My Shadow

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Well, after my post yesterday I went to work on finding a place to write in my office. My desk had become a dumping ground for my stuff. After that I worked on plot. Sunlight has been written for three years this month but it has not felt right. Using Martha Anderson’s The Plot Whisper book as my guide I now see that some of my chapters that I have used as summary and flashbacks now need to move to the front to build the plot. Plus, some of them need to be rewritten with conversation.

Still no writing though.

Every sun casts a shadow, and genius’s shadow is Resistance. As powerful as is our soul’s call to realization, so potent are the forces of Resistance arrayed against it.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

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Last fall I hired a writing coach to help me finish my book Sunlight, my memoir of how I found myself. It was hard to hear that I needed to have it more focused – re-write the whole thing – there are too many themes. Yet I am not surprised. I knew something was not right.

I have stopped working on Sunlight because of this daunting idea of redoing it all. My dear husband hears me complain that it is not done yet does not see me taking any effort to complete it so he refers me to a book called “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. He has been suggesting this book for about a year now. Usually I sluff off the stuff he tells me to read. Why? Cause it is our relationship. He always tells me what I need and I always feel he has no idea. Well, this time he was right.

I borrowed the book from the library and it is very motivating. Quick short chapters. Pressfield’s language is one that kicks me in the butt – easy and to the point. It also is giving me a new story to tell myself when I don’t want to write and recognize when the “Resistance” is taking control. Strangely perhaps, I now talk to my muse. This is not something Pressfield says to do but it is helping me.

I began setting my alarm for 4 or 5 in the morning so I can get up and write. Now, I have done this before and the result was me turning off the alarm, telling myself I was crazy and going back to sleep. Then I would wake up at a later hour regretting it. Aching all day.

This goes on for months but now after some Pressfield inspiration I hear the alarm and then lay there asking, “Muse? Are you there?” It is a feeling of a presence, of not being alone. I don’t see a face or picture anyone in particular. it is more like a nebulous but I feel her more than see her.

When writers block kicks in I can simply write, “Why are you stuck, Muse?” This helps to keep the pen moving. This is something Pressfield says, he says that we are not to take our writing personally. It comes from a source outside of ourselves. I agree.

One thing I have realized in reading Rudolf Steiner’s work is the importance of feeling something with your entire body. You need to have a physical response to what you learn. So, when I read Pressfield talking about writing in this way my heart started beating faster and my reading sped up. I was excited. My body was physically responding but so was my mind. His words reached me. No writing tip will help you unless you feel it with all of your being.

This is off topic but last night I was helping my oldest with an essay. She is bored to tears with the topic. She has no interest in history because she can not identify with it in any way. Her essay is about “Who Is Lousi Riel?” As I read I shared with her interesting things that I discover. She found it very intriguing that she did an essay not too long ago on J. A. MacDonald and now sees how he is connected to Louis Riel. She smiled and you could see her body bounce a bit due to this realization. She may not remember much about J. A. MacDonald or Louis Riel but she will always  remember they were in the same time period because she had a physical reaction. If you react physically it is an outward expression that something has entered into your body on a more spiritual level.

Now back to the topic at hand, me rewriting Sunlight. To my dismay when I write lately, in the last week, I am only able to write for 20 minutes at a time. When I wrote Sunlight I was writing for 90 minutes. This bums me out a bit because I want to finish this project and rewriting it in its entirety seems daunting. The muse does what she needs to do I guess. Balancing this idea with me working through the emotions and baggage of what a memoir brings this may be all the writing I can do which is better than none at all. Moving forward at a snails pace is better than not moving at all.

Pressfield tells a story in the above mentioned book about living in a house for a year to finish a writing project. He moved away from everyone he knew with the goal of writing, or die trying. Writing was all he did. No TV. No telephone. Just writing. The determination to do this inspires me.

I move forward.

Another week is upon me. What will my writing give me this week?

The Disappointing Manila Envelope

The Manila EnvelopeMy husband hands me a large manila envelope. I look at the return address to see who would send me such a letter. It was my friend Dawn. She has been reading over my book Sunlight, being the first line of defense on the project. At first I feel excitement. I think that I’m ecstatic on finally having the whole book read and suggestions on cleaning it up. Only it feels rather light. Not 140 pages that is for sure.  Not even 70 pages if she printed it double-sided. Disappointment gently lays a blanket over me gentle like so as not to bring me back to reality.

I open the envelope and see my manuscript with a note on top. She wants me to rework the entire document based on her suggestions in the first 52 pages. Argh.  A brick of despair hits my chest and sticks there causing my shoulders to sulk forward.

I flip through the work she has returned and her pen has bled all over the pages. Changes are needed everywhere. I’m absolutely baffled. I’ve made changes to the first 65 pages 3 times. Each time I had it read over by a different person, a friend acting as editor. The last time was by someone with surmountable experience, the writer in residence at my library. As I went through each editor less and less changes needed to be made. Now it is returned to me with changes needed everywhere again. Defeat.

On top of this I had shown the ending of the book to a writing teacher of a class I’m taking and he says it is incomplete. It is a living memoir so perhaps I haven’t even lived the ending yet. What a daunting feeling to think that this book may not be published for sometime if I still have to live out my ending. I thought what I have gone through so far would part one. Perhaps I would write a sequel later.

I now wonder if this book will be published this summer. I need to work up the courage and energy to clean up the story. It is so hard to relive what has happened in the not-too-distant past by reading the story over and over.

Yet, if I leave it this sense of despair, an aching heaviness on my chest, will tug at me and weigh me down until it is done.  I must complete this project.  Work on improving the ending and make the changes my friend suggests.  I must complete it this summer. One step at a time.  One page at a time.  It will be complete.  I can do this.  The brick falls from my chest as a new, stronger power takes hold of me.  I shake myself back to reality, to the present moment, and throw the blanket off of me.  I can do this.  No problem.