Writing is hard.
I wrote a little about this last night, but only vaguely. I’ve been in limbo for a while. After I finished the Pen boys, I spent some time reading, and then jumped back into Alex the Destroyer. I only had about six chapters left to write for him, and still have a few left to add into the overall story when I work on the second draft, but the last few chapters didn’t take long. And once his story was complete, I was left feeling uprooted. I’m nowhere near ready to go back to Ronan. I think it’s very possible that won’t happen for several years. I didn’t even think of him as a possibility. The next step was supposed to be Mason, but nothing I did for that felt right, not that I honestly actually did anything, but even just thinking about it felt wrong. I tried to work on Andrew, the vampire detective. I figured out all of my characters and their backstories, worked on the overall plot, started organizing the Pinterest board, and prepared to plot out the first novel. Alas, that wasn’t right, either.
I tried, for a brief second, to set my sights on a brand new novel idea, the witch sisters, that has a loose plot and full characters already worked out, but, let’s be honest, it’s probably going to take several books about boys before I’m ever going to be able to write a book about a girl. I wasn’t frustrated with this idea not working, though, because I was starting to feel Oliver and James all around me. James crept up during a yoga class, and Oliver started haunting my dreams again. They were whispering to me from the shadows, what about us? It had never occurred to me that I might just keep writing the Pen boys, that I might write the summer novella next.
This blog is important, not just because it’s me rambling about why writing is hard, but because writing is hard. In yoga, something that consistently bothers me is how happy everyone is. Now, I know this sounds terrible. Joy is a good thing. It is, truly, but without darkness, there is no balance. For a while, I was only following yoga people on Instagram that were always doing handstands and writing inspiring posts. That’s not real life. I started to reevaluate how I wanted to live my yoga, and started following people instead that showed the trial and error of poses, that talked about the crappy day they’d been having and how yoga helped them out of that mindset, that were not sunshine and kittens all the time. You need balance. You need light as much as you need darkness. I talk about self-love almost every class. I understand the need to give love to others, to the world, but how are you going to give love if your well is empty? Practice self-love so that you can love the world. Maintain balance. Show the world how you fell over in wheel pose, and got right back up to try again.
With authors, I don’t see a lot of this. I’m sure that there are some authors out there who think writing is easy, and they just toss out novels like it’s nobody’s business, but I haven’t witnessed that yet. Every single author I follow on social media is always flailing about deadlines, wants to scrap everything they’ve written, hurts their characters just because they’re stuck and need a temporary way out, or is just going batshit crazy.
Writing is hard.
It is. It’s the hardest thing you’re ever going to try to do. And sometimes, when it’s the hardest is when you’re not even doing it. Lately, I’ve felt like I don’t know how to write anymore. The first Pen boys novel is good. I’m really pleased with the place it’s in right now, with the waves it’s made. I’ve got a lot of work to do on it (mostly trimming, A LOT of trimming), but I’m really, really happy with it. Alex the Destroyer is better than I ever imagined it could possibly be. It’s everything I always wanted to write for him, and more. I’m so proud of myself.
Eh. I’m not so sure.
I started writing the Pen boys summer novella, and then stopped about halfway into the first chapter and just frowned at it for a few days. Ultimately, I deleted everything, and started over again. I got about 10k in, frowned at it some more, and deleted the fourth chapter. I meant to go back and keep going, but I was starting to ask a very dangerous questions–what’s the point? In yoga, in forward folds, I always say the point is not the toes. Don’t reach for those toes. They’re not important. Fold naturally. Do what feels good to you, not what the ego wants you to do.
Practice what you preach, right?
So, I stopped fighting. I stopped letting my insane brain tell me that if I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t a writer. Ever had that problem? Don’t lie, you have. Every writer has. If you’re not actively writing a novel, then can you even call yourself a writer? Yes, of course. Even if you’re not actually writing something, you are a writer because writing is not always about words. Sometimes, writing looks like creating Pinterest boards to organize ideas and find inspiration. Sometimes, writing looks like reading for research, or traveling for research. Sometimes, writing looks like staring off into the distance while you’re stuck in traffic, arguing with a character in your head or trying to figure out the puzzle pieces of your plot. And sometimes, it’s none of these things, because sometimes, it’s just reading for fun, it’s going out to take your mind off things, it’s binge watching on Netflix, it’s anything that isn’t writing because sometimes, you just need to sit back and let it happen.
Okay. Okay. Practice what you preach.
The past few weeks, I’ve binged Shameless. I’d watched all the way through season five, and then threw in the towel when I heard that Mickey wasn’t going to be in season six. He’s my favorite character, and I was angry with his departure. Come season seven, there were rumors, and then confirmations, that he was back, so I decided to rewatch the first five and then finally watch six and seven. I’ve read a crap ton of books. Mostly YA, and mostly with magic, but really, just anything I could get my hands on. I’m talking six books in a month, which is just ridiculous. Who has that kind of time? I watched movies whenever I felt like it, I went to a few yoga classes that I wasn’t teaching, I went apple picking, hung out at my parents, adventured around Ipswich, and just lived life. I stopped fighting. If nothing was right, then why push it? Instead, I decided to try waiting for it.
