Embracing Change in Life and Writing

This weekend, I had to trash a few pages I had written in the first draft of my novel. They were good, but the character was no longer a POV character because of some structural changes. It was a little frustrating to see the overall word count drop, especially since I liked the chapter, but I knew I had to let go of it to tell the story I’m trying to tell. Sometimes it’s the same thing with life. 

We have to let go of things, even good things, to get to something better. I was reminded of that earlier today when Jesse Stern was answering some COD: Modern Warfare 3 questions on Twitter. He’d been involved in the first two, but not this one. As he said, yes, he walked away from the No. 1 video game and the No. 1 TV show. In the case of NCIS, he said back in the spring he had walked away to create his own show, his own world, rather than continuing to explore the world Don Bellisario had created a decade earlier.

Those are tough decisions, and ones that can affect our path in life. Back in 2009, I spent a lot of time doing my 200 hours of yoga training to get my RYT. I did it quickly — in nine months, which was fast for the program I trained through. The speed was dictated by the meltdown going on in the journalism industry. I honestly didn’t know how much longer I would still have a job, and with so many getting laid off, I didn’t know if I would be able to find another one. In fact, a few months earlier I had taken a job at the Springfield, Mo., paper my company owns, only to have the offer rescinded because the position was eliminated in a round of layoffs a few weeks before I was supposed to start. That added a certain urgency to my yoga quest.

During one of the workshops, where we delved into yoga philosophy and sound yoga, we discussed mantras. As a singer, that part resonated with me. Music is integral to my life. As you’ll see in a guest post on another blog in a few weeks, it’s also key to my writing. When we went through the Sanskrit mantras, one in particular stuck with me: Om Namah Shivaya. When we got to the English translations, I realized why. It’s a call to Shiva, who in Indian mythology is the Destroyer. But the mantra itself translates to “We celebrate the dance of energy that is creation.” At least that’s the translation I like the best — there are a few different ones. It clicked into something I had been struggling with for months: Sometimes, we have to tear down what exists to make room for something new.

That can be painful in a lot of ways. We get attached to what we have, whether it’s a a job, a relationship, a career, a friend or a project. As humans, we’re conditioned to resist change, even to fear it. Back in 2009, I finally came to terms with the idea I probably wouldn’t be a reporter and editor my entire career. That had been my dream since I was in high school; I’d always wanted to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps and work for the Boston Globe. Over time, I grew to love community, small-town papers better, but the journalism was a constant. And I still love what I do, still exult when we nail a story or make a difference in our reporting, as we have been doing with a thorny School Board issue the past several weeks.

I love teaching group fitness and yoga, and I loved the year I had my own studio, my own space to bring yoga to people’s lives. It was making a difference, but in another way. I thought that was my path, my new journey. Instead, it was a mechanism to get me from where I had been to where I needed to be. My work at the paper had a lot to do with why I stopped writing fiction back in 2005. Mentally stepping away from that got me back to fiction, which I loved even before journalism.

Through my yoga journey, I got back into writing. First journaling my journey, and then getting back into fiction through NCIS fanfiction. Finally, a year ago, I knew I was ready to return to Exeter, the world I had started creating back in 2002. I was ready to stop playing in somebody else’s sandbox and take the risk that I had what it took to create my own. I had started thinking about taking the indie publishing path back in the spring. And then Jesse posted his Swan Song blog, which unfortunately isn’t online anymore. It reminded me of the choices I’d made over the years, the chances I’d taken. It clicked with the thought that had been in my head for several weeks that I needed to let go of some things to make time for Exeter. Like him, I decided to go for it. Thrown Out was the first step down that path, laying the groundwork for my first published novel, the one I’m revising now. I haven’t taken quite as big a leap — I still work at the paper and I imagine I will for a while. When the time comes to let that go, I’ll know.

It’s scary sometimes to walk down that new path, to embrace that destruction of what we have, that clearing of the ground. Like a forest fire that rages and destroys, blackens and chars — then allows the land to produce new growth by making that space — the destruction seems uncontrollable sometimes. There are days we look back and think maybe we should have stayed with the old path, stayed where it was safe. When we have the courage to take those steps, to walk through the flames and the doubt, then even if we end up someplace different than we intended, we’ve succeeded. Sometimes what looks like a false start is just the step we needed to take to make that break, to release the energy of creation.

Om Namah Shivaya

7 Comments on “Embracing Change in Life and Writing”

  1. Hey, Jennie,

    Love this post. We do have to let go of things, and even ideas, in order to grow. Otherwise, what a load of baggage we’d carry around. When the closet gets crowded, we can (1) keep cramming things in until the door bursts off its hinges, (2) build a new closet (which accomplished nothing other than providing more space that will only get filled anyway), or, my personal preference, (3) weed out the closet, appreciate what’s left, and create a new wardrobe.

    A year ago, as I approached my release date, I had to make a difficult choice, and walked away from a reading series I began with my cohost and fellow author, Brandon Pitts. Then, I had to abandon my personal blog. If I hadn’t done those things, I would not have been able to work on edits, find my cover artist, coordinate publicity or work on my next book. And sometimes, I have to delete the scenes I love because the story has evolved since its conception and the scene no longer fits. Just like the old size 2 jeans in my closet I’m still hanging on to!

    And there again, life imitates art imitates life.

    1. Thanks, Sherry! Yes, it’s the stepping away that’s tough, especially when it’s something good we’re stepping away from. It’s easier to walk away from the toxic stuff.

    1. Thanks, Kelly! I’m trying not to think of word count and just think of chapters revised – easier that way since I’m doing some fairly major overhauling on this round of revisions.

  2. Sherry Isaac tweeted me to this post. GREAT timing for me. Tomorrow is the 13th anniversary of my mumble-mumble birthday.

    I’m preparing a post now that addresses change, look-backs and look-forwards.

    GREAT post. On tons of levels. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Gloria! I’ll have to head over and check out your post tomorrow – it will be a nice break in a heavy day of revisions. And Happy Birthday!!!

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