created the same siphon?

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I hiked into the Grand Canyon.  I must’ve been in my late twenties, maybe early thirties.  It started out as a walk to look over the rim.  I had camped the night before in a tent at one of the sites and woke early (probably about 5am).  I was there with a friend and she was still asleep.  As the sun rose out of the east, I decided to follow the paved roads toward the rim of the Grand Canyon.

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Like clipping and pruning back branches on a bonsai tree.  Then we wire and train those branches to spread in the appearance of organic design reflective of the natural environment, taking careful consideration and steady hands.  We have to make the right decisions.  I’ve been revising Unsettled Between over the last two months and it’s been a transformative process not only for the novel but for me as well.

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