June 29, 2010

Women Who Run with Wolves

Women Who Run with the Wolves
"The craft of questions, the craft of stories, the craft of the hands - all these are the making of something and that something is soul." - p. 14
I've had this book for a couple years now. I bought it because it had the words archetype and wild woman on the cover. Sounded intriguing.

I think I read the first few pages of the intro before I was distracted by...butterflies!

Or was it squirrels?

Surely it was something bright and shiny...

So the poor thing sat on my dresser, neglected and forgotten until yesterday. You see, I had left the novel I'm reading at work and needed something to fill the half-hour drive to the boy's baseball game. Since I didn't really want to get drawn into another novel, I decided to give some attention to something off the "research shelf", aka my dresser.

I'm glad I did.

Even though I didn't even make it to the first story, I found the introduction to be very engaging. And it spoke to me. The creative me. The me that I was beginning to think has curled up died or had at the very least taken an extended vacation.

What? Too melodramatic for you? Fine. I'll tone it done a bit.

How about this? The creative spark that feeds my writing has been missing for the last few months.

I imagine a few of you might scoff at this idea. After all, I've been taking lots of pictures and I even managed to complete a scrapbook in a week. Two things that require some glimmer of creativity.

Here's the thing. Photography is light and shadows, composition and focus. It's also relatively stress-free. Unless someone is hoping to use the end results for senior pictures or as a wedding album. But that's a different post.

Scrapbooking is playful and sentimental all at once. There's color and texture and visual appeal, which is completely subjective.

Writing is something else. It requires a different kind of creativity and vision. It requires dedication and determination. It requires the ability to stay invested when the project spans, not days, but months or even years. It also demands passion and more than a little bit of faith.

Passion for the project is pivotal. If the story doesn't scream to be told, to be let free of the flesh and blood holding it captive, it's probably not going to be written. If the author doesn't have faith in the concept, in what can be, there's another insurmountable hurtle, because faith is necessary for the long haul.

Writing is also different from photography and scrapbooking in that the creativity it requires wells forth from somewhere I'm unable pinpoint, somewhere beyond the visual. I hate to even mention the word muse, but I can understand why so many writer's attribute their creativity to one.

Over the last few months, my passion and my faith have been floundering. My muse, if he or she even exists, has been silent.

At least, that's what I've been thinking. However, Estes' introduction makes me wonder if there's not something else interfering in the creative process. There's a passage in those first few pages that really resonated with me as I read it last night, that made me wonder if it's not a lack of passion and faith, but something else entirely that's interfering with my ability to fully invest myself in my writing.

Estes' focus is on the instinctual psyche of women. As I read her words I couldn't help but to think that that element of the psyche she refers to, that she associates with the Wild Woman, is the true source of my creativity. I also found myself identifying with some of the symptoms she associates with the disconnect between the instinctive psyche and most women. Here are just a few..

giving one's creative life over to others (p. 10)

I've been struggling with a decision that could affect my long term chances of being traditionally published. I've been worrying about what it would mean if I made that long over-due Christmas present available to friends and family through Lulu. I've been worrying about the agent and publisher I don't have.

That's handing your creative life over to others.

fear to set out one's imperfect work (p. 10)

Does this one even need explanation? Of course I'm afraid of what others will think of my work, of negative reviews. I fear the voice of my inner critic and too often listen to it.

Not insistent on one's own tempo, to be self-conscious, to be away from one's God or Gods, to be separated from one's revivification, drawn far into domesticity, intellectualism, work, or inertia because that is the safest place for one who has lost her instincts.

There are too many times that I hide behind my excuses. I'm too busy or I'm too lazy. Seriously, you've heard it all. I'm too busy working on reading assignments and school papers. (intellectualism?) I'm too busy running from this sport to that sport or tending to the never-ending chores around the house. (domesticity?) I'm too exhausted to do anything but watch TV or veg out in front of the PS3. (inertia?)

Are these lies I tell myself? I wonder. I wonder because I somehow find the time to do so many other things.

Writing assumes risk, especially if you're trying the traditional publishing route. Is my avoidance - planned or not - a disguise for my need to be safe because I've lost faith in my writing instincts?

I don't want to believe this, but it rings true. The story I've been struggling with? For months, I've second-guessed my decisions with the characters and the plot. I'm uncertain, not of the words or the composition, but of the bones holding the flesh together. I can write a decent paragraph, but does that mean I know how to write a compelling story? I can move the characters through the plot points, but can I give them personality? The fear of getting it wrong overtakes the writer within me, so I don't write.

Reading Estes' work I realized these fears have overwhelmed my instincts. They have robbed me of my creativity, passion and faith.

Now the question is how do I regain the blind egotism of the writer I once was? How do I regain faith in my vision and capabilities?

The logical side of me says I must write; it's the only reasonable answer. I must establish a schedule and force myself to let the dreck live on the page. No editing or revising. No rewriting. No scrapping. The only option is to move forward and let instinct guide me through the story.