My BFF recommended an alternative Alice book recently, The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. It's a sci-fi story with Alice as the jumping-off point. The idea is that Lewis Carroll's inspiration, Alice Liddell, was only half-real. Beddor's Alice is actually Alyss Heart, a young princess who is heir to the throne of Wonderland.
Her mother, Queen Genevieve, and her father, King Nolan, are killed by Genevieve's evil sister, Redd, who has been living in exile for some years. Alyss and her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, are forced to flee Wonderland through the Pool of Tears, which is a portal to other worlds. Alyss ends up in Victorian-era London, while Hatter washes up in Paris. Alyss lives a sort-of Oliver Twist street urchin life until she's arrested, sent to an orphanage, and eventually adopted by the Liddell family. Hatter is on a constant search for his princess, stumbles upon Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and gets ever closer to returning the heir to her home.
In the book, Wonderland is the source of all things everywhere in every world. Anything that can be dreamed up, imagined, can be sent via looking glass to be added to the vernacular of other worlds. Airplanes, pogo sticks, and light bulbs were all originally conceived in Wonderland. White and Black Imagination are at constant odds, often times manipulated to fit the schemes of Wonderlandians, to both help and hinder.
Alyss assimilates as "Alice" after a few years, but she is suddenly and unexpectedly rescued and returned to a decimated Wonderland to battle Redd for the throne. Her abilities to use her Imagination have been buried deeply within the young woman, and she must convince herself and everyone around her that she is indeed that Alyss. She tries and practices, with little success, and discusses it with Hatter before she has the great epiphany:
It's unconscious. To will something into being, the willing of it must be so deep down that no self-doubt is possible. The imaginative power itself must be a given, a thing already proven that cannot be disbelieved.
That's the crux of it, isn't it?
It's not the belief of others, not the faith of the external, that makes something happen. It's the personal belief in yourself and your own abilities, that what you're doing is so true and real that it can't do anything but BE.
When I started writing again, I spent a lot of time worrying about what other people would think of my work. I've written before about my tendency to second-guess myself, whether about the mechanics or the spirit of what I'm writing. Some things are better than others, certainly, and that's what an editor and the Inner Circle are for, to help me see when there's something that could be improved.
But, the thing is, I have to write. Rarely a day goes by that I don't write something, whether it's a blog post for Muchness and Light or The Gracious Whore, a piece for a third-party site, revisions or a draft for the book, an article on a musician, or even a press release for whatever project. My laptop and I move from place to place and headspace to headspace, finding the right groove to let the words flow. I notoriously email myself stuff throughout the day, from my phone to my laptop--little bits of wordage, ideas for story progression, or thoughts on a blog post I'd like to do. In part, I have to remind myself of the oh-so-many things that go through my brain in a day, but it also helps me to flesh out those ideas when I see them pass through my fingers, before my eyes, into type.
I know several writers, musicians, and artists who've been moved and influenced by Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. For whatever reason, I'd never read it until I picked up a copy this past December. I absolutely see the appeal in what Rilke had to say to Franz Xaver Kappus in his ten letters, dated from 1903 to 1908. (Interestingly, Rilke comes across to me as distractible and a bit flighty at times, much like the two people I know who most profess his influence on their artistic hearts.) He hits me right from the beginning with the gist of what I needed to hear in December:
Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all--ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple "I must," then build your life according to this necessity.
I absolutely must. What I'm finding is that there are days when I also believe in what I'm writing, when the power of my own imagination overwhelms even me and shows me that I'm pointed in the right direction, that my imaginative path is indeed both true and real.
I've had a few days lately when I've been so consumed by my own thoughts and words as they flowed that I cried. I was caught up in the emotion of the unfolding page-bound moment that I shed tears for the intensity of the situation enveloping my characters. They're imaginary, though certainly based in part on real people I both know and am. Even the fictional has basis in reality, and I was tapping some deep, long-still emotional wells. The jostling rippled through me and onto the page. It was gut-wrenching and difficult but incredibly cathartic.
Right now, I'm in a place where there's no self-doubt about my writing. Don't get me wrong: I can always see places for improvement and development. But today I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be, writing what I'm supposed to be writing. And I can trust in myself enough to let it flow and just be. All of this could change tomorrow, I know. I'm hopeful that I've grown enough as a writer and a person that I don't forget the placid confidence, that I have the self-belief to let me delve into my imagination and bring forth some deep answers--about me, about you, about life and whatever--and the self-assurance to let them take stand on their own merits and just be.