Widdershins. Isn’t that a great word? Means “counterclockwise energy” in Wicca tradition. I actually borrowed the word from an interesting 2010 lecture by poet, author and professor Cynthia Huntington, while at a VCFA alumni retreat. I collect weird words (wabi sabi is another favorite of mine. Means “perfection in imperfection” in Japanese), in case I ever decide to recycle them into new creations, such as for today’s post.
On Widdershins, and counterclockwise energy.
The kind of unusual, down-the-rabbit-hole energy required for…Revisions.
Bear with me while Cynthia and I get a little Out There. During the revision, process part of the writer’s job is to test her story, to, as Cynthia tells it, “Unwind its parts without the intention of reaching a set destination.” (a la Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, her chat with the Caterpillar, the triumphant victory over the Jabberwocky, and back again to Alice’s napping spot in the grassy knoll.)
Once a work-in-progress is in full-draft form, the writer feels as though she’s fought her way, blind and pregnant, through a war-torn country, and survived. She’s alive, thanks to her Muse, but jaded. Exhilarated and exhausted all at once. The wellspring of spirit and drive that gave birth to such a story must be replenished. And at such a vulnerable time (a time when so many stories wind up stuck in a drawer the rest of their days), the four-faced feral wildebeest of writer’s block, Mr. Grumble (aka Bully-Procrastinator-Downer-Micro-Manager), emerges on the page, ready to crash, slash, crush, and dash it all to hell.
This is a time to be kind to yourself. Muses respond to kindness. They are wispy and wonder-full, nimble and playful, wreathed in widdershins. Coax your Muse back out by starting from a tiny place of daring within your self that simply says, “I accept.” Cynthia tells us that these two magic words “allow the form of our story to return back into spirit,” unwinding back to the birthplace of our story: the dreams and images we first generated in our mind’s-eye. This is the home of widdershins and rabbit holes. Where every ending is a doorway.
Once you have returned, then do as Alice would: Ask Questions. The Cheshire Cat will gleefully explain, “Why, you already know the answers to all of them.” And Cynthia reminds us that, “It’s not a matter of qualification, but of opening yourself up to providing the answers. Be willing to relent to the pieces in your story; they are not nearly as powerful when they are in your conscious control.”
For who or what is your character without the power objects you’ve placed inside your story: the Drink Me bottle, the flower garden, The Queen of Hearts and White Rabbit, the deck of cards. These are archetypes. Metaphors. Each person, place or thing you set inside your story can be the center of story. (In fact, each IS the center of its own story when the main character is not around.) Listen and observe each object, person, and place. “They have so much more to offer than what is in your conscious control,” Cynthia says. Allow them to “live beyond the goal and direction of your controlled story. They are rich gifts,” ones that – when you listen and observe closely, will take you down a new rabbit hole of wonder for your story.
During the revision process, use the power objects in your story to wind and unwind the world you’ve created with
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