Happy Birthday, Year 3

Originally published September 2006

Oh, the exuberence, the giddy joy, the frantic nerves when I received the news TWO years ago today (rather, the night before). That was the pinnacle of my first year of writing. As with all Freshmen, I was too stupid to know that I didn’t know anything.

My writing birthday is September 30th. I’m nearly THREE years old. I look back on this last year, and MBB is still sitting in NY (is there a record for the longest submission? I mean, TWO years!).

I’ve been slogging through the Valley of the Shadow of Death much more often than scaling any glorious heights, but I wouldn’t give up this Journey for anything. My Shadowed Blood walks with me every step of the way, as well as my very dear friends.

These past two years taught me heartache and doubt. I wondered if I had any hint of talent at all, or if I should simply go bowling instead. I feared every word I wrote would be meh at best. When I finally realized how awkwardly I built MBB, I was afraid I’d never write anything I loved as much again. Despite its glaring flaws, I still see magic in that beloved story. That first dream suffered a painful death after the hopes and joy of the first full request, but was reborn in a new vision. I sacrificed Shannari and sculpted her again from blood and suffering, already carrying just a little bit of Shadow. A new vision, a new promise, a new heartache waiting to happen.

I learned all these things about character development and plotting and structure, and instead of improving, my writing tanked. I lost something, and I was afraid I would never get it back. I was afraid I’d never FINISH anything again.

But I also learned several truths while stumbling around in the dark.

Writing really is a Hero’s Journey, not just “to publication” or for a specific manuscript, but every single day. I will find myself in the Ordeal, the Inner Cave, not once, but over and over and over, and the only way out is to keep writing. The night really is darkest right before the dawn. The light never looked so miraculous unless you doubt deep down in your heart whether the sun will ever shine again. The road less traveled really is the only way for me–I must forge my own way, and fail and slog and struggle and bleed on my own. I can’t hand the reins over to anything or anyone ever again and expect to keep the magic alive. I learned the truth of the old saying about opening up a vein to write. Without blood pouring out of me and onto the page, the magic isn’t there for me.

I don’t know what the future holds any more than anybody else. I don’t know where this path leads, whether I’m bound for the Valley again, or whether the current foothill of joy and success will lead to a new marvelous peak.

It doesn’t matter in the long run. There are many more mountains to climb.

For so long, I wondered whether the path was right. One of the great agonies, I think, of the aspiring writer who works and has family with very limited time left over for writing. What if I wasted a whole year on something stupid? What if I chose a different project, a different path–would I reach a mountain any sooner?

If nothing else, this past year has brought me a certainty that I treasure. I know my path. I know it’s my path, and every step resonates with a melody that only I can hear with my heart. If that’s sentimental and foolish, so be it. If this path never leads to Mount Dhoom, so be it. The Impossible lives in my dreams, and all I can do is try to capture that beauty with words to the best of my ability.

When the Butterfly soars, I will rip off its wings and offer the blood on my hands as sacrifice. When the Butterfly crawls, I will throw it up into the sky again with heaven ablaze in my eyes. Because the Butterfly will fly again, as long as I keep writing on this endless mercy mile.

So here’s to another year of writing.

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