Tag Archives: writing process

The dirty details of your divorce

Divorcing a Real Witch is in beta right now, which is great. I ‘m getting super valuable feedback that will help me make changes to the book before I send it off to my editor at John Hunt publishing. I have refused to rush the book – my contract allows two year for me to turn it in, and I’m using that time to turn out the best work I can do on a difficult subject. I’m glad I’m taking the full time with the process, especially since one of my beta readers brought up a really valid point: she wants me to share more divorce stories from other people. The problem is that while people willingly share stories about the divorce from outside the relationship, when it comes to the relationship details itself… those details get pretty sparse.

English: Marriage and divorce rates in the US,...
English: Marriage and divorce rates in the US, 1990-2007. Source: Statistical Abstract, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pagans really do not like talking about divorce. As a result, my book mostly focuses on my story, and I’m sincerely hoping I can get a few people to go on camera to talk about their experiences but I suspect it may take a bit of bribery and bewitchment.

Divorce among Pagans is common, and in theory there’s no stigma for it among Pagans (there totally is in practice.) While on a social level plenty of men and women have taken visible pleasure in saying nasty things about their exes, when asked to go on camera to talk about the actual experience, I’ve received near total shutdown. Even on the survey, with no risk of identity exposure, a few people responded to questions about their divorces with “that’s private,” thus begging the question… why  take the survey?

I expected the research on divorce to be hellish,  and I expected the two extremes you get whenever you work with Pagans: on one hand, an absolute willingness to help to the point of burnout, and on the other hand a cussed determination to be as uncooperative to the project as possible because it might lead to something resembling organization, and that might lead to organized religion – chaos!

Along with the above fully expected behaviors,  I’ve learned a few things about why it’s difficult that were somewhat unexpected. Many make sense when I really think about it, and it falls into that puzzling silence/not silence line where sometimes the silence does the harm, and sometimes the breaking of the silence does the harm. As uncomfortable as it is, when it comes to divorce, I really do think there’s a lot we actually need to know.

  • People are generally happy to badmouth their exes – but ask for what really happened, and they immediately shut down. Even when I explained (hopefully clearly) the purpose before I asked if they wanted to talk about it,  the response was awkward silence, that weird clamping-shut, rather than a polite decline. Years later, being asked truth about divorce often led to emotional shutdown/shut out. I wasn’t even asking for the salacious details – I was telling these individuals about  the project, and not asking them any personal questions.  I still got that reaction.  That’s probably bad for the people with kids, since we subconsciously try to model our marriages based on our parents’ marriages most of the time.
  • Multiple men have tracked me down and expressed beliefs that they are wholly unsupported in the divorce process. My first reaction to this is to say something snarky about how the whole of culture supports men, but after more thought, I did have to consider this: men receive ALL other support in our culture EXCEPT emotional support. The men’s rights movement doesn’t fill in the void so much as it makes the emotional problems of men much, much worse, mostly by making them completely paranoid that all women are out to steal their used condoms and take all their money. Statistically speaking, men still tend to come out the winners in divorce financially and socially, with a 42% rise in disposable income the first year after. Men also lose far fewer friendships and only rarely have to bear the burden of family disapproval, whereas nearly all women experience losses on both counts. Yes, this improvement of station does include the guys that have to pay child support. As far as I’m concerned, the ones that complain about paying child support are just being selfish jerks – because they’ve made it about winning for themselves, not about making sure their kids win. So, with the “but you do better lifestyle wise” caveat, I do have to acknowledge that men do NOT likely receive that much emotional help in our culture at all, let alone in divorce. That does need to change. I don’t think that separate men’s and women’s groups are the way to go on this – very much the opposite. Divorced men and women do need to come together to support one another – they just need to do it in groups where everyone agrees never, ever, to have sex with each other.
  • People like to have relationships. It makes us feel safe. Divorce brings on a sense of profound danger, and thus we scramble to replace our old locks with new ones.  There’s a lot of relationship overlap that happens among Pagans between marriages. I have another blog post on back log that explains why a period of abstinence or at least of strictly casual sex is a really good idea during the first year or two after divorce, because the frequently of relationship overlap seems to be part of repeating negative patterns, based on what my survey found.
I Want a Divorce
I Want a Divorce (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So while I know quite a bit more about divorce and not-workable marriage among Pagans, as to the personal experiences, people were more comfortable sharing stories of what happened outside the marriage as a result of the divorce. This could be a flaw in the survey – while marriage may be defined by the couple, divorce is defined by society. To break a marriage is to drastically alter your relationship with society.  Most participants  did not want to talk about the dynamics of the dysfunctional marriage bed in and of itself, which of course makes it more difficult to compare mistakes and sense patterns.

That said, I’m still working up the nerve myself to ask people, “So, how did you ask for a divorce?”

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Crazymakers, Light and Shadow

2009-2011 had a lot of difficulties in them, but as you can see from a prior post, it also came loaded with significant accomplishment.

This was originally going to be my 2012 keyword post. It’s still coming, but I feel like this observation from my experience with extremes last year is highly relevant before I explore the topic.