It? I don’t know. The urge to write? Nah, because I have that. A muse? Not even really that, because I know which stories I want to write, and I want to write something. What is it, then? I think it’s the meat. My bones are that I want to write, but I’ve got no meat to work with.
Now, I know I sometimes get a little, as we call it, hippie dippie woo woo. Go ahead, laugh. I know that sometimes people roll their eyes at me when I start seeing signs, or when I post my tarot readings, or even when I talk about breathing light and space in yoga. I get it. I know I sound crazy sometimes. Or, consider this, I just sound like a witch. Let’s get something straight. I am a witch. I’m not saying that I ride a broom and can do actual honest to goodness magic. But I sleep with lavender and eucalyptus next to my bed, I burn sage and palo santo when I need to cleanse, I hoard crystals, I believe in reincarnation, I have sandalwood for protection, lemongrass to repel negativity, and heather flowers to pay homage to faeries bottled on my bookshelves. I drink teas for specific things, I worship the moon (and not Satan, calm down), I research different folk lores and believe in faeries and dragons, I carry certain crystals when I need help with something, anything, I burn my intentions and set them free on the wind. And I accept that some people are going to call me a sinner, or a heretic, or what have you. I accept that my way of life is not for everyone. I accept that my mother believes in God, and for her, I believe in Him, too. (For me, I believe in the Buddha.) I accept that there are thousands of different ways to live life, and I ask that, for right now, you indulge me. Why? Because Mason has never been loud. He is not Alex, who whispers in my ear and ignites fire in my veins. He is not Ronan, who shouts at the sky and demands attention. He is not my Pen boys, who are all-consuming. He is quiet. He comes when I’m least expecting him, and I only ever realize he’s arrived well after the fact. Mason is all of these things, and his story is about witchcraft. He is, as my old friend once said, Ronan and Alex combined. He is all the strangest parts of me put on display.
Recently, my roommate, Jen, needed some good luck. She asked for a crystal, which was very exciting for me. Not a lot of people actually buy into crystals or tarot or even burning things, so it’s always fun when someone shows a little interest. I gave her a raw piece of carnelian. I have three of them, but I gave her Mason’s. I have four stones, one for each element, on top of the Wild Unknown tarot deck. Mason’s is my favorite of the three raw pieces I have, and so I gave it to Jen. She carried it in her purse for a couple weeks, and when all was said and done, she came home, and said, “Please don’t hate me. I’m so sorry. I lost the crystal.”
I shrugged. No big deal. She said she wanted to buy me another one, and I couldn’t remember what exactly I’d given her, so I went back into my room to look, and oh. It was Mason’s. I put on a brave face, went back to her room, and said not to worry about it. Really, it was fine. Maybe this was a sign. Maybe I was supposed to start letting go of him. Maybe, after everything, his story wasn’t something I should be working on. Maybe I had lost it when I lost Jack. Maybe it was over.
I asked if I could look in her bag, just in case, not really expecting to find it. We chatted about her day as I looked in the main pockets. I started taking out pens from one of the smaller pockets, laughed at her because she carries around a mini lint roller, and then pulled out the crystal. It was there the whole time. She yelled at the unfairness of the world, and I just stared at it, unbelieving.
It was time to let go. I’ve been carrying around so much anger and hurt, and this novel is drenched in it. I’ve let Jack creep into every corner of my life, let him make me feel inadequate as a writer, and let the darkness outbalance the light. I’m done. They say it takes half the time you were with someone to get over them–so, for a twelve-year-friendship, I should be good in about six years. Pardon my French, but fuck that. There is no way in hell that I’m going to let this sit inside me for six years. I don’t want it. I want all of that darkness, all of that hate, all of that poison gone. I want to let go, and I’ve been trying to for months without success. I’ve gone to reiki circles, I’ve had private lessons with Jenny, I’ve cried until my head hurt, I’ve talked and talked and talked, and I am so fucking done.
Staring down at this crystal that I thought was lost, and that had now been found again, I didn’t feel this big rush of relief. The world wasn’t suddenly full of sunshine. Nothing changed. I just smiled, closed my fingers around it, and held it to my heart. And something inside of me shook off a few cobwebs, dusted away the darkness clutching at my soul, and took a deep breath.
