I don’t know if I will hit publish on this post yet. I’ll write it and see how I feel at the end.
No one likes to share their pain. Sure we all grumble about trivial and mundane details of life. But when it really hurts, don’t we tend to retract, pull away, hide to lick the wounds? That was my first instinct. But I want my friends and readers to know what’s happening because it’s real and it’s happening now. This is not a story about what happened and how I coped. This is a story of how I’m not coping right now. And the only reason I’m sharing this is because I know it helps me tremendously to know I’m not alone. So, if you can relate, please let me know.
I have been writing this little novel for, oh, two years now. It started with my final assignment in a writing course. First three chapters and outline. My instructor, herself a multi-published author and editor, was very encouraging and enthusiastic. ”We will want to hear much more from this character. Keep going and let us know what happens!”
I wasn’t sure if I would ever finish it because right about the time I started it we were uprooting, traveling and rethinking everything about our lives. It was more than a hobby though relegated to the few free hours I had to spend with four kids and an active household. This story idea literally descended from some where in space and crashed like a meteor into my heart. As my heroine grew, so did I. As her story revealed itself, so did mine. The day I finished, when I felt satisfied that I had poured everything out and arranged it the most compelling package possible, I collapsed in sobs of relief. I told myself that no matter what, victory was mine. I whittled 50,000 words into a cohesive story form without blatant errors or omissions. Though I knew it needed several editing overhauls, I did it.
While waiting impatiently for beta readers feedback, I took the summer to play, submitted the novel to a publisher who has yet to get back to me (though they sent an email and said they liked it very much) and thought about what to do next. An editor was recommended to me to get a thorough critique or help with editing the entire manuscript. These services are not cheap so I went with the critique to start. I figured if I got something useful out of the critique then I’d know whether I want to work with the editor further.
Like all good stories, plot points are often planted in the beginning. When I contacted her she said, “Send me your first ten pages so we don’t waste each other’s time.” I found that a little intimidating but assumed that meant she’d read enough to know immediately whether something was worth her time. In a few days she replied, “Intrigued. Let’s proceed.”
So I followed her instructions. Had the novel bound double sided in a book at Staples Copy Center. Sent it FedX to her home. And waited. Tried not to count the days from when I posted it. Unsure how long she would take with it. Then I got her email, “I am almost finished. Do you have time to talk tomorrow or the next day?”
Almost finished? How can you be ready to hand a critique to someone when you’re almost finished?
I rearranged my afternoon duties (got a sitter) and got my note pad and pen ready. I had no idea what to expect. Actually, deep down I knew.
I realized later that I had been posting little persevere quotes and images on social media for days. It was as if I already knew what I was about to hear and wanted to bolster my fragile ego to weather the storm. Michael Jordan talking about all his missed shots and blown games on his way to success. ”Everything comes to you in the right moment, be patient.” or “Hold the vision. Trust the process.”
She started off with the expected positives. Rich imagination. Incredible magical realism. New ideas that really made me think. Amazing passages that pulled the reader in. Really excellent work. You are a born story teller.
And then, once all the niceties were out of the way. BAM. Rookie mistakes. Too ethereal. Magic is fine but unrealistic magic is not fine. Death by cliches. You should move the finale to Mexico instead of Peru because Mexico is a nice place and more believable (to her). You really should put more emphasis on the two male characters and their relationships with Freya. Maybe have her kiss them both. Have you read Twilight? And above all, add more descriptive passages to every scene and character because it moves too fast. Chapters too short (laughed repeatedly about this one). Have you read Harry Potter? Clearly you are a visual writer but since this is not a movie, you need to really add in every detail possible. Please don’t waste the readers time on unimportant details. You totally missed an opportunity in this chapter to create so much magic. Why didn’t you milk this? This should have been over the top drama. I really didn’t like Freya very much. She’s too dark and moody. Was this saturation enough?
But beyond all the (mostly) constructive feedback, her joyous dissection of my baby was tortuous. Was she really trying to help me? Or just tear me down to size? Did she forget I am a human being who has worked on this passionately while (at times) fending off my own children in order to work? I had never suggested to her that I thought I was all that. Just a first time novelist hoping for some guidance and help. Maybe once the dust settles I will be able to sort through her rampage and take what’s useful and leave the rest. Right now I am huddled in the corner, soothing the battered remains of two years of work.
Maybe tough love works for some people. I don’t think I was really prepared for it.
For now, her words haunt me:
Now is when you will decide if you really want to write.
Yesterday I wanted to give up. I took her criticism as an indictment and couldn’t even bring myself to spend time with girl friends. I showed up at a party and a stranger said, “You look so sad.” I just wanted to be alone. I sobbed in my car so I wouldn’t upset my kids or worry my husband.
Today, I am still raw but realize that she has her own filters and may not have been the best first editor. Or maybe she was the perfect first editor. To get my ass in gear and thicken my skin. It’s inevitable that readers and critics will have much to say about this story when it becomes public. Not everyone will love it. That is easier to stomach in theory.
Thank you to all of you who have been so supportive on this journey. Even if you are the only people who ever read FREYA WOLF, I won’t give up. Writing to me is like air, it’s in my blood and carries my inner world on wings. It’s not about wanting to write. I have no choice.
I was driving home from school drop off this am, listening to J Lo sing about wanting to dance again and it hit me. An idea so powerful that it sent chills from the top of my head all the way down to my feet. I saw the divine Goddess gathering all the archetypes, the spirits, the energies, the ancient seers, healers, so-called witches and Goddesses together in a circle. A reunion of the feminine soul throughout history and around the world. Every incarnation of her joined together, holding hands and raising the vibration of the earth and every creature on the planet in love and healing. It was Freya, the Norse Goddess and namesake of my novel, who calls them together!
Freya’s Circle is the name that immediately came to mind. Since ancient times when women gather in circles they magnify their power. Perhaps a reason why this practice has been taboo and linked to dark magic. It’s time to reclaim the love and healing power of the divine feminine, something women intuitively understand.
It could be that my nighttime reading of “Women Who Run With The Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes is fusing with my dreamtime! I highly recommend this robust and illuminating book about reclaiming the Wild Woman archetype as a vital and powerful aspect of the feminine.
As I prepare for the TOOLS FOR AWAKENING IN BUSINESS radio show this am, I saw this excerpt from a fellow soul-journer Jeff Brown’s piece APOLOGIES TO THE DIVINE FEMININE (from a warrior in transition).
I apologize for my inability to distinguish the benevolent warrior from the heartless warrior, a reflection of my own confusion dealing with the battlefields of yore. When I opened my heart too wide, I was vulnerable to attack from warring factions. I was conditioned to believe that I had to stay rigid, focused, prepared for any eventuality, in the desire to protect myself and others from attack. But I went too far, and closed too tight, and eradicated the bridge between our hearts. I am seeing this now and I am sorry.
I apologize for my perpetual absence, a reflection of my own inner absence, my inability to connect from a heart jammed tight by unresolved emotions that I did not have the tools to work through. I still lack many of these tools, but I am open to their emergence.
I apologize for my inability to distinguish relationship from war. Like a warrior in enemy territory, I would sneak in and out of your life in the night, plundering and selfishly taking what I needed, then crawling back to the other side of the abyss with the spoils. I gave little back for fear that I would become vulnerable to attack. I had war on the brain and I could not see the river of love waiting on the other side of the battlefield. I now recognize that love is the antidote for the armoured warrior, but I could not drink the antidote in my driven state.
There is great need for healing in this world. It is time to heal the feminine soul.