Something to Hang Your Hat On...

I looked for the origination of the phrase, but instead I found the wonderful definition that it means to have faith in something. As simple as the phrase is, it says so much about grounding yourself and your writing. It gives the readers something to have faith, to believe in, to know in their hearts as a truth. Sometimes that realization and grounding comes through the characters actions and growth, some of it is as integral as the setting and the words on the page. This is part of that hard-to-define voice that writers struggle so much to achieve.

I was watching Anthony Bourdain's show on the city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. I was there, along with quite a few romance writers, not long before Katrina. I was also one of the millions who watched in horror as the city was swept aside in a tide of choas and the elements of nature. I've often said that New Orleans was a city that made me feel at home. It has a slow, seductive enchantment that draws you in the minute you get off the plane. I wasn't there for Mardi Gras. I'm not one for crowds and there are always crowds in New Orleans. But the people made me love the city with their easy kind of grace that seems to meld into their bones and eeked out of a city that's reverance for the past is as honored as their glory in the future. I didn't meet anyone there that made me feel as if I were just visiting. They were welcoming, kind, creative, bold and generous. Someday, I'm going to take my husband there so he can meet the city for himself.

But what has this got to do with hats or writing? So much. As I watched the people presevere and return to take on what was left of their city, fighting to restore the traditions, food and character, I knew that there is comfort in familiarity. By creating community that is recognizable, full-bodied and emotional, you create a community for your characters, a belief system, a tie that keeps them rooted to the story. As writers, it's sometimes our job to take a highly recognizable place and changes it slightly, without doesn't lose the connection with what people believe, or see in their minds, or even can feel with their heart. The community becomes a character, become flesh and blood and history and future. A grounding force. And a community becomes something to hang their hats on.

1 comment:

William Carter,I said...

I, too, am seeking the origination of the phrase for a sermon this Sunday coming and could not find it. It does seem to mean as you have pointed out to have "faith" or "confidence' in a thing.

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