I Thought This Was the End...
I honestly thought that my WIP was going to have to be scrapped. It isn't the closest work to my heart, but it nearly is. It's the piece I feel is the most complete to an actual book, even though it is only the first in a trilogy.
The problem was that I had gotten feedback from a close friend of mine who I asked to beta-read. He did, and though it took him some time, he said he thoroughly enjoyed it. His major critique, however, was how I had applied the magick system.
And in the moment, I panicked.
My magick system in this book isn't the "hardest" (in terms of soft-hard magick scale, see Brandon Sanderson's lectures, or really any fantasy author's post about it), but I did try to make it have definite rules. The characters in the story don't fully understand it yet, but it is revealed to them slowly. However, I had only based it on the rough idea of manipulating "potential energy". I do not have a physics degree, but I took some classes in college and thought I had a fairly intuitive grasp of what it meant.
But my friend's critique was that I hadn't shown enough of it. I had leaned too hard on the technology in the world.
I have a tendency to catastrophize. A lot. Like, REALLY a lot. Any time anything has the possibility of going badly, my brain focuses purely on that outcome and braces for impact. So, immediately, I thought, "this is it; my story is based on a faulty foundation, and I have to start from scratch."
That's a very dark place to be. Like I said, this story isn't the nearest and dearest to my heart, but I have spent approximately two years altogether getting it to where it is, and I had been proud of my accomplishment. Maybe it's because I had thought it completed that, when someone finally did put pressure on a crack, I was mortified as the story began to crumble in front of my eyes.
I have dealt with depression over the years. Chronic depression, the kind where lying in bed and letting the days drift away feels like the only sardonic comfort you can give yourself. The life that bleeds through the cracks in your heart withers and dies, and you laugh at the futility of your mind, body, and soul scrambling to make some semblance of meaning in reality, to try and keep going, to find something to hold on to. I think it's why a lot of people latch on to something for dear life. Drugs, money, power, ideologies, fame, etc. We have to have something to orient our life towards in order to make everything else coherent, to give ourselves purpose.
To live in a space where you make those things for yourself is difficult, to say the least. It's scary to navigate the unknown, outside of society's values and norms, and beyond any intellectual/religious/political lens that can become dogmatic if it's seen as the "true" way to view the world. I don't mean that those lenses have no value, but rather that, in the words of Thoreau, "the Universe is [greater] than our ideas of it." We can asymptotically approach the objective truth, and we indeed stand on the shoulders of giants that bring us ever closer to that lofty goal. But it is still something we must see with our own eyes and experience with our own mind and heart, rather than capture, break, and dissect.
But still, it would be nice to have some idea of what's true, to find some solace in the words of others, in a framework that promises a nice and tidy understanding of life.
I just don't think I can ever convince myself to accept that. But now, instead of letting myself wallow in that dark pit that I carved out of myself, I am learning to let myself be the light that illuminates my own path. I still read the words of others, heed their warning, do my best to understand their grievances, and take heart in their words of encouragement. I wouldn't be a writer if I didn't appreciate the value of other's lives and perspectives. At least, not one of any merit.
I let that light shine through the darkness that day. I reached out to my friend and asked him to brainstorm with me about how to fix my story and, he assured me, this was not a foundational issue. If anything, he found my magick system so interesting, he wanted to see more of it. After a few hours, I fully understood his critique, and now I have a plan of attack to move forward and well and truly have my manuscript ready for an editor.
I'm sorry that this post was much longer than my other ones. I just wanted to share my experience of regressing to older tendencies, to share the the mindset that I am trying to cultivate, and the hope that the differences we make in the world that matter most come from what makes us human. It's from that ineffable part of us that transcends everything else, that is the best in us, but also embraces and evolves through understanding the other parts of us.
If I had any advice, it would be to acknowledge that darkness, integrate it, but don't succumb to it. It will make you stronger if you become more than it. But also remember that you, like the Universe, are greater than your ideas of yourself. Beyond any labels, criticisms, doubts, or self-hatred, you will always be greater than that. And there will always be room to grow and blossom into something new and beautiful that the world will praise in silent adoration.
Live your story to the fullest. Backtrack, if you must, for sometimes that is the way forward. But keep going. And take comfort in the warmth of your own light (and those of your true friends that you meet along the way; they are precious beyond measure).