Harry Potter and the Secret Teller

Where have I been, you ask? Simple answer. Harry Potter world. (No, not the actual Harry Potter world) I finally gave in and read the books… well, I’m on book 6 of 7, so I’ve almost read them all… only…

I’m having to take a moment. Any Potter Head can tell you the end of book 5 (all 800+ pages of it) hits a bump that’s a little harder to recover from, especially for those who have recently experienced profound loss. So here I am, resurfacing to say hello, dear readers, I thought I’d tell you that I, indeed, am still alive… although not everyone I’ve been hanging out with lately is.  But no spoilers here for any of you who haven’t jumped on that train to Hogwarts yet, but I will say this… It is after-all a train worth jumping on.

In other novel news, I’ve been revisiting/rewriting my novel (again). It is very much a work in progress… much like my own life; I’ve been writing this novel for almost half of it. The biggest development that has come about, is in finding the ability to tell myself the truth about sections that just don’t work, and why they don’t work.  This is a pretty humbling process, but the beauty of art and self expression is that your work will tell you things, secret things, that were hidden until your art reveals them to you.

The secret my work is whispering to me now is to pay attention to the moments when the “should” kicks in, and your art goes places that no longer make your heart soar with joy to say it out loud. This is where this song “should” go, this is what I “should” write a story about, this is what my character “should” do in this situation; and while you might think to yourself that the “should” is easy to spot, let me assure you, it is not.

Reading over my manuscript, sections jump out at me, challenging me to see where I made a plot choice because of a set of rules to which, I believe, I must adhere. I don’t mean grammatical rules, because I have no problem making up the rules there (God bless editors), but I mean the folly of making an artistic choice because you were wired at a previous point in your life to believe that certain things are important, and other things aren’t important at all.

For example, somewhere along the way, some influential person decided that there needed to be something such as a “Christian” movie, or “Christian” music. This is ridiculous on many levels, but the point is someone made it up and put it out there in the world, and it became a thing. Then well meaning Christian people said, “Oh, if I want to make a movie or if I want to write a song, it is supposed to fall within these perimeters; the perimeters set by the Christian labeled things that came before it, and a formula was created.  Over time, what was acceptable in the “christian” versions of things became so narrow, that to fit inside it, the artist has to practically start cutting off arms and legs to not cross the line. But we often don’t realize this is what has happened, like a frog in boiling water, I suppose, and perhaps we stopped letting our art tell the truth about how we really feel, how we really think, and how we really love. Truth doesn’t often fit in boxes, and to make it fit you have to change it, and it becomes something else. It’s not the truth anymore.

Lots of subcultures do this – the rules are set (spoken or unspoken) and people within that culture adhere because that’s just what we do in this culture. When I started writing this story 19 years ago, my biggest terror was for anyone (aka my mother) to read it and find out I didn’t fit so effortlessly in the perimeters I had grown up in. I had a story to tell that didn’t fit and I was afraid. So I found myself remaking the story so it would go where it “should” go to be acceptable, to serve the purpose it “should.” I wasn’t aware that I was doing it, but that is one secret my art (and a dear friend) told me not long ago. For that I am eternally grateful.

This is a hard thing to language… I’m going to think on it more and I’m sure I’ll revisit it and express myself more clearly, but today all I can say is that I am committed to searching out and finding the truth in my writing, in my life, in my music, and telling THAT. To tell the truth with your life has to be one of the most important and powerful things, otherwise it wouldn’t be so hard to do. Not allowing your art to tell the truth is like continuing to use a compass that no longer points to true north. You’ll go on a journey for sure, but you’ll find yourself lost every time.

One day I will finish this first novel and move on to write about other things. Like first children are the experiment child for the parents to work out their parenting theories on, this novel is my experiment child, and even if it’s a little muddled and slow from being dropped on it’s head one too many times, I think it deserves to live and serve it’s purpose….whatever that purpose ends up being. Perhaps this first novel is here just to teach me how to write, to tell the truth, and say it out loud.

I think that’s a pretty noble purpose.

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