I am exactly halfway through November and guess what? I just hit 25,000 words on my manuscript. Seriously. I had to push through to get there. So much for my big, sexy lead in the first week of November.
I am nowhere near the outline I started with… in fact, I’ve just introduced characters who apparently have NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the original outline. But I still think I can salvage this.
Except…. now I’m flying blind, my outline is in shambles, and my main character is DEAD. The last part might be a lie.
For the most part, I think I’m holding it all together very well. But I don’t have any clean underwear for work tomorrow.
This year was my third year (in a row) of attending the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. You can find my virgin year blog here. My first year, I spent the whole time wandering around in wide-eyed awe, barely able to wrap my mind around the fact that I was in this incredible place with all of these WOMYN…. womyn who were building things and talking about ideas and taking care of each other and cooking food and supporting the dreams of other womyn.
Last year was even better. I had spent the entire magical year after my first fest building on the love and acceptance I found there. I became more involved in women’s causes and I became a big proponent of self-love. I had started meditating and abolishing negative self-talk and taking care of myself. At my second fest, I spent the entire time smiling and hugging. I did my workshifts in the kitchen because there is something so earth-motheresque about being part of nourishing hundreds, or thousands, or women with soul-feeding, healthy food. Made with love…. every time. My second fest was just beautiful from start to finish.
I went into my third year bit of trepidation. The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has been under attack in the media and an awful lot of online bullying has been aimed toward the womyn who perform and attend. Facebook was blowing up with heated arguments that culminated in some pretty violent and angry threats against the womyn who support fest. I had to keep reminding myself that the internet is not fest. People get behind their computers and say anything that comes to mind, regardless of civility or manners. There was never a question in my mind that I was going to fest – I will not let negative, angry people ruin something I love. Some people don’t want to understand why Michfest is so important and no matter how we try to explain, they will refuse to listen.
There’s a feeling I get when I first walk on the land… it’s almost a heaviness and as I set up my camp and greet old and new friends and head down to the meet and greet, I realize the heaviness is gravity. It’s the lowering of my shoulders, and the settling in of my hips to a slower, more relaxed walk. It’s the way my arms swing more naturally and my chin tilts up. It’s the weight of myself sinking into the land and allowing me to walk openly, without fear, without wondering if someone is going to make a comment at me when I walk down the street. It’s the safety, it’s the way I don’t have to keep my eyes constantly moving to see if there might be a threat approaching.
My plan for this year was to create my fest. I love what fest has given me, but this year, I wanted to give something back. I stated out loud that this was going to be the best fest of all time.
Thanks to a new friend, People Called Women Bookstore, the bookseller in the crafts tent at fest agreed to sell my books. It was the first time having my books sold at fest and I was elated. I must have told everyone I met because they ended up selling out of my books! (It might have had something to do with the fact that I offered to write wildly inappropriate sexual things in the covers.)
I submitted a workshop proposal to do my self-love seminar at fest. This is such an important mission in my life – helping to empower women to love themselves. 62 womyn showed up at the workshop and we had an amazing hour together. The energy exchange was incredible. We talked about ways to open yourself to self-love and ways to learn to recognize and abolish negative self-talk. We touched on bringing joy into your life even when life kind of sucks. After the workshop, many womyn approached me to talk about their own personal stories of self-doubt and perceived failures and lots of tears were shed. I got a barrage of friend requests on Facebook after that, and have even had several message exchanges from womyn who are continuing their self-love work and want to be able to touch base with questions or to share small victories or setbacks.
As my friend Mable said, “I OWNED this fest.” It was a spectacular fest in every way that it is possible to categorize. Love, sex, career, friendship, healing, health, fun, relaxation, work, new adventures…. Every aspect of this fest was beautiful to me. I made a new lifetime friend and I got closer to a woman who is becoming very important in my life. I opened myself up to any woman who wanted to talk or needed a hug. I tried to project nothing but love and acceptance to every woman in every way. It didn’t always work. I’m human. I sometimes disagreed with things that were said. I didn’t like every single woman I met. But I honored all of them. I loved all of them. I respected and valued all of the womyn who come to fest to see for themselves what it is like to escape the patriarchy once a year in one of the only safe spaces left to womyn in the world. I gave love. I gave all of the love I had as unconditionally as I could to every womyn I could.
And that was it. Again, no matter what the bullies say, no matter what anyone else thinks, no matter what organizations blacklist fest performers, at the end of the week, they can’t take away that important truth. Fest is about love. Fest is about womyn learning to love themselves and therefore, each other. Fest is about womyn remembering that women are worthy of that self-love.
Some womyn come to fest for the fun. Some for the music. Some for the friends. Some for sex. Some for sitting around a fire talking about ideas. Some come to work and some come to play. Some come to spend a week in quiet contemplation and some come to party and yell and do ALL OF THE THINGS. We all come to fest for different reasons, but ultimately, we all come to realize that whatever reasons brought us to fest,, we are all coming away with the same lesson – that is, whatever you have been told about your place in this society is wrong. You are good enough. You are amazing. You are worth your own self-love.
