In the past month, I’ve reinvented the universe, abandoned my baby, and discovered the power to be found in completely giving up. That’s right–as I write this, I am on the waning side of a full-fledged creative block. I realized my novel needed to be hacked to pieces in order to be fixed. So I decided to take a break. And I let it go.
And life has shown me so much since then: the story has unfolded to greater depths than I thought possible; I’ve learned more about myself as a human being, and as an artist, and as a writer than ever before; and I’ve renewed and strengthened my faith in that unnameable force that compels us to do what we do. I am grateful, and humbled, and in love, once again, with the sometimes painful, sometime beautiful, always transformative art of storytelling.
But during these transformative weeks of late, I went to some pretty dark places, asked some pretty cruel questions, and thought some pretty mean thoughts. It took some time to get here, to this let-go-and-let-god(dess)(es) place that is working out for me remarkably well.
One of the dark things in my mind was: yeah, maybe you’re good with words. Maybe you’re good with building expansive worlds and subplots, and metaphors, and making a scene heart-wrenching. But are you a good storyteller? Do you have any real talent for the structure? For compelling your readers to keep going and to care?
The truth is, I don’t know if I have that talent. And I could go on and describe the pit of despair that I sat in while I contemplated that, but instead I will tell you this: all that pain I felt, thinking I had no talent for stories, knowing how much I want to tell them, was just the pure and simple evidence of my soul screaming out it doesn’t matter if you have talent. You have love. Stop belittling your passion and desire, and just dare.
Stories… are sacred. They are vast, multitudinous, and, like human beings and snow flakes, no two are the same. There is no wrong way to tell a story, just as there is no story that is completely worthless. If it was told with the sincere desire to tell a story–a desire as real, as important, and as ineffable as to drink or eat or be loved–it is good.
I know, it takes more than that for a book to sell to a publisher. But some part of me knows that my desire, my passion, is so strong and unwavering, such a driving force behind my existence, that I can and will learn to tell stories in the way that they need to be told. No matter what.
In hindsight, clear of the fog of despair, I don’t actually think I’m a bad storyteller. I think that I’m impatient, and enjoy the wild adventure of seat-of-the-pants writing too much to outline and make sure my pacing and structure work before I dive in. As much as I love spontaneity, my stories tend to be massive, fat, hearty things, huge adventures that require planning. I can’t escape that. Even The Poppet and the Lune, written and posted sometimes the same day, had at least a vague outline in my head before I sat down to begin the whole thing.
And I can’t escape the fact that sometimes my stories take longer to percolate than I would like. I have to learn patience–I am not a fast writer by nature, though I can pump out thousands of words a day. But, especially if I am unable to come up with an outline, I have to recognize that maybe my story isn’t ready to be put on the page just yet.
It’s not, and nor will it ever be, a step by step process. To conceive and create a story, and then a manuscript, has more to do with intuition, feeling, and emotions than experience, knowledge, and understanding. I suppose that’s why I keep journaling about the process here and elsewhere, despite my repetition, with the hopes that I might keep gaining insight, enough to avoid the same pitfalls–and maybe help navigate the new.
All that said… I feel so incredibly blessed to be where I am: so much closer, every day, to knowing how to tell this story, and future stories; I am humbled by my recognition of my shortcomings in the past, and I am proud to have survived that, grown, and matured–I am, right now, the best storyteller and writer I have ever been; and I am so, so grateful for the incredible support I have received and known through all of you reading these entries, and writing your own stories in your own entries, and offering the world and me even the slightest assurance that it will be okay.
Life is so strange, so beautiful, so full of surprises. I suppose we have no choice but to be okay with that… because to resist it, even when it seems like it makes sense to cut yourself off? It hurts. But when you go with it, just let go and let god(dess)(es), it is such a beautiful ride.
So I’m working in that. I think I will be until the day I die. And I guess I have to be okay with that, too. :)