Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I’ve been stuck. For the last month, I’ve been forcing myself to work on this book that I’ve been forever writing, and I have just felt so bogged down in it. The little evil critic that lives in my head has been very busy. Each page that I’ve managed to type is pure torture. So, for the last week, I just stopped trying to slog ahead. In fact, I seriously considered giving up on it. I was sure that I would never have another good idea in my life.

It was also my birthday last Tuesday, and everywhere I turned there were these unsettling reminders that I was getting old. Even my body, which is normally very resilient, felt so tired and stiff. I had a lovely, rather uneventful birthday. One of the best things was that a dear friend made me a piece of wearable art that she has strung on a braided cord. Just wearing this talisman of her love and friendship has made me feel better. I also went into New York City on Saturday to have lunch with another close friend and to be interviewed for the New York Women In Film and Television Archives about the early days of the organization and about my career. It forced me to look back over what I’ve done and to formulate some words of wisdom for young women who are trying to follow a trail in that tough business. Mostly, it gave me some much-needed perspective on where I am now.

I’m knee deep in old, crunchy leaves, which makes for a perfect metaphor. I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, but this autumn. there seems to be at least double the number of fallen leaves as ever before. We are drowning in huge piles of brown, dead foliage. I’ve been avoiding the odious job of gathering them up and dragging them to the way back to the compost pile. We made two big heaps in the pasture, which are particularly heavy because there’s some old hay in them. Every day, I announce that I am going to get rid of those leaves no matter what. And no matter what, I don’t.

Siete has been like a little kid, running through the piles and throwing the leaves up in the air. She’s managed to completely dishevel all of the work that we had done. My husband pointed out to me that it’s going to rain heavily tonight, so I went out there this morning on a mission. As soon as I started to rake the leaves on to a tarp, my little horse rushed over and stood in the center of them. “My leaves!” she announced. I was sorry to have to take away her fun, but bundling them up when they are a soggy, weighted down mess is not easy.

In my head, I kept hearing the lyrics to this Van Morrison song, appropriately called “When the Leaves Come Falling Down”. “Follow me down, follow me down, to the space before the twilight and the dawn”. Before the twilight, is the magic hour, where the light is golden and full of promise. And recently, when I wake up at 5 am, I’ve been noticing how incredibly dark the sky is in the moments right before the sun comes up.

As I raked, I realized that I have been wandering around for the last month with the fallen leaves completely obscuring my path. I started thinking about how that dark time before dawn can be either scary or comforting. It can bring up all my fears, or it can soothe and offer me rest and renewal. Moving the leaves somehow released me, and I had the urge to run back into the house to the computer to start writing again. There’s a faint path, not well traveled, but I’m going to stumble along it and see where it goes.


Trée said...

Victoria, thanks for this post. To know others walk the same path, well, there is a comfort in that. All the best with the writing.

Victoria Cummings said...

Tree - I'm glad to hear from you. I know that you've been hard at it with your writing. The good stuff doesn't come easily.

Anonymous said...

Stumbling along is good enough when it's what we should be doing.

Happy belated birthday -we're none of us getting any younger, but that just means we have the advantage of experience!

Good luck with the writing - it sounds like you're back on track.

Wolfie said...

My body betrays me constantly. Sometimes I hate getting old and other times I love how much smarter I am then when I was in my 30's or 40's. :-) Keep slogging ahead with your book!

Belated Happy Birthday, Victoria.

billie said...

I think we have to find our times of actively writing as well as the times when the books is actively simmering - which feels like nothing is flowing, but it's all inside us, getting ready.

Glad you're honoring your process.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Happy Belated Birthday Victoria! Sounds like you're on your way to getting your groove back with your writing.

Siete does sound like a little kids playing in the leaves. She's really a cutie. I like the picture of her and Silk together.

Lasell Bartlett said...

There do seem to be ebbs and flows... of seasons, of writing, of energy levels, of internal/external focus, of confidence... Thanks for putting this into words in such a seasonally appropriate way. I, too, find that when I simply start DOING something, the rest of my life resumes some flow I'd been missing.

Crystal said...

It's nice to know someone else is also struggling with writing. Seems the muses abandon me at the worst times!