The Hanged Man: Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot, Morgan-Greer Tarot, Mystical Cats Tarot
Suspend. Yield. Surrender.
When we embody this hanging figure in our writing lives we no longer believe that we are entirely in control of the outcomes of our writing goals. We have moved into a belief that we are working in tandem with the creative energies of the Universe to produce our work, we have reached a pause in what we can achieve through our will alone and we are waiting for the rush of a new energy to take us forward to the next stage. Yet for now we remain suspended between what is and what will be.
Right now I am embroiled in what I refer to as the first draft of my novel, more for sake of ease that veracity. More truthfully I first started this coming of age and lost love novel ten years ago and completed a 50,000 word draft for NanoWriMo 2006 that I was not in any way happy with. I felt like I was just galloping towards a total word count to the detriment of all other aspects of my writing. I no longer even have a copy of this draft, so it feels like it doesn’t exist. Since then, I have tried planning a couple of other ideas I’ve had for novels but my mind always goes back to this lost love story, which feels like it has to be the story that is told first.
Last summer, charged with the energy of completing my teaching certificate and with the tantalising prospect of a couple of workless months off over the summer, I started to read Alan Watt’s The 90 Day Novel, with the intention of getting a new first(!) draft together.
In his book, Watt proposes a way of writing where all plotting and character development centres around a central dilemma (a problem that cannot be solved without creating another problem) which relies on the transformation of the main character’s perspective to find a satisfying resolution. Using this method of planning, I found that the novel I thought I was going to write was crumbling under the process of excavating what my main character’s true dilemma was. She was an aspect of me. The love she lost represented a future life lost. The story was not really about the lost love, but about what she had to shed in her rite of passage to become a writer. After years of viewing the story as “girl overcomes tyrannical boyfriend but still loses the good guy” this was quite the revelation. However, although I wrote a lot of character sketches and ideas about the plot, I never wrote a full plan or started a draft.
Last November I decided that I would complete a draft during NaNoWriMo 2016, and that I had gotten what I needed from The 90 Day Novel and now I would use this new lens to view the story to go back to my 2006 method of just trying to get the whole story out of my head and onto the page. I got about 40,000 words down during November but I still didn’t see it as a draft of a novel. It was 40,000 words of thinking about the ideas in my novel through the process of writing scenes.
I was exhausted now and a little bit broken. I had poured all my energy into November’s writing and now I had the flu, a persistent sinus infection and a very busy December and January ahead of me. So in December and some of January I took off from writing or even thinking about the novel, equally my great passion and my greatest source of frustration.
During this time, something in my unconscious kept ticking away. When I was ready to pick up the pen again my mind had changed about what my novel writing process needs to entail. Just writing the story and getting words down on a page is never going to yield a body of work that I’ll call a novel. There is a journey my character must take, much like that of the Fool through these cards of the Major Arcana, and this journey which will lead to her transformation from creative daydreamer to dedicated writer. This is what I want to write, not what actually happened, and the ending which was left dangling for years and years. I want my character to change and I want to be changed by the process of writing her journey. I am looking for the transformation of us both. And what I dare not almost hope for at all, is that the reader will be inspired or illuminated by this transformation too.
So, yes, right now I am writing what feels like the true first draft of this novel that is written from a plan which maps my character’s transformation from unthreatening daydreamer to her most authentic, daring writing self. I am writing from a plan. The writing is messy and my prose is often dross that I fear will take a long time to untangle into anything readable. Yes, the fear is real.
I am in this suspended period of the Hanged Man. My inner world and the outer evidence do not match. I am not a novelist because I do not have a novel to prove this claim. However, every day I am giving the best part of myself to this writing process and all I have is a sense of trust that it isn’t just a waste of time and oh-so-much energy, and that I will learn what I need to know from this process, and I will become more of the person that I am meant to be.
But for now I am suspended. I have yielded and surrendered.
I have surrendered my precious time.
I have surrendered my limited energy.
I have surrendered my sense of mastery, and with that a part of myself.
Every day I get up and know this is waiting for me. And while the surrender waits for me, I am waiting for the transformation.