Note: I am expressing. I am not complaining. These are my observations on success being paired with crazy-bombs, because other people experience this, too.

I noticed that every moment of victory, whether it was getting a book contract or simply showing up to teach, was also met with some kind of “crazy bomb” lying in wait. It may not have been conscious, but it was deliberate. Thankfully, my work on the Artist’s Way actually somewhat explained this phenomenon to me. It also reassured me that my experience is NOT unique. Crazy makers tend to pull their crazy when they see you moving forward with your creative life, and see you actually making changes. 2011 was not just a year of making changes – it was a year of getting somewhere – thus my post last year on culmination.

The Louvre

The most irrational, nasty, impossible to deal with stuff happened last year, all of it beyond my control. Friends stopped speaking to me, and came forth with appalling accusations – and they timed their response for while I was teaching at the first Paganicon. Conscious? Hard to say. Probably not. Deliberate? Yes.

Within a week of getting my book contract, I got a harassing phone call from a woman I’ve never had any interest in, accusing me of trying to friend her on Facebook. I’m still not really sure what happened there but I suspect her technical illiteracy and her fixation on me combined in a really bad way. Since I had not approached her or those closest to her in over six months, nor had I any intention of doing so, I can only assume that this clearly pre-meditated attack had been cooking for awhile, and perhaps she was disappointed that I ignored her. I mostly feel pity that her life is so stagnant that she and those around her are still fixating on me, and I did ultimately block the guy on Facebook that gave her my phone number. Apparently he decided, without checking facts or asking me, that I deserved to be harassed. This isn’t the kind of thing you get forgiveness for, so here’s hoping he rethinks the “easier to gain forgiveness than permission.” That’s really not true, especially not in this day and age. The woman has continued to behave like an ass when I’ve encountered her in public space, so I can only assume the fixation continues. I can tell her inner script is claiming her actions are about loyalty, but I also can tell from what’s being projected onto me that it’s really about the ugliness of control, and controlling the actions of others – something I consider outright criminal.

The incidents of the past year make me think of my first round of the artist’s way, where a person I kind of wanted to drop me as a friend did, after posting a screed about how she was sick of people doing things in the name of “self-esteem.” I knew it was about me, and I wasn’t about to take the bait, because it was literally a textbook description of what crazy makers do. I was changing, and she didn’t like it. That she didn’t like my work on getting healthy and creatively unblocked confirmed many things I had long suspected about the relationship, especially since it had become very clear to me that she was a user. I consider it a personal triumph that I managed to break with a well-known drama queen with next to zero drama.

I have no desire to have any of these people back in my life. The crap that was projected onto me and the tiresome drama was taking up much of my energy for unequal payback. Even simple things like going for a walk became dramas; the one thing connected to me that should have involved high drama was muted by comparison. Because the city I live in is big, but my community is small-ish,  there are contingent relationships that I have to acknowledge. I’m very good at compartmentalizing. Everyone has their racists grannies or homophobic grandpas to deal with, and some of them are siblings, childhood friends, or neighbors. [Racist/Homophobic is a metaphor for just about ANY kind of crazy in this context.]

I’ve also realized that, if you see the world of light and shadow in terms of physics, these proportionate crazy bombs have their place in nature. The universe abhors a vacuum, and when I make changes of situations that have stood for a very long time – when anyone make changes – there’s almost always an immediate attempt to pull the situation and person back to his or her original condition. It’s why addicts have such a hard time; those first steps towards recovery are done in the face of a massive pullback. For creative people, the pull back usually comes in the form of some of the people around us, who encourage us to keep thinking the same thoughts and keep doing the same things, even if they say they want different for us and for ourselves. The person that berates you for watching TV when you get home from work instead of writing some pages secretly wants you to keep watching TV; a supportive person would take a positive tack, not encourage a self-punishing one. Besides, I’ve rarely known people in any condition to write immediately after work – most people need reset time, and while TV isn’t optimal, modern working conditions make its use as an opiate cheap and effective.

I’m thinking of this in greater detail now because of a conversation I had with a fellow writer, whom I meet with every so often just to check-in on projects and see how life is. I hadn’t had a chance to see her in over a year, and so we filled each other in and shared our observations with each other. For context, my friend is Christian, and when I told her about the strange balance of extreme shadow and light last year, she felt that the crazy/crappy behavior probably is directly related to my considerable accomplishments. I don’t have a direct quote for her, alas, but the gist was this: in her worldview, the older she gets, the more she believes in Satan. As people accomplish good and creative things, the forces for negativity and darkness try to bring them down, to dampen that light, and to negate accomplishments that can make great changes for the good. As a Wiccan, I believe all evil lies within and is rooted in self-deception, and is not usually from an outer entity. I may not agree with her about the specifics, but I do agree about the mechanics: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This does not mean I have to just stand there and let a pendulum hit me in the face.

New habits can be developed gently, but the old habits and old relationships will be hard on us for bringing them in.  There will always be something that happens, or some inner voice, that tries to convince us it would be easier to lie down and let things be the same, that change will “happen if it’s meant to happen,” and not to rattle the status quo since the status quo will not treat us kindly for the shakeup.