Womyn are often raised without that understanding. We are raised to keep our voices down. We’re told that behavior is inappropriate for a girl. We’re told we aren’t pretty enough or thin enough or happy enough. We’re told to smile so that we don’t make people uncomfortable. We’re taught that we aren’t as valuable in the workplace as men. We’re taught that we need to learn all of the ways to change ourselves in order to avoid being raped or assaulted or beat up, as if it’s our fault that male violence isn’t controlled by the perpetrators. Womyn are in danger every day in every way and the Michigan Womyn’s music festival wraps a protective arm around us when we walk onto the land. Fest embraces us with love and lets us cast off the danger, the doubt, and the fear. Fest gives us that week of freedom from the oppression so that we can build our strength to go back into the world and try to use it to offer ourselves a shield from the aggression and violence. Fest SAVES womyn. It saved me. I need fest. And more than that, I need for girls who are growing up right now to come to fest and realize that there is a place where they are valued and honored and lifted and free.
Okay, I officially love my publisher. Seriously. So. As most of you know by now, I have been struggling with the second book. I keep turning it over in my head, trying new stuff, fighting myself about it, wondering about it, writing, erasing, rewriting. I just couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around this story.
Finally, I knew that I needed some professional help. I did two things. I sent a plea for help out to a trusted friend (and there will be more on that in a later blog, I’m sure.) And, I send a message to my publisher telling her that I was having a crisis.
She came back with a request (?) to see what I have so far. I sent it to her. She sent me back several questions asking where I was going with it. I answered the best that I could. Just trying to answer the questions helped give me some clarification. She countered with a reason why I really shouldn’t go with one of the plot points I had been planning. She was right. She gave me several more pointers as a writer. She gave me a couple of pointers as a friend…
She put on the publisher’s hat and gave me a deadline.
A deadline. You know, a deadline is actually a REALLY FANTASTIC IDEA! I had a deadline on my last book. I imposed it on myself, but I sat there and worked my butt off every single night to finish it because I told myself that I was going to be done with that book before I left the Virgin Islands. I didn’t want to be trying to work on it while getting rid of most of my stuff, moving overseas with a dog and a cat, extricating myself for a long-term relationship, leaving behind my home, and going back to my old home and family. It was too much. I knew it would be tossed aside. So I finished it *before* I left island and I did set it aside and forget about it for a month. Then I started editing it. And working on figuring out how to publish. And all of that took a long time, mainly because I had no idea what I was doing, but the very important thing… the MAIN thing, the fact that I should not have pushed out of my head is that I wrote the book on a deadline. And it wasn’t a leisurely deadline, either. I pushed myself. *AND* I was working and going to school full time. So now that I am not working and I have all of this free time, I somehow seem to find it easy to tell myself that I will work on it “later.”
Well, no longer. I have a deadline now. I have a job. I have actually written out a schedule. This is my work schedule. I do not get to skip work. From now on, certain hours are devoted to writing and I will be writing during those hours. No Facebook, no phone calls, no errands, not even blogging or marketing for the last novel. That stuff can be done after hours.
As of right now, I am employed again. I am a writer. This is not my hobby, this is not a game. This is my craft. It’s important. And I’m going to do it.
So, thank you Chris at Sapphire Books Publishing who is not only a fantastic person, but a tough, take no shit publisher. I needed that kick in the head. I needed it.
And for the record, I wrote 1500 words today after I got that message. Hey, I’m on a deadline now.
I have to admit that I never understood the urge to co-author a book. Oh, sure, if Neil Gaiman asked me to co-author a book with him, I would say, “Yes,” but only because it’s Neil Gaiman and I would be able to meet my favorite author and hopefully, his incredibly talented and gorgeous wife.
But I digress. The thing is, I find writing to be such a solitary activity. You are completely inside of your own head, your own soul. You have to dig into recesses in the deep, dark places and access that stuff that you don’t share with anyone. Ever. Then, you wrap that shit up into your character’s personality flaws or past experiences, get rid of the *really* squirrelly stuff in the editing process and let it go.
Co-authoring means you have to allow someone else access to all of that crap. Someone else gets to see the ugly stuff. Someone else gets to see what goes on behind the curtains. Someone else gets to see the pure, unvarnished you, whether it shows you in a good light, a bad light, or a terribly embarrassing light. It has got to be terrifying.
The thing is that even with having a blog where I talk about my thoughts and feelings and insecurities doesn’t mean that I am opening my ENTIRE self up to the world. I still edit these posts. I still sometimes go back and say, “Oh, man. That is too much. Not that. Nope.” Yes, there are my real thoughts… these are my real feelings. But they’re not the low down, raw and bare thoughts that come out in private journals in the deep, dark recesses of the night.
So what happens when you decide you are not only going to co-write a book with a friend, but that it is going to be about such a deeply personal subject that the entire thing will consist of laying bare these raw emotions, dissecting them, and putting them back together with another person? Terror, that’s what. Trust plays a big part in it… but trusting someone to love you unconditionally and then giving them everything you have ever done wrong, or thought in the middle of the night, or worried about, or wished for, or desired, or hated, or cried about takes a huge leap of faith in the other person. And in yourself.
But (and I do have a point and it is an important one to remember, at least for me) writers have to write about the hard stuff, even if it hurts. And when an idea comes and the idea is good, a writer is being a coward or an asshole if she ignores the idea. If the idea is there, begging for attention, then it is because that idea needs to be written. So, I have recently been half of a two person team that came up with an amazing idea, or series of ideas for at least another two books. And the idea of sharing all of that inner shit with someone is dead terrifying. But the idea of being untrue to myself as a writer and refusing the idea altogether is untenable.