When I was little, I had a children’s storybook about the friendship between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth. The one thing that stuck with me was this picture of the two women walking along a street together as, in a tree high above them, a large owl of indeterminate species gazed down at them.
That night, I dreamt of a bird so immense its wings spanned the entire sky, and it was called the Great Awl.
I tried to describe the Great Awl to people, but I just couldn’t find the words to convey its size, its power, its utter goodness. So I picked up a pen and drew bird after bird, trying to give it the majesty it commanded in my mind.
Not long after, I dreamt I was one of many wanderers traveling endless corridors and caves far underground, in search of some great revelation. At last, we emerged in a firelit cavern. A gigantic serpent waited there, staring down at us, its great coiling body drawn up to towering height. We sat before it, waiting to receive…something. Something we’d been searching and wishing for our whole lives. The creature was called the Great Orm.
Again, I tried to tell others about the Great Orm, but no words could describe the sense of aeons reaching back through time, of unfathomable knowledge inhabiting the darkness. So again I drew and drew, snakes and lizards and dragons, but nothing came close to what I’d felt in the dream.
After a time, it came to me: Some things can never escape your head onto the page. Some things will forever be yours, and yours alone.
Immediately, I decided that was bullshit. And once again, picked up the pen. I have never put it down.