That was Friday. On Sunday, I decided, like an idiot, I was going to go to Salem. I’ve been craving Life Alive something fierce, and I haven’t been able to go in the past few weekends for various reasons. I didn’t have anything to do on Sunday, though, and I was already going to be in the area since I was subbing at Barefoot, so my plan was to teach class, go to Life Alive for lunch, loiter in Coven’s Cottage for a bit and try not to spend all my money, and then hang out in Jolie Tea for a few hours. That didn’t happen. Der, Mary, it’s the first day of Halloween, of course there’s going to be no parking in Salem. But, back up a little, as I was leaving Barefoot, I made a rash decision and decided to go to Barnes & Noble. Rash because I usually spend no less than $100 every time I go in, and also because I haven’t been in the Peabody B&N since Jack told me he never wanted to speak to me again. This hasn’t been all that hard because I live so close to the Burlington B&N now, which is far superior anyway with its two floors, but still. Books are my home, and I’m done.
I walked in, went right to the fiction section, grabbed a copy of Alice in Wonderland, and left. (I paid, obviously, calm down.) I don’t know why I don’t own a copy of it, but here we are. On the way to Salem, my plans started to change. I’d brought a different book to read, but I decided I was going to leave that in the car, and read Alice while I had lunch, and then start reading A Witch’s Guide to Faery Folk in Jolie. I didn’t even remember putting that in my bag the night before, but it was there, so okay, sounds like a good idea.
Salem didn’t work out. I guess it’ll have to wait until November, or I’ll just convince someone to drive me in, drop me off, and come back later to pick me up. Instead, I went to my parents for lunch, and made tea when I got home. While the water was boiling, I went to pick up the Wild Unknown deck to find that Mason’s crystal was missing. I’d completely forgotten that I put it in my pocket that morning. I let out a little laugh as I started shuffling. We’d worked with fire and high energy during class, too. Interesting. I finished shuffling, knocked on the deck, breathed with it at my heart, split it in threes, and drew a single card from the deck in the middle.
The son of cups is about the artistic side. Not just drawing, but being alive, and living life fully. Embracing the world around you, and finding beauty. It’s sometimes specific to musicians. To others, you might seem secretive, but very peaceful. Deep inside, you are dark and intense. Sounds like a faery, doesn’t it?
Let’s review. I’ve been craving Life Alive, which heavily inspired Madhouse, Mason’s tea shop. For no reason I could understand, I wanted to read Alice in Wonderland, and decided to shake off all my insecurities and just go into the Peabody B&N to buy it. Even from the name Madhouse alone, you can tell the story has Alice inspiration. Spoiler: in the short story, he once communicated that he was in trouble with Lukas by using 10/6. Their white cat’s name is Dinah. Mason quotes it all the time. Tea. I wanted to spend a few hours in Jolie, also a heavy inspiration for Madhouse. His crystal was lost and found.
Okay, I’m listening.
On Monday, I went home after work because I was tired and hadn’t slept well the night before. I started and finished Alice that day, and went to bed dreaming of dark eyes scattered with gold, fire sparking from ash dark fingertips, and a smile full of doubt and darkness. I woke up refreshed, and ready to face the day. I made tea, actually planned my class for that night, and started Through the Looking Glass. My vinyasa class that night left a lot to be desired. For some reason, when I plan ahead of time now, it comes out kind of clunky, and not quite what I was expecting. I’ve started to teach better when it just comes from the heart. So, for my beginner’s, I switched up the music, tossed the plan, and let go.
We talked about music and love, about the bond between those two. We opened the hips and the shoulders so that we could work on the heart. We paid homage to Tom Petty, we sent love out to those in need, and our savasana was done in almost complete darkness. I lit a candle, grabbed the Animal Spirit deck, a piece of black bone, a quartz point, and sat down on my mat. While my students were in savasana, I shuffled, knocked, breathed split, and drew one card.
The Lion. The master of the fire element.
For 400 years, every single fire elemental faery has died. They have not survived the fire inside them, and have instead let it consume them. Thus, the world has been out of balance. Mason is the first. He is the first in 400 years to master his element, to not only survive it, but live with it, to coexist. It comes as no surprise to me that not only am I an Aries, but all of my inner planets are fire signs.
This is not me saying that I’m writing again. This is not me saying that I’ve figured my shit out, and that I know what I’m writing next. This is not even me saying that I’ve figured out how to let go of the ego that says I’m not a writer if I’m not writing.
But, but–I did read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I am currently reading A Witch’s Guide to Faery Folk. I started rereading Mason’s novel yesterday. It won’t be what I’m writing if I do write him, but it’s nice to read about his character again. And there’s something like relief settling in my bones, something like light filling me up.
It’s time to let go. It’s time to let go of Jack and the awful words he said to me. It’s time to let go of the anger and hurt I’ve been carrying around because of that. It’s time to let go of our friendship. It’s time to let go of who Mason was, and start unraveling who he is. It’s time to let go of it all, and start fresh.
I always tell my students that if they’re ever feeling unsure of their place in the world, to go outside, dig your toes into the dirt or the sand, and just breathe. You’re home.
Everything’s going to be okay.
I am letting go, and I am full of fire.