Anger vs. Flow: Nynaeve, Blocks, and the Fluidity of Mars and Venus

Disclaimer: Years old WoT spoilers below.

How do you feel when you are accomplishing something? More specifically, how do you feel as you’re just starting to accomplish something? People seem to experience this in different ways. Some people call it ‘getting through writer’s block’, some call it ‘breaking through’, some call it ‘relaxing into flow’, for some it can feel like a ‘Zen’ acceptance.

In Robert Jordan’s[1] ‘Wheel of Time’ series, the magic system or ‘channeling’ is ostensibly divided into two halves: ‘Saidar’ and ‘Saidin’. ‘Saidar‘, wielded by women[2] in the books, is described as ‘a river of power which must be surrendered to or embraced in order to be controlled’. ‘Saidin‘, wielded by men, is described as a ‘raging torrent which must be subdued and dominated by a strong-willed channeler in order to be controlled’

Putting aside the obvious connotations, to me this feels like a description of how a writer (or anyone) might experience starting to work on different days. Some days, you ‘surrender’ to the flow of words coming forth from your brain, some days you have to wrestle your brain in order to get anything out, but once you’ve wrestled the flow can feel similar[3].

One of the main characters in the book, Nynaeve, generally considered to be ‘one of the most powerful female channelers alive’, had a block that prevented her from channeling unless she was angry. To me, this feels very similar to how one would channel Saidin, wrestling with one’s self, using strong negative[4] emotions such as anger.

As the women who wrestle with blocks to channel are considered ‘not formally trained’, or ‘wilders’, perhaps this means that all of the male channelers who have to wrestle every time just need a different sort of training, perhaps it’s the patriarchy[5].

Anyways, back to how *you* feel when you’re just starting to accomplish something. Are you fighting with your brain? Are you delicately moving things out of the way, removing distractions, and letting the flow happen?

Title Note: I originally wanted to entitle this ‘Saidin is from Mars, Saidar is from Venus’, but most of my readers don’t know my opinions of the fluidity of ‘Martians’ and ‘Venusians’, and so would react to the sexism inherent in the title.

[1]Including 3 books by Brandon Sanderson!

[2]There are exceptions to this absolute gendering in the novels, but I haven’t read that part, and it’s a little too spoilery for me (and while I always enjoy poking at binaries, it’s a little off-topic right now). As a taste, the two halves can be woven together, and indeed it is a major plot point when they do. (i.e. Linking, the bore, Nynaeve’s ter’angreal, etc…)

[3]I wonder if this is where the idea of the ‘taint’ in Saidin came from. That feeling that when you’re using anger or other types of force on your own brain, that the results are tainted somehow.

[4]Some say that anger is dual-use as an emotion. That is a longer discussion.

[5]It’s always the patriarchy.

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