I can’t believe it’s 2016. And even though 2015 was one of the most exciting years of my life — full of very special moments, lots of travel and moving to a new home — I couldn’t be happier that it’s a new year. After all, enough already! Good times are great, but even those can cause stress.
And I haven’t even mentioned the years before 2015. Let’s just say… I’ve moved 5 times and 10,000 miles in the last 5 years and I welcome some peace and quiet this new year, and maybe, just maybe, an opportunity to complete a novel that I began four years ago. (Fingers crossed.)
After working on the aforementioned novel religiously for 2 years, I took a break — mostly due to life circumstances and a change in living arrangements, compounded with new work commitments. Well, that was the physical part of the break. But on another level entirely, I guess I broke that golden rule of keeping ones dreams to oneself.
My Mom used to always tell us, “Be careful who you share your dreams with — when you allow someone into your precious world, you can become susceptible to their opinions.” And the other side of that is that if there is even an inkling of doubt about a dream, sharing it with the wrong (aka doubtful/pessimistic/not on the same page) person, it can vanish faster than a blink. Seriously, I’ve experienced this before with other dreams. They’ll be burning inside of me, generating this vortex of power. You know that feeling you get when you’ve birthed a brilliant idea and you really really could turn the world into a happy place with your joy? Well, that’s where I stayed for nearly two years and boy, was it the greatest romance of my life. My characters and story became a world in which I danced and slept and rejoiced. Every event — large or small — sparked an idea and my outer world was in harmony with my inner world; together they made my heaven. Two years of heaven.
But — RECORD SCRATCH — before I paint too much fairyland here, I can tell you that I was responsible with my creative journey for my story during those first two years, meaning 1) Only trusted writing teachers and classmates knew details about my story, 2) I was the most disciplined writer I knew — I wrote at least 6 days a week and set myself up for success, and 3) Besides my writing teachers and classmates, I rarely spoke of the story at all which means that I kept the fire alive and burning inside where it belonged.
So there’s no doubt that had I continued to practice the three above, I would be long finished with this book, have had it professionally edited and be shopping it around.
But, here I am and it’s year 4. Not only is this piece not complete, I have barely touched it for any length of time in the last couple of years. Now as I mentioned, I did move. A LOT. And had major life changes. But, I don’t think my lack of passion for this project left me because of that.
I think it left because I started talking about it too much.
I don’t know why I did this, but I clearly remember the day when I was getting together with a new friend for the first time and she had a slick way of asking questions and getting information. Before I knew it, she was having a 3 hour discussion about my characters with me. About my story! Imprinting all of her ideas and opinions… on and on she went until hours later I felt like I was trying to get a word in edgewise about my story! And I remember feeling ill at the time, going home as if I had betrayed someone.
I had. Myself.
Now it wasn’t from a single incident that my passion waned. It was an unraveling that happened over a period of time. All I’m saying is that I can trace it back to that point in time, which is a healthy thing to recognize, but not something I want to dwell on for obvious reasons.
In the past year I’ve tried to find my love and passion for this particular story again many, many times. I tried re-outlining my entire story (much needed effort!) which took about 2 months, tried Camp NaNoWriMo last July (you can read about my experience here), began Mary Carroll Moore’s Your Book Starts Here (amazing book for motivated writers — I made it to Ch. 4 and will revisit again when I get my mojo back), and even started this blog. However, nothing got the fire started the way it was blazing 4 years ago. 🙁
To be fair, I have been freelance writing for a few content mills over the last year and helping a friend develop websites which involves a lot of writing. So yes, I have been writing, just not writing my passion(less — at the moment) project.
So what’s changed recently?
I had a few moments of clarity recently. After all but giving up on this story (a historical fiction piece that I’ve researched to death!) I suppose I did surrender it on some level. I didn’t give up on it, but more and more I’ve started to believe that maybe I somehow missed my window of opportunity for it. Maybe — as I heard Liz Gilbert mentioned in an interview I saw recently — the “creative powers that be” found someone else to write the story since I didn’t get off my a&^ and finish it fast enough.
But do I believe that? No I do not. I read about my characters years ago in college and started researching them when I got into a writing class, and I knew these characters were my people the moment they came to life on the page. I LOVED these characters from 150 years ago as if they’d been my family and I felt a connection to them like I had rarely felt before. My love for these characters and their story is what drove me to start writing more seriously. One night, while sitting at my desk (in candlelight), I came across a letter that one of my characters wrote about another — years after his death — and sobbed. And I mean sobbed like I was mourning the death of a best friend. My heart boiled over and I cried and cried and cried my way through this heart wrenching letter. I felt like it was my letter and I had somehow written it 150 years before. That night solidified my commitment, so when my passion began to fade, I resisted and resisted. And tried everything under the sun. And cried. And mourned. And finally surrendered.
So last month I decided to not feel bad about what I was NOT doing with this book. I mean, I still wanted to want to write it, but I wasn’t going to beat myself up about it. And I have been working my tail off the last four months writing content for my friend’s websites— as much as 10 hours a day — and I figure that since we have a finish date for completing these sites by May 2016, I’ll embrace this freely and let go of my book until then. Then, re-access.
But then, with this plan in place, something else happened. I was going to sleep one night and decided to just think about my long lost love (aka book in progress). Not write it, just think about it. And as I lay there in a half-sleep state, my imagination took over. And soon, I was seeing aspects of my story that never occurred to me before. Meaning: in this imaginative experience, I was free to experience my story with no mental restrictions. Some would say this is a meditative state, but it could just be a contemplative state where the imagination takes over. While I was there watching things unfold, a deeper story was revealed to me. Not the nuts and bolts of plot and characters, but the richer world that shapes these guys. I saw scenarios I had never seen and saw several scenes that would be connecting points for some of the larger plot points. And after the expereince, I grabbed my pen and notebook asfastasIcould and started writing as much down as I could. Pages and pages and pages later, I collapsed into a deep slumber, happier than I’ve been in a long time (well, about my book anyway!).
The coolest part about this? It’s happened several times this month. On Sunday morning (after contemplating on the story), I wrote an entire chapter. Seems the well isn’t dried up after all. WHEW!!! I can step down from the ledge!
In this new and freeing space, I feel so damn hopeful. I’m still committed 1000% to helping my friend with her websites and that will involve writing hundreds and hundreds of articles between now and May, but I love the new well that’s opened up with my creative writing. And no, I’m not making any grand plans right now. No, I’m not going to outline another thing right now. Thank goodness almighty that NaNoWriMo isn’t happening anytime soon because I don’t know if I could honestly commit to it right now.
So that’s where I am and it feels ammaazziingg to get it off my chest! (I seriously feel like I just had a therapy session.) And it’s late and I’m traveling 6000 miles in a couple of days and haven’t started packing, so I’m going to crawl into bed with my books: The Night Circus (yes, I’ve been reading this for at least 6 months! YES, it is awesome so maybe I’m just savoring it!) and Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction (definitely worth an entire post on it’s own so I won’t get into it now, but it’s a lovely book for writers that explores not only the craft of writing, but also the oft-forgotten creative imagination and it’s significance in the writing process. I LOVE THIS BOOK!).