Can I Be More Than a Stonecutter?

In the early sixties, when my father hauled trash, he would bring me gifts which were cast-offs from other people.  One time he brought me a large carton of textbooks from the 1940s, which an elementary school had thrown away.  They were primarily English and social studies texts, and in these books I discovered a wide variety of stories which my brain played like a never-ending movie projector in my head.

One of my favorites was the Japanese folk tale, “The Stonecutter.”  In this story, the protagonist is a laborer who cuts rock out of the mountainside.  The man doesn’t realize it, but a spirit lives inside the mountain.  This spirit has the power to grant wishes.  The man wishes to become a rich man so he doesn’t have to labor so hard, and he becomes one.  Later, he sees that the prince has power over the rich man and wishes to become a prince.  You know what happens.  He becomes a prince, of course.

In his quest for something more, he hadn’t realized that even a prince has his limitations until he discovers that the sun has more power.  He wishes to become the sun.  As he continues his quest, he becomes a cloud and then a rock, which is the rock of the mountain.  The most powerful of all.

As a rock, he suddenly feels pain and discovers that a man is chipping away at him.  He wishes once again for power over his own life and becomes a man–a stonecutter cutting away at the mountain.  He’s right back where he started before he wished his life away.

Outside my bedroom window

I’ve never forgotten this story, although sometimes I move too far from the lesson itself.  The power is mine to live my own authentic life, even if I am the stonecutter, chipping away at the mountain in front of me.


Writing, though, is not always like life.  As a writer, I believe that it’s possible to do more than live my own life.

Mindful of my work, by some miraculous force, I can be the stonecutter and the mountain at the same time.

Have you ever had that feeling when you were involved in the process of writing?


Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory

23 responses to “Can I Be More Than a Stonecutter?

  1. Luanne, I love your writing. I look forward to every post…..Jill

  2. Beautiful story, Luanne. Thanks for sharing!

  3. exiledprospero

    Yes, and for the writer schizophrenia is a fiendish joy.

  4. I forgot about this story, but am going to go back and read it again. An important reminder to find acceptance for where we are and who we are. Wanting “the more of everything” mostly doesn’t give us what we think we want. In response to your end comment about being the stonecutter and being the mountain in your writing, I must say that I’ve experienced this only a few times, but wish I could experience it “more”. There I go, just like the stonecutter. When I am in the process and not efforting too much to be someone I am not, this flow comes more easily and there is no separation between the self and the object. When I have some ideal in my head about the kind of writer I want to be and am not able to reach, then I am just carrying the stone up the mountain. What’s your process like?

    • lucewriter

      That is so well put: “then I am just carrying the stone up the mountain.” I sure know that feeling, too! Mostly, once I start writing I let my autonomic self direct things. Then I haul out the grouchy editor afterward to revise.

  5. I tell this story a couple of times a year
    most often to people who have a lot of desires …
    But whenever I tell this story,
    they suddenly become deaf.
    Or is it just me?

    • lucewriter

      Haha, no I don’t think it’s just you! It takes a lot of will power to stop thinking the grass is always greener!

  6. qilanjui

    Wonderful story, Luanne. Thanks so much. Reminds me of what that old storekeeper in the Solomon Islands said: “We like to jump from where we are to go over there where it is higher up. But when we get there, we are nowhere.” Love reading your posts, and look forward to every one! Yesterday’s inspired me to start re-reading my old Thich Naht Hahn books – perfect timing. Many thanks, Luanne!

    • lucewriter

      J, I love that story from the storekeeper! I’m so glad you will be reading your Thich Nhat Hanh books. What good timing for you xo! Thank you so much for reading; it means a lot to me.

  7. As ever, I enjoyed your post, Luanne. I have thought that writing allows me to live more than my life. At one time, I thought that writing was the best art. Dancers dance, but I can writing about dancing. Singers sing, but I can write about singing. And so forth. As a writer, I am not limited by reality.

    Now as to your question about being the stonecutter and the mountain ….The stonecutter opts to be the “powerful” mountain until he realizes that the most powerful-looking entity actually has no power.

    Suppose the mountain = experiences, and the stonecutter = one who writes about her experience. It could be, also, that people = their experiences, hence the stonecutter = her experiences. Sorry –> this is more math than poetry.

    • lucewriter

      Wilma, wow, that is great about how a writer can be all those different types of artists! Let’s face it: the fantasy life of a writer is very good. I am never limited by reality ;). Yes, very mathlike, which I like in my poetry btw. Thanks, Wilma. I always love to see where your mind will take you!!!

  8. I love your conclusion here, about being both the stone cutter and the mountain. Writing is work, for sure, and it chisels away at our core and brings us to that place of knowing we are enough, that we are doing exactly what we are meant to!

    • lucewriter

      Ah, very well put, CC Joss! “brings us to that place of knowing we are enough, that we are doing exactly what we are meant to!” Thank you for that!

  9. L-
    I love the stone cutting you do in your blog. It creates a mosaic of block prints illustrating your life.

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