I was consumed by a writing project for almost three years, only to abandon it at the very hour of its completion. A few months before that I stopped writing album PR pieces for Tympanik (not of my own free will but in my capacity as flotsam from the hull of a sinking giant), and my old publisher closed down.
I received notification of Fox & Raven’s closure the day after I submitted the first draft of my manuscript of Letters to the Black Underground to my previous publisher. He had been a staunch supporter of my work and my vision, and had an appreciation for what he called my unique talent as a wordsmith and a social observer. The loss of that connection and support was devastating at that juncture in my career as a writer. I had enjoyed some modest success, but my work was dark, obscure, dense, and untested in the market, and lacked the maturity to withstand the bluster. Of course, other dark forces were at work in my psyche and they needed little persuasion that their views were righteous.
I read a very bad review on Amazon for one of my novellas and received some pretty shitty feedback on all fronts relating to my work, both anecdotal and institutionally sanctioned. The prose was thin and read like bad high school creative writing, I had not yet achieved a level of mastery in my craft and my use of language lacked delicacy and nuance, I didn’t use enough adjectives, I was too stark, my themes were boring, my meanings were obvious etc. Some of the negative feedback that I received was apathetic silence. That was the worst.
I abandoned my blog and all my other writing endeavours, and a big chunk of ice cleaved from my soul and crashed into the sea. About the same time, I stopped performing fire, stopped playing the cello, bought a fancy sports car, got a promotion, acquired a number of pairs of uncomfortable high heels and began getting twice monthly manicures.
That was more than a year ago, and since then the most creative things I have written were a marketing blurb for my work team and an article about strategic planning for my small consulting ‘seed’. I have written all manner of bland work documents, turning my powers to sales collateral, proposals, executive communications, technical reports, Facebook status updates broadcast like encrypted alien signals into the abyss of the normal distribution.
The question of who I was, the dedication to the process of discovery and expression that had been a defining feature of my life since the time I could string anything vaguely resembling a complex thought together, was discarded.
Perhaps driven by need, fleeing from an occult-themed and somewhat traumatising inner landscape (as well as a devastating pilgrimage and series of painful severances), I began to cultivate a vocation, to focus on sustaining myself in the material world and I got back into yoga again (the writing had also been accompanied by long stretches of solitary, wine-fuelled word binges that kept me from physical activity for months on end).
I completed my shamanic initiation in this way. I travelled the path of the Dragon, gathered mysteries beyond what can be articulated, moved the karma of generations through my body. I returned deep magicks to the ordinary world on the path of the Eagle, stepping down their voltages, bearing my secrets with only a wry smile as a hint of what I had seen and no longer feeling compelled to divulge or to ‘be seen and understood’ by the world at large. I came to trust the magick that animates me to whisper to me at need, to carry messages from the otherworld only to those who came seeking. I found my refuge in a pack of wolves who had been rescued from certain death and had come to live on a farm in the Freestate. I graduated from witch school, no longer teachable in the same format and requiring my own cat and cauldron in the workspace of the wide world.
I also met my husband, organised a wedding, started orchestrating an emigration, began my MSc, completed a project management qualification and managed to develop quite a strong track record in the workplace. I cultivated the ability to hold my own in a boardroom and present complex ideas to highly-intelligent, sophisticated specialists and business people and get them to actually buy in to what I was saying. For the first time in my life, the ground beneath me felt solid. I was no longer as plagued by the same dark imaginings, the same sense of… need… on some level I suppose you could say.
So can I really say that I abandoned my dream process, as the title of this post would suggest? Maybe not. Clearly the dreaming continued and merely shifted shape. But as the fire was banked and became able to sustain warmth throughout the night, something else gathered cobwebs. Something wild that took to the sky on a broomstick, howled at the moon, cultivated a swarthy, earthy, dark beauty through sound, movement, and satire.
Long, long before I ever drove a coupé I became disillusioned with environmental activism, having discovered the vengeful desolation it brought about inside. Somewhere along the line, poultry snuck back into my diet, I stopped recycling, avoided the dialogue, avoided caring.
Dreaming of the runes and coming to love their magick reminded me of this calling to protect green things, and this was strengthened by my experience of the drought in South Africa in 2016. Visiting watery places that I knew from childhood that had dried up (and one very profound psychedelic experience in particular) rekindled a deep longing inside me.
My wedding ceremony was a tribute to this old magick that had resurfaced for me, as is the ongoing ceremonial purge of 70% of my worldly possessions in advance of my move to the North. The North calls to me – mossy, woodland places, wolves, and falcons beckon me.
Alain de Botton has illuminated a new way of conveying this important ecological message in his short video ‘Pop Culture: Taylor Swift’s Legs and Climate Change’. My studies in project management and strategic planning, coupled with my knowledge of environmental management, marketing and business have given me a new vision of a path that might be in the future. The corporate idyll is not for me. Stilettos are not for me (most of the time). A fancy car is not for me. The only path that will allow me peace is to be in service of the natural world, to offer all my gifts to the protection of Earth and her creatures. In this I must tell stories, I must win hearts back to nature, I must have wolves, fly falcons, look after plants and must value simplicity and relationship over the common, toxic notions of success. I will accept no path that does not afford me this opportunity. I must have enough time. Time to write, and to be with my people.
I think I understand why I left my book. But I think it’s time to put it out there, for better or worse. And then I’ll just write something else. I won’t be concerned with acclaim, but will do it for love. That is a better plan – it will release me. I will make an effort to play fire, to create music. All in good time.
In my writing, I will return to the process I used as a child, the process Murakami speaks of – writing from the intuition, not knowing where the story is going but starting with a scene and letting it flow organically from there. I feel better already.