So I'm having a crisis of confidence today. I'm in the middle of writing a fiction piece that's been brewing for a long time. I'd let it sit for ages, busy with life, I guess. I was a productive member of society, but I wasn't really working on anything for me. Until this past October.
For my birthday (August 27th, for future reference), Dear Hubby bought me tickets to see the Gracious Few in Atlanta at the Masquerade. I have been a LIVE fan since 1994 and had seen them dozens and dozens of times, under all kinds of circumstances. The official announcement of their hiatus (read, "break-up") in 2009 wasn't surprising in the least, but it was painful. All those years of built-up groupie energy were just... gone. At the end of their time together, the Gracious Few was born, made up of Chad Gracey, Chad Taylor, and Patrick Dahlheimer of LIVE, plus Kevin Martin and Sean Hennesy of Candlebox. (I was also a Candlebox fan, though not nearly to the same extent. Kevin was too much of a pretty boy for me (in the 1990's anyway, compared to Ed Kowalczyk and his shaved head).
So, anyway, the Gracious Few CD came out September 14th, and it sat on my desk for nearly two weeks before I could bear to open it. It was like meeting Dad's new girlfriend for the first time. I wasn't really sure I would tolerate it, let alone like it. What if she was a total strumpet? Where would I be then? When I finally did give it a listen, I fell head-over-heels in love. It's a really fantastic rock album. It's not alternative, it's not adult contemporary, just balls-to-the-walls rock. And it's really good. (Try it! You'll like it!) It's one of a handful of albums I have ever immersed myself in for weeks on end. My poor boys were subjected to it three and four times a day. Three months later, it's still my favorite playlist for working out--it makes me want to sweat!
DH and I went to the Masquerade, sat in the will-call line, made it inside. Six Shot Revival was surprisingly good and had some hard core fans in the audience. American Bang was fun. Then the Gracious Few came on. There were maybe 150 people there (based on what I saw when I turned around from the
front), nothing like the thousands upon thousands both LIVE and Candlebox have traditionally entertained. (Interestingly, TGF was playing in the Hell theater. GWAR was upstairs in Heaven. Their fake blood ended up dripping through the ceiling in Hell before the show was over. It was fucking weird.) I could go on ad infinitum (read, "ad nauseum") about why I loved that show and that music and that band. That was the first night I got to sing with Kevin Martin from stage. (Though I haven't seen the video or pictures, I grasp desperately to the hope that it didn't suck like it did in Chicago in November.)
Something happened for me after that night, though, that kicked my ass into gear. I went home and started writing again, working on this story that had been stagnating for two or three years. This all happened to be timed with the realization that I'd lost my muchness. DH let me check out of my life for a couple of days, and I went to Birmingham to see TGF again. I had a remarkable time hanging out with them the night before the show, just talking about anything and nothing. I holed up in my hotel for most of my two days in Birmingham and wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote.
I realized I had some verisimilitude issues. I needed some details that I couldn't really research online, and I certainly didn't have the experiential knowledge to fill in the gaps I was finding. I took a shot in the dark and emailed Mr. Martin and asked if he would be willing to chat with me in Chicago, before yet another TGF show. I openly admitted that I didn't necessarily expect a response, let alone willing participation, but I was in a "nothing ventured, nothing gained" mood. To my delighted surprise, he agreed to meet with me. We met at the venue and talked for about an hour, the evening before the show. I had tons of questions, and he had unexpected answers for me. My brain churned for days, I emailed him more questions, and I was writing even more.
I was at less than 12,000 words at the first of October, leftovers from when this process had originally begun. As of yesterday, I'm up to 95,973, and I'm about two-thirds of the way through the story, I think. Here's the rub:
I can either continue on this path that I have laid out for myself and these characters, or I can backtrack and change direction all together. To go forward is new, but based on a concrete past determined by the choices I have already made, both in the story and in pre-production notes. The subject matter at this point is emotionally challenging and will continue to be so for a while. There will eventually be a good resolution; this is ultimately a love story. This path was planned long, long ago. The original snippets of story were written based on these ideas and this plan. But it's hard.
Or, I can go back and undo the harshest parts of the story and still continue on to the resolution. It would be easier, less likely to be judged harshly by the third-party eyes that will eventually be laid on it.
Do I want to paint the white roses red?
All day, I've been going back to the Jabberwocky. Tim Burton's version of the Jabberwocky, mind you, slain by Alice on Frabjous Day. The Jabberwocky is definitely the embodiment of my crisis of confidence, as it was for Alice. Her path to slaying the Red Queen's pet with the Vorpal Sword has been laid out in the Oraculum. Her path seems to have been decided by choices made in the concrete past.
Alice stared at the picture of the horrible monster that was winging its way toward them. She saw her golden hair flying as she wielded the Vorpal Sword, but she still couldn't imagine how it would feel--the thunk of the blade slicing into flesh, the scrape of its long sharp claws against her pale skin. She was not a killer. How could she kill anything...let alone Underland's most dreaded creature?
Overwhelmed, Alice turned and ran out of the courtyard. She bolted through the castle and out into the gardens until she found the hedge maze, where she threw herself onto a garden bench and wept.
"Nothing was ever accomplished with tears," observed a voice. Alice lifted her tear-streaked face and looked around.
"I need your help. I don't know what to do!"
"I can't help you if you don't even know who you are, stupid girl."
But Alice does know. She tells Absolem, and reminds herself, of all the wonderful ways in which she is Alice Kingsleigh. She draws upon the power of that epiphany and straps on the armor and sword of the White Queen's champion. Alice steps up to slay the Jabberwocky. She comments to the Mad Hatter that it's an impossible task, but then she reminds herself that she sometimes believes "as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
The Jabberwocky doesn't see Alice as his enemy, though; that's the Vorpal Sword. Absolem tells Alice, "Remember, the Vorpal Sword knows what it wants. All you have to do is hold on to it." As Alice fights, she remembers the six impossible things she has learned while in Underland. And while she's working through her own issues of self-confidence, the Vorpal Sword continues to battle the Jabberwocky, seemingly of its own accord. Alice jumps in the air and slices the Jabberwocky's head off.
Alice was too exhausted to speak, but the dead creature's head seemed to say everything.
Alice always had the choice to not fight. The events detailed in the Oraculum weren't guaranteed to come true until they had actually happened. Even though she had the support of her talking animal friends, ultimately it was Alice's decision, as she learns before her battle:
"Alice," said the White Queen, "you cannot live your life to please others. The choice must be yours because when you step out to face that creature, you will step out alone."
I have the choice to not follow the illustrations of my Oraculum, to ignore the character sketches and story outlines that were decided so long ago, based on some inspiration that I may or may not remember. I don't have someone else to be my champion now. Perhaps I let my Vorpal Sword, my thoughts and words, run of their own volition and finish this battle. Can I believe my own impossibilities and let myself slay these misgivings?
This choice is solely and squarely on my shoulders. How I wish I could run to a hedge maze and cry! I'm sure my Absolem would remind me to not be stupid and to know who I am, were he not tangled in his own gilded chrysalis.