There was a time not so long ago that I found myself at a proverbial dead end. I was asking myself ‘what the f*ck do I do now?’ I have to say that it was one of the scariest feelings I’ve ever had, and if you’ve never asked yourself this question, thanks be to God for your fortune.
I’m not gonna bog this post down with lengthy, annoying, victimizing and villainizing narratives that no one (including myself) wants to endure. I’m only here to tell you that it was at this moment in my life that I decided to find and hire an editor. I’m not saying everyone should hire an editor. But the reason I hired one was because I then believed and still believe in a story that I wanted to write, but after hours upon hours of work I realized I couldn’t do so on my own.
I’m not a writer. I’m not anything close to a writer. What I am is a visual artist who has lost the ability to create visual art. As crazy as this sounds, it’s appropriate to sound crazy. It sounds just as crazy as it felt to discover that I was very abruptly unable to do the one thing I knew I was good at doing my entire life.
A good example of what I felt is to remind you of the 2020 Summer Olympics when Simone Biles withdrew due to what was called the “twisties.” Due to mental block, Ms. Biles found that she couldn’t perform the twists and dismounts that she had prepared for and successfully performed going into Day 1 of the competitions. By Day 2, what was up was left. What was down was right. What was over was… somewhere in the audience of diehard fans watching their idol collapse in front of their very own eyes. Fortunately for Biles and her fans, it took a mere few days for the world-renowned gymnast to collect herself and regain her keen ability to continue and subsequently place third in the competitions.
I have yet to regain my ability to continue as the artist I once was. Why? Because I’m not the Simone Biles of artists and I never will be, and that’s okay. I’m not going to force it or fight it. My twisties are twisties, and they’ll either work themselves out or they won’t.
During the early part of my professional collapse, I started writing poetry, and in my mind, it was really impressive poetry for someone who wasn’t a writer or poet. At this time, I was isolated at my home, away from the rest of the world, with my husband and son. In a relatively short amount of time, I became one with nature and discovered interests I never knew I had. I spent anywhere from eight to sixteen hours a day outdoors, something I never, even as a child, wanted to do. Until this time, I was intolerant to extreme heat and extreme cold. The conditions would have to be perfect for me to take so much as a stroll around the block. But when I got the artistic twisties and completely lost myself, I decided to lose myself outdoors. Some of my most enlightening moments during isolation were experienced in nature.
Around this time, summer had begun, and we had what seemed to be hundreds of anole, a common backyard lizard. We had so many by the summertime that it was hard to walk without seeing four or five scurry away at each step. One day, while watering the dychondra I had just planted, I accidentally stepped on an anole. I watched blood creep out from a tiny abrasion atop its head as it swayed dizzily and collapsed on a large rock by my feet. I shut off the hose, sat down by it and watched it die. I cried miserably for ending its life. It’s one thing to stumble upon a dead animal; it’s another to cause its pain and watch it die.
I said a prayer and placed a tiny red flower from my neighbor’s yard over its body. I walked over by the gate of my fence and cried some more.
Two days later, I sat in the same spot at my fence, and felt something strange on my leg. It was an anole with a noticeable abrasion on top of its head. I watched in awe as it sat there and literally snuggled its head against my jeans and then crawled onto my arm and snuggled some more. He spent so much time there that I had time to first soak up this moment with utter delight and then more time still afterwards to slowly grab for my phone that lay beside me. He gave me enough time to video some of the encounter. It was comforting. It was spiritual. It was the most wonderful experience, and I have the video to remind me of hope and believe in prayer.
This was just the beginning of many strangely spiritual experiences that happened during this otherwise very dark period of time spent in isolation. It was a time that I was most afraid of those who had known me for so long, afraid to be found as a failure due to a phenomenon that was brought on by trauma. Another strangely spiritual thing that happened during this time was that I started having extremely, vividly surreal dreams. Many of these dreams involved the future. Many of them involved loved ones from the “other side.” Some involved a lot of glitter and cascading waterfalls. These dreams led me to research and study many new things, particularly the works of the late Octavia E. Butler—arguably the most prolific science fiction writer of the 70s.
It was at this time that I became inspired with a plot in my head that seemed so beautifully profound that I began outlining my thoughts. Then I started aligning settings with purpose and breathing life into characters within these settings. I started writing paragraphs and dialogues, then chapters and revisions. What a revelation it was to see a story’s creative potential, my creative potential within an entirely new medium. It was as if someone else was typing these things, pouring words on the screen that at times I didn’t even know the meaning or origin of. Yet upon searching their definitions, they fit perfectly into the story. This experience was comforting. It was spiritual. It was the most wonderful experience since my encounter with the lizard.
Once I had eight chapters, I posted it completely online, and I told my closest friends and family to please read it and let me know what they thought.
Not crickets, but chirps of encouragement without criticism, and I needed to know what would improve the story to make better sense to the reader. So then I enlisted a neighbor who at one time was a successful writer, whom I found out later was going through his own issues that kept us from working together. But he got me to where I felt more comfortable with my writing. So I started sending the story to magazines in hopes to be read and given some pointers. I realize that any writer who read that last sentence may be soiling themselves in laughter, but that’s truly what I wanted. I wanted the story to be read. I wanted to hear what people in the writing industry felt about it.
So after some time of self-loathing and wallowing and wondering why on Earth I was given this story to write if no one was interested in it, I decided to finally research the process. I learned that first a writer should hire what’s called beta readers, then an editor, before ever considering to share a story with publishers, magazine editors, and the like. So I went to a website that could help in the process of connecting me with these folks, folks who read and folks who edit. I knew I didn’t have the money for both, so I skipped ahead to seek out an editor. I received about 25 proposals, almost all of whom made it painfully obvious that 1) they did not read my job post and sent in scripted bids that could’ve applied to a hundred other posts, and 2) were way out of my budget.
There were two proposals that struck my intrigue. One seemed so fitting but didn’t include samples or references of the editor’s past work. The other seemed equally fitting that did include the editor’s samples and references from past work. I hired her on the spot, and she has been so incredibly patient, proficient, efficient, forthcoming, effective, affectionate, compassionate… she is such a wonderful fit for my personality and the story I’m writing. We instantly clicked, and I’m thrilled to have her as the editor of Redfin. Since her arrival, I have found it so much easier to write this story, and I have watched it blossom from baselined mediocrity into something beyond my ability.
So until I find my old self again, I’m happy to be writing, and I have my spiritual compass as well as my editor, Michaeli Knight, to thank for that.
In conclusion, anyone who finds themselves professionally lost or experiencing twisties of any kind should recognize it for what it is and enjoy the journey in relocating themselves. It’s a difficult journey, filled with pain and rude awakenings, but it has incredible rewards, little nuggets of gold that will forever stick with us. That is, if only, we accept what comes to us, without forcing our hand at something that has gone away for a very good reason. It’s not on us to understand its disappearance, but it is on us to find a way out of its darkness and into the light of new experiences and relationships, wonderful things that will perhaps stay with us and give us new hope.