Hello, my insanely beautiful Writerly Women. I hope you haven't felt that I've completely abandoned you and our community. Without going into a lot of detail that nobody needs to hear (!), I WAS abandoning mySELF, and I needed to take some time to go into the deep and see what's really in that place I've never wanted to visit. Turns out, I actually want to LIVE there - in the most authentic identity I've experienced in my almost 70 years. I would have let you know I'd be gone for a while, but I actually didn't know that myself at the time. It is good to be back with you, and if you're still here, I hope it feels good to you too.
The last time we talked -- April 16-- oh, my gosh! two months ago! -- I challenged you to a diamante poem. (Here's the link in case this isn't ringing any bells). The 'assignment' was designed to help you come back to your passion for your project, and you absolutely rose to the occasion. You were to start with your current state of doubt or despair or frustration and move toward a state of trust, confidence or at least into the give-it-another-go zone. Let's take a look at some of the results:
INSPIRING LIFE-CHANGING BOOK ENCOURAGEMENT
DARK SORROW DOUBTING
Faking Hollowing Lacking
Rejection Shame Space Seed
Being Stabilizing Seeing
Flowing Waxing Rejoicing
Daydream Fantasy Nightmare Actuality
Pressing Dragging Boring
LILY, our artist in residence, put hers on canvas as you can see above. Here is a full representation of her original passion for her Who Dee Yeh stories. We can see a great deal from the way we approach our funky places. Pam and Kate started with the magic that took them into their stories in the first place and traced the path into near paralysis. Yeah, when we go to writers' conferences and come back discouraged or send out our work with such hope and experience rejection and disappointment, that's the slippery slope we slide down. EMII began with the funkiness she was feeling and made her way back to the wholeness. If we flip them, as LILY did, we can see both approaches -- and discover that the only way back to the passion and the inspiration and the straight up fun of creating is to confront that doubt -- name it -- put a face on it -- and then take it down so we can rediscover what is always there.
The jewel that is the idea.
The glimmer of hope.
The sparkle of your own voice.
The courage to say what you know to be true.
The energy that only God as you understand God can release in your soul.
EVERY creative person -- EVERY writer -- EVERY maker of any kind has to repeat this process again and again. It is not one and done. My own recent soul-finding expedition has etched that into my experience.
Regretting Sagging Shriveling
Doubt Resignation Growth Wisdom
Regrouping Seasoning Knowing
So how does that help us right now, as writers, in a practical sense? I've shared this with you before, but I think it bears repeating. There are three steps in making any difficult decision, including the creative ones. I'll walk you through it. This arises, by the way, from the intensive year-long yoga program I'm taking.
First, what is the choice you're faced with? Do you continue with your current project or scrap it and start over with something different? Keep writing or give the whole thing up completely? Make the revisions suggested by an editor, agent or writing critique group, or send it out again as is? Stay with the Christian publishing world or venture out into the general market? The variety of decisions we have before us is practically endless, but just choose the one you most need to look at right now. Got that? Now, the steps:
For the sake of example, my most recent decision was whether to stop writing or restructure my novel for a fourth draft.
STEP ONE: What do you know about the situation you're in? Not the what if's or the things you think you know (but actually don't.) Simply, what are the facts?
For me, those were: The novel wasn't going to work the way it was; it was unwieldy and unfocused and WAY too long. My vast experience told me it was unpublishable. Besides, I wasn't writing what I really wanted to say. And I am almost 70. At the same time, I have written and traditionally published 125 books. I have the skills. I am of sound mind and body. And I know a great deal more about life than I have ever known.
Can you see how that sticks strictly to what I knew to be true? The doubts and worries did not appear on that list.
Give it a go before you move to Step 2.
STEP TWO: What is yours to do? Do NOT consider what the results might be or how other people are going to feel or what they'll think. Forget the market, the trends, the chances you'll be published. Only consider what is in your skill set, your current status and your soul. This takes prayer. It requires listening and accepting. If you find yourself wrestling with it, take a break and then come back and start over. Remember, no pros and cons. No trying to predict results.
That looked like this in my case. I am a writer and have been for forty years. It has been my life's work to create stories that may move people closer to discovering their true identity, the essential self. That has occurred in my readers. Now that I have experienced deeply how that self-discovery actually happens, it is mine to write this story, this novel, that explores that purpose in a new way, a deeper way. It is mine to be both professional and unabashedly creative. That is all.
As you look at what your time of reflection reveals to you, ask yourself a sub-question. What is my motivation for determining that this is mine to do? Am I choosing this so I'll impress someone -- feel okay about myself -- not be a quitter -- please everybody -- make more money. That means examining your values. Be honest with yourself about your values. YOUR values. Let your motivation arise from there.
STEP THREE: What is my state? Once you've made your decision, before you act on it, check in with your system. You've been doing a lot of thinking. Now FEEL. Is your body stable, or are you nauseous or sleepless or headachey? What's going on in your mind? Is it calm and sure? Or is it still like a hamster wheel in there? How about emotionally? Do you have a sense of well being? Or are we talking anxiety or a bummed-out sensation? There's a difference between the natural nervousness that comes with taking a big step or having to disappoint someone in order to do what is yours to do -- and that full-blown this-is-not-RIGHT physical reaction. Even if you have concerns, there is a peace at the center of yourself when you've made the best choice for yourself. If you don't have that peace, examine your motivation again.
In my case, once I let go of regret that I didn't figure out sooner that I needed to regroup and restructure, I did feel grounded and centered. I find myself eager to get to my desk every morning and once again I'm thinking about the story and talking to the characters when I'm driving or taking a walk or doing the dishes -- without bumping into all the walls. I'm journaling with my protagonist. I'm creating an imagery notebook. I've booked a trip to Concord in September where I'll go my final edit. That is mine to do. I know because it feels authentic. At last.
That's a whole bunch to take in, but will you give it a shot? You can even just start by telling us what decision you're faced with. Get it down to its element and then share, will you? I will be here. I hope you will be too.