Sunday, August 21, 2011

Stuck in My Throat

"Na'an came to me in a dream this night. It was early. I had not been in bed long and the night was newly dark. 'It is time,' she said, 'time to fix The MoonQuest on parchment.'"
 ~ The MoonQuest: A True Fantas

yI've had a raw throat and stuffy head for nearly a week now. Through much of that time, I've done little other than sleep, guzzle gallons of water and honey-infused tea, and clear my throat.

"Oh," you might murmur with sympathy, "a summer cold."

I don't look at it that way. Whenever something physical goes out of whack for me (mercifully, not often), I spend at least as much time tuning in to what in my emotional life precipitated it as I do to self-care. My philosophy is that if I look after the underlying cause, the symptoms will largely take care of themselves.

When the throat-clearing kicked in, I knew that it was about my voice. Not my speaking voice (even as I grew hoarse and teetered on the edge of laryngitis). My writer's voice.

And when my throat got worse on Thursday, after Anvil Springs producer Kathleen Messmer and I spent the afternoon compiling ideas for directors and a principal cast for The MoonQuest movie, I knew it had something to do with the film project.

I was even clearer that evening, after we added a particularly illustrious director to the top of our list.

This isn't the first time we've assembled an A-list slate of actors and directors for the The MoonQuest movie. But something about this director pushed all my worthiness buttons. I spent the evening feeling intimidated by the prospect of not only working with someone of that caliber, but of having someone that, well, literate, read my screenplay.

This director has acted in and/or directed nearly three dozen films, and has won close to half of the four dozen awards he's been nominated for. As well, two of his Oscar nominations were for a film that, indirectly, helped propel The MoonQuest book to completion. He's also had an award-studded history on the stage.

I spent the next day letting myself feel my fear and discomfort, grudgingly grateful for the opportunity to work through yet another personal growth issue, one that had little to do with a potential director and everything to do with me.

During the many years when The MoonQuest book was nothing but a stack of manuscript pages languishing in a file box, I kept telling myself that regardless of whether it was ever published, the life lessons I'd learned while writing it had been valuable beyond measure.

It's true. Writing The MoonQuest the way I did -- moment-by-moment, word-by-word, with no idea where my Muse was taking me with the story -- prepared me for a life of ever-deepening surrender to my story, to the life story that has revealed itself to me in each moment through that infinite mind I wrote about here a while back.

It's also true that I had to tell myself that, or I would have been hard-pressed to feel good about all the time I'd invested in a project that, for too long, seemed to be going nowhere.

Similarly, I kept telling myself through the day Friday that, in the long run, my current journey was not about whether a particular director would sign on, or whether there would even ultimately be a MoonQuest movie. It was about what I'm learning and about all the ways I'm growing along the way.

This morning, still hoarse and laryngitic, my head still feeling as though it was jammed with mucus-soaked cotton balls, I wondered why I wasn't feeling any better. After all, I had identified the root cause of my physical discomfort and had committed myself to doing whatever it would take to move through and past my feelings of fear and unworthiness.

And then, while I was out walking, I had flash of Na'an's words to a reluctant Toshar in the prologue to The MoonQuest book: "It is your story to tell," she insists. "It is for you to fix it in ink, to set the truth down for all to read."

"So many seasons of storytelling and still I hesitate," Toshar replies. "Of all the stories to stick in my throat, how ironic that it should be The MoonQuest, a tale of the freeing of story itself."

When, in 1994, I began writing The MoonQuest, this "tale of the freeing of story," I was freeing my story. I was dissolving not only Toshar's reluctance, but mine. I was breaking through not only generations of repressed creativity in Toshar's heartland, but decades of creative block within myself.

As I've written here before, I don't like the expression "coming full circle" because it suggests that we're returning to a place we've already been, having learned nothing and grown not at all. My preferred image is that of a spiral, where we return to a place along the same axis, but at a higher level of consciousness and understanding.

As I wrote in The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, "Each cycle’s completion returns you not to where you began but to a higher level of awareness, mastery, openness and trust." I wrote that about the creative process, but isn't life the ultimate creative process?

Now, I realized on my morning walk, The MoonQuest is once again "stuck in my throat." Not in the same place it was stuck 17 years ago, when the Toshar in me tried to avoid telling his story. It can't be. I've moved through many turns of the spiral since then, turns that got the story written, the book out and the screenplay completed and on the cusp of production.

What's sticking in my throat now -- what's causing my hoarseness and loss of voice -- is the prospect of taking The MoonQuest to a new level: letting it be read by Oscar-nominated professionals and exposing it (and me) to audiences far greater than the book could ever reach.

Like Toshar, I'm scared. Like the Mark David who was creatively shut down for so many years, I'm afraid of being judged...and found wanting. Like so many creative artists through the millennia, I'm terrified that I'll finally be revealed as a fraud.

And so my story sticks in my throat, as parts of me try to protect other parts from the perceived danger of moving forward.

Years ago, in the early days of my conscious spiritual and creative awakening, before I know there was a MoonQuest inside me, I had a dream.

In the dream, I’m walking out of a multistory parking structure when the uniformed attendant steps out of his booth and stops me. He won’t let me leave. I shout. He shouts. I shove. He shoves.

I woke from the dream drenched in perspiration, more angry than frightened. Later that day, as I had done in the past, I took the dream-confrontation into meditation.

"Why won’t you let me leave," I ask the guard, politely this time.

"I’m afraid that if I do, I’ll be out of a job," he answers simply.

"I still need you," I offer reassuringly. "But I need you to act more as a filter than as a gate. I need you to protect me more discerningly."

"I don’t know how," he counters.

"Are you open to learning how?"

He pauses for a moment, his face screwed up in concentration.

"Yes." He nods. "I am." He stands aside to let me pass from the dank dark of this structure -- this place of parking, of storage, of non-motion -- but not before we’ve shaken hands and hugged.

Today's fear, today's self-judgment, today's stuckness in my throat -- they all come from the present-day equivalent of that dreamworld parking attendant, trying to protect the only way he knows how.

Today, once again, I ask him to be more discerning, to widen the weave on the screen of his filter, to not only let me move forward but to come along for the ride in his once-again redefined job. And as I do so, I feel the rawness in my throat abate somewhat and sense some of the stuckness of the past week begin to unstick.

The MoonQuest is once again on the move...and so am I.

"I see it all now, in the leap of light against dark. The shadows will tell me the story and I will write what I see. I will write until my fingers and beard are black with ink. I will write until the story is told.  Only then will I be free to continue my journey. ..."
 ~ The MoonQuest: A True Fantasy


• Read the full prologue and first chapter of The MoonQuest

• Read another excerpt from The MoonQuest  book

• Read more about The MoonQuest book and film project

Order your copy of The MoonQuest book in hard copy or ebook format

• "Like" The MoonQuest book and movie on Facebook

• Tune in to Insight for the Soul Radio, August 22 at 7pm PT, when Mark David talks to host Charmaine Lee about his MoonQuest journeys. Use the same link to download/listen to an archived version of the broadcast.

Photo: Nightmare parking structure by Mark David Gerson.



Joie said...

The emotions that you let spill onto the page encourage me to trust that my stories that won't let go of me, may have value to someone, even if it is only me.

Mark David Gerson said...

Keep trusting, JoAnn. In the end, trust is all we've got!