Photo: The Fates are often cruel but, The Universe is often kind.
A waning crescent moon was waiting for me this morning just outside the office window at 5:15. I am usually up and writing at 5, but this week has been a little bit rough, so I chose to sleep in 3 mornings… a bit uncharacteristic for me. I pushed myself to get out and put in my hour of writing before muffin baking and knitting this morning, and I was rewarded with my favorite sight. There really is nothing like a perfect view of the beautiful moon…
And that is only one example of how my week has gone. I had a week full of doubt and insecurity, but at every turn, when I chose patience instead of panic, I was rewarded.
I am going to start, actually, a few weeks back. My online writing group, which I’ve been part of for 2 years now, did a secret Santa over Christmas and we all decided to exchange things that were personally symbolic and meaningful (because we’re such writers). Everyone else got their gifts, posting marvelous treasures in the forum thread… but mine never showed up. I felt terrible and responsible, convinced that someone stole the little box while we were away on vacation. I apologized up and down while my Santa simply said that he’d send me something else… and that’s where we tabled it.
Meanwhile, we all had work to do. The month of January has been dedicated to editing instead of composing. I finished my draft for Vi last month, remember? I have been spending my time trying to organize the scenes, chapters, and plot to make them into a coherent narrative before I really dig in. It has been very satisfying to take all of these puzzle pieces of my own design and then make them fit into the picture I know that they can be.
But I’m learning that this edit is turning into an almost full rewrite. Not start-from-scratch, but certainly spending a lot of time rewriting scenes, changing names, adding and removing details… and the novel just gets bigger… and while I’m excited about where it is going, I wonder if this project, which started as a short story, is going to be one of those legendary books that just eats the author and never gets finished…I’ve spent a lot of time with my Scrivener software, considering and reconsidering, re-arranging, adding and subtracting. I haven’t read a single line of that manuscript yet. True editing cannot begin until I’m organized and also, not until I’m done with Meadowlark.
I know that Meadowlark has been up on the site since November but I’ve actually been running it through the critique process via a writing site called Scribophile. You post your work 3,000ish words at a time and have other writers give you notes. At first, I was really enjoying the process: feedback was really positive, I liked the system, I was making connections with other writers… but because you can only post so much at a time, I’m seeing a lot of the flaws. First, it is taking forever to get through this story… I really thought I’d be done by now, but I am probably looking at another two weeks before the entire work has been posted to the site. Second, only two readers have stuck with the story from the beginning, reading each part and being able to critique it based on the whole work and not just a snippet. This is really critical.
And I think that is the most frustrating part that really came to a head this week. I have very few trusted, consistently good readers to read my work and give me feedback. I can type until my fingers come off, but if I don’t have a good group of trusted readers, I cannot grow. Readers on Scribophile usually just “drive by” on stories, reading a portion mid-story and then bringing up stuff that would be obvious to someone who had been in since the beginning. Not helpful. Very frustrating. Then there is the sugar-sweet positive feedback. I don’t want you to tell me how great I am (I don’t believe you), I want you to tell me what I can do to make this the best story I can write. After getting two absolutely useless crits this week, I felt extremely discouraged. They weren’t negative, they just weren’t helpful because the two readers dropped in mid-story and were confused by important points and were like, “this just didn’t pop for me.” Obviously, bro. I wanted to take all of my stuff down and completely abandon that community. I started googling for local in-person writing groups (and couldn’t really find any) and considering other avenues (even, for the briefest of moments, not writing at all). It was only after talking to The Husband about it (and seeing his own emotional outburst about it on my behalf) that I had to step back and tell myself to check my emotions. Getting defensive doesn’t make my writing better.
By Tuesday night, despite having a really cool breakthrough with Vi, I was feeling especially discouraged and blue about the whole thing. The Husband brought the mail in with him when he got home from work, in it was a note for an undeliverable package. Final notice, was stamped on it 3 times. Thanks, you guys. I had a lot to do on Wednesday morning, but adding a trip to the post office wasn’t a big deal.
It was my secret santa gift. I was so excited about it, I opened it in the car while still in parking lot. The featured picture was inside: two boxes of legos for the boys, a tray of chocolate cookies now too old to eat :(, a handmade clay eight-pointed wheel and the best note I’ve ever gotten.
“You’re pretty cool. But everyone forgets just how cool they are from time to time,” The card declared. “So this card is full of reminders from some of the (also cool) people you know! Now go on, open this puppy up and enjoy some well earned compliments!”
Seven quotes from seven people, each with high praise and kind words that I would never have expected. People who I really admire, published writers and hard working folk, who I’ve never actually met ‘cept through the internets, with little snippets of positive for me to stare at whenever I want. I read it twice and let myself tear up before putting it away. It was the greatest gift the universe (or, at least, my writing group) could give me.
Yesterday, I finally got the sort of productive crit that I was waiting for about Meadowlark. In fact, I got three for a few different places. Exactly what I needed to move forward, keep fixing, and post the next portion.
The lessons this week? Stay patient. Stay focused. Finish what you start. The high highs and the low lows are falsehoods, its all about the consistent middles where you are relentlessly working and encouraging toward others. Those moments are the ones that come back to you, especially when you don’t know how much you need them. When you keep up the good habits that you know work for you (even when they are hard), the universe rewards you. (The moon is, seriously, just beautiful this early morning). What I learned this week is that the mornings when it is easy to roll out of bed and bust out some words aren’t the mornings that actually matter. When I stick to my commitments despite their challenges, that is when I know I shine most. I’m grateful to the universe for the lessons this week.
The moon is out this Friday morning, dear reader. The little bit of light illuminates my front yard, and I have seen my fox emerge for a little hunting. I wish him success and a full belly. When he’s successful, the farmhouse is mouse free. What of you, dear reader? What are you hunting today? By daylight or moonlight, my wish is for your success. Moreover, I wish you good hunting in general: with a small moment of doubt before great triumph at the end. I wish you a hearty handshake and a “good job” from someone you admire today. I wish you a hug and a kiss on the cheek, an “I love you” and warm smile to greet you somewhere today. I wish you the opportunity to stare at this beautiful moon and commit to your next great adventure. I wish you something hot and just a little bit spicy, preferably something stir-fried and over rice, with extra ginger and garlic for good measure. I wish that it be served with a big mug of fantastic green tea, maybe even with the tea pot close by so that you can pour more whenever you want. Bonus points if you share that sumptuous meal with a friend. Extra Bonus points if it is hot pot instead of stir fry. (Oh my goodness, I’m hungry!) I wish you the warmth of knowing that you are profoundly and deeply loved, and the wisdom of knowing that you deserve that love without condition.
Until Monday. Take care.