When we set up Wind&Bones back in 2018, we wanted a name that reflected our vision of writing, creativity and social change. And after a lot of discussion, eventually we came up with Wind&Bones.
But what’s in a name? And why are we called this? Is one of us “Wind” and one of us “Bones”? Are these our secret superhero names? Alas, no! But the real story is fun and interesting too, and it goes back to medieval China.
What’s in a name?
The reason goes back to an old Chinese book called The Heart of Literature, and the Carving of Dragons, written some time at the turn of the sixth century.
The writer of the book was Liu Xie, a thinker who brought together the various philosophical and literary traditions of medieval China to write a beautiful, insightful text about the art of writing and, indirectly, the art of living.
When we were reading Liu’s book, one passage in particular caught our eye: the part where Liu says that writers should “cultivate the vigour of the wind, and make the bone robust” (or, in Chinese, 蔚彼風力，嚴此骨鯁).
Vigour and rigour
This idea of wind and bones is so important to Liu that he dedicates a whole chapter to it. In Chinese, this chapter is called feng gu (風骨). Feng means “wind”, while gu means “bone.” And in the brief span of a couple of pages, Liu brilliantly argues how good literature is born out of a marriage of these two things. To write, Liu says, you need wind — liveliness and spiritedness and vigour. But you also need bones — structure, and organisation, and rigour.
Wind&Bones, vigour and rigour: for us, this seemed to capture something essential to the art of writing. When you are writing, at times things get too bony—your writing is organised, it is beautifully structured, but it doesn’t spring to life. Or at other times, things are too windy. There’s energy and life, but everything is all over the place, and the energy is not well-channelled or well-organised.
But if you get the balance right — if your writing has both vigour and rigour, wind and bones — then things really start to happen.
The more we thought about this, the more we thought that this balancing of wind and bones was good advice not only for writing, but for creativity of all kinds, for social change, and for life. As a name, it captured the spirit of what we are doing in all our work.
A global view of writing & creativity
But there was another reason we liked the name as well. We wanted a name that reflected a commitment to a more global vision of literature.
As creative writers we work almost exclusively in English. But the brilliant and talented writers with whom we work come from multiple literary traditions, and as writers we draw widely on works in translation, from all over the world. We have learned a lot about creativity and writing from writers from non-Anglophone traditions.
So we wanted a name that paid honour to this diversity, and that could serve as a reminder that this business of carving dragons (and other things too) by fashioning words on the page was something all writers share, whatever their language and whatever the traditions on which they draw.
And that’s the story of why we settled on Wind&Bones!
Image: Section of Chen Rong, nine dragons (1244) via Wikimedia Commons.