Of course, once you overcome that voice – by taking tiny, tiny, steps – you end up looking back on that time wondering how you ever bought into that crap.

The affirmation I created to deal with this phenomenon is this: These crazy-making things are just the dust that flies out whenever you make a change.

Writing to-do and a sanity exercise

So that list of writing to-dos I posted last week?

Yeah, didn’t happen. Instead I followed my impulse to bury myself in a bunch of books in divorce, body language and emotional intelligence. Some of this is intended to help me with writing Divorcing a Real Witch, and some just to make my life easier. Now I get the additional fun of finding a computer program that lets me organize those notes so I can see them easily. Sure, I could do it the “old fashioned way” but since that’s not really how I process information, I don’t see any use in torturing myself. I also came down with a cold, and since my immune system is going nuts, I’m breaking out in even worse hives than normal.

In the process of all that note-taking, I found an exercise in the book Spiritual Divorce by Debbie Ford that applies to far more than just divorce. She calls the exercise “fact or fiction.” I personally reframe it as “facts, feelings, fears” because fear likes to hide behind other emotions that manifest in this exercise. The idea is to help you refocus on what is actually happening, rather than allowing your emotions to run away with you and do further damage to people who aren’t you and therefore do not share what you are experiencing:

When in a situation where you’re getting upset, write down the facts. The facts are what has actually been said, what has actually been done, what has actually happened. Not how you feel about these things, and NOT the meanings you extrapolate from them.

Just the facts, ma’am.

For example, you disagree with a coworker about what fulfilling a deadline means. Your coworker thinks you should both work late. You think the deadline should be pushed.

Here’s what might go through your head:

  • Your coworker doesn’t care about you or your family needs.
  • Your coworker wants you to work late on the project.
  • Your coworker is trying to kiss butt for a promotion, using your hard work to do it.
  • You asked for the deadline to be pushed back.
  • The deadline is not a decision that you or your coworker have control over.
  • Your coworker is trying to “be the boss.”

OK, so separating out the facts from the feelings (or fictions, as Ford might call them):

  • Your coworker doesn’t care about you or your family needs. Emotional reaction, not fact. Your coworker has said nothing about this to you. Believe it or not, most people don’t keep these attitudes to themselves when they actually have them.
  • Your coworker wants you to work late on the project.
  • Your coworker is trying to kiss butt for a promotion, using your hard work to do it. Emotional reaction, not fact. Your coworker has said nothing about this to you.
  • You asked for the deadline to be pushed back.
  • The deadline is not a decision that you or your coworker have control over.
  • Your coworker is trying to “be the boss.” Emotional reaction, not fact.

I am not advocating you ignore your emotions here.  Emotions are there to inform you. In this case, the emotions are informing theoretical you that you do NOT want to work late, and that you feel uncomfortable about the way work and deadlines are distributed between yourself and your coworker. An empathetic response to your coworker might get a bigger picture – asking questions as “What is your reasoning behind working late?” and cooperative, co-creative questions like “Can we redistribute the workload so it’s easier on both of us?” are a better approach than biting your tongue, putting your head down, and building up a resentment toward the coworker who most likely just wants to go home, too. Unless your coworker has actually said something about this project getting her career advancement, this is all your own self-talk and not only has no bearing on your interaction with your coworker, it creates drama that gets in the way of doing a good job and then going home and forgetting about work.

4 reasons why writers can and should network

hulkscream I’ve recently joined a writer’s group, and I’ve been open that I’ve found it invaluable. It gives me a sense of stability  and institutes a series of mini-deadlines, thus pushing me to do my work and bring it forward. People are supportive, thoughtful and helpful. I try to repay them in kind. This goes against the grain of what I was taught in my early career. I’m glad I’ve unlearned it.

Back in the 90s, when I would voraciously read every recommendation from Writer’s Digest and take it to heart, I glommed on to the idea that writers had to be aloof from other writers. All sorts of things were spouted about “competition” and “purity.” I realize now what I was doing was absorbing dogmatic superstition. Nowadays, I’m all about connecting to other writers, and here’s why:

1)A community of support keeps me working.
I have new people/friends that I want to show my stuff to on a regular basis. This social support causes me to produce material to show them.

2)Competition is pointless.
Publishing is at best a capricious world; spending my time trying to write “better” than anyone – rather than simply writing my best on a given work – is an exercise in futility. Getting published for pay requires a combination of luck and social savvy – so you might as well develop that savvy by being social.

3)Trying to “protect” original ideas wastes your creative energy.
Artists from time immemorial have convinced themselves not to create for fear someone would copy/steal their ideas. Creative process must be fearless, or at least brave: you’ll stall at the one idea if you get too worried about hanging on to it, but if you release it by creating it then you can move on to the next line of creative concepts.

4)Writers can actually help each other.
Only another writer can give you feedback in your craft from the perspective of trying to get the material of the brain to appear on the page. It adds a nonverbal element: “You know when it all comes so fast…” and the other writer will know.