It’s still the beginning of the academic year for lots of people. It’s the beginning of Persephone’s descent into the Underworld. It is the end of the Days of Awe–the stretch of days between Rosh Hashannah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur. To me, it feels like new beginnings.
Maybe it’s because these past ten days were the holiest days of the year for my ancestors. Maybe it’s because I am winding down from the riot of spring and summer, into the magic and quiet of autumn and winter. Perhaps I have not quite begun the actual descent into Hades, but I am on my way through the wilderness, to the entrance to the world below. I feel like I am on a pilgrimage, but with only a vague idea of my destination.
I’ve taken September off from writing. It felt like the right thing to do, when certain projects had obviously become too fraught with anxiety–when my creative self could not hear itself speaking through the clamor of outside voices. This is what happens, every time, when I worry too much about the “rules” of writing and publishing, or what other people say I can and cannot do. I have a bad habit of always believing other people know better than I do, and while it is excellent to be open to new ideas, it is never a good idea to let outside influence undermine your internal guidance.
I’ve lost the thread of too many good projects that way. Now, I am taking September to clear out those instructive voices, to reconnect with that part of myself that remembers why I write stories in the first place. I am taking the time to read books and cook good food, to explore new ideas and opportunities, and to reestablish a place for spirituality in my life. Writing will always be my most sacred act, but sometimes it loses its sacredness when it is tied up in earnings and reviews and the expectations of others. There must be other places for spirituality to shine through, safe spaces that have nothing to do with birthing stories into the world.
But what I have re-learned this month, as I have re-learned again and again in my life, is that some stories–the best stories, even–are for yourself. And some of those stories you need to keep to yourself–at least for a little while. For any kind of magic (and writing novels is the greatest kind of magic I know), there is power in containment, in holding a secret in your heart and your hands, feeling it take on shape and form. The stronger your knowing of the soul of that story before you bring it into the world, the easier it will be to feel your way through the telling of it. The stronger your knowing of the soul of the story, the easier it will be to know good advice when you hear it, too.