Growth through Reflection

While I was working on my novel, I came to a passage that reminded me of a breathtaking description of this very thing – in my story “Roots of the Soul,” which was the inspiration and the source of the ideas and characters in Avenging Glory.

I rooted around and found my contributors copy of North of Infinity – the 1998 anthology where the story first appeared. Re-reading it, 20 years later, I was dismayed that the passage I remembered so fondly, was really quite awful. In fact, the whole story was badly written - essentially a bunch of neat ideas, blocked out to give it a rudimentary dramatic arc. But the idea was great.

In the 90s, I also turned it into a screenplay and pitched it as Dark Woods, to a very nice and open-minded producer at BravoFact. She took the time to critique it – and gave me the opportunity to repitch it, a conversation that went very well, but ended with her telling me that she couldn’t see it going any further until I found a director to work with. 

I was pumped, but I didn’t know any directors, or have the faintest idea how to approach one. While all this was going on my employment prospects in my new city had all dead-ended. And as my already meager income dried up, the magazine (TransVersions) I had co-published, edited, and illustrated for over 5 years came to an end. Life conspired to send me into an emotional tailspin, and in the midst of that, I pretty much abandoned hope for any of my dreams coming true, and quit writing for over ten years.

When life stabilized again, I was doing quite well as a sculptor, exhibiting and selling my stone sculptures – which I had started carving in an attempt to fill the creative gap left when I stopped writing. But as much as I love sculpting, it couldn’t supplant writing as my artistic passion. The stories I could tell through sculpting are beautiful and mythopoeic, but the effect on viewers, seldom more substantial than the blink of an eye. See it. Like it. Buy it. Hate it. Ignore it. Done.

After hitting the reset button on my life, I watched my writing contemporaries enjoying differing levels of success. And I wondered if I too would have novels and collections published if I had stuck with it. I concluded that I would. Every friend I have who kept writing, has at least one or two books out. 

I had trained to be a writer and practiced writing for over 20 years, and then dropped out just as I was getting good at it. Crazy! So, I started writing again.

When I rejoined my old writers workshop and wrote some stories, I was rusty and awkward and discouraged and embarrassed to realize that my skill level had fallen ten years behind my peers, a realization that did a better job of urging me to give up than it did of convincing me to write, so I quit – the workshop that is – not the writing.

The moment I stopped trying to perform for the audience, the quantity and quality of my writing skyrocketed. I wrote six or eight new stories and self-published a collection. But the most significant development was diving back into Avenging Glory. And my most gratifying moment since I started writing again was realizing what an exponentially better writer I now am, than that dude who wrote “The Roots of the Soul” twenty years ago.


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