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Creative U-turns (Ch. 9: The Artist’s Way)

Garden Lady Reading I’ve lost count of how many weeks its been since chapter 8 and I fell off the proverbial ‘artist wagon’. Coincidentally enough, as I haul myself back on this morning, what do I find but a chapter dedicated to the very act of abandoning ship! I could claim a variety of excuses: getting my note cards ready for two craft shows; holiday festivities and preparations; waiting for the ‘right’ block of time; fear of finishing this book (!) which has felt like a life saver to my artist self. I realize that by abandoning my work with The Artist’s Way these past weeks, I may have been commiting, in a way, what Julia Cameron terms “creative hari-kari”, which she says is likely “either on the eve of or in the wake of a first creative victory”. I am reminded of another memorable U-turn, that began years ago.

While working on my master’s degree in Literature and Creative Writing, I enrolled in a Writing for Children course. At this time, my intentions were to become a teacher and had nothing to do with writing anything that might become published. Nonetheless, I embarked on writing a historical fiction novel for kids, the genesis of which was my own childhood on Nantucket Island. Upon its completion I was ecstatic and inspired with the idea that this might really be a book. My teacher’s response was lukewarm, however. This might have been enough to render the project dead-in-the-water, if it hadn’t been for the illustrator who I knew through my job. His children’s book illustrations were in demand with two well-known publishing houses and he encouraged me to submit my manuscript to the children’s division editors.

I received what I now know to be a relatively small bump in the road: one of the editors was enthusiastic about the manuscript; she had just been to Nantucket and felt that my writing brought the place alive. But … she felt it ended too abruptly and needed to be filled out at the end. Not bad for a first-time submission from an unknown author. This was not a flat-out rejection. There was probably good possibility that she would have considered the manuscript with the recommended changes. But I was crushed. And put the manuscript away in a box.

That is, until I had the good fortune to meet a literary agent while on a bike tour in Europe—five years later. Upon reading the editor’s letter, he provided me with a list of reputable agents in my manuscript’s genre and encouraged me to continue working with the manuscript.

As syncronicity would have it, the opportunity to join a writing group fell into my lap. Monthly meetings provided the regular commitment to produce something written, structure that I needed. It has taken three years, but at long last, on December 5th, the revised and embellished manuscript was sent out to one of the agents on that list. Regardless of what path the manuscript takes from this point forward, I have navigated a tough creative u-turn and come out writing on the other side.

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