In my school years, I actively avoided all courses or activities that involved art, writing or any other creative pursuit. As the gawky bespectacled kid who was always chosen last for school or summer camp teams, I couldn't replace them with sports or athletics. Instead, I turned inward and, following my mother's example, read voraciously. In school, I focused my course selection on subjects like math that offered only one right answer. That way, I minimized the dangers of not only being wrong but of being judged harshly for having been wrong.
Today, as I reflect back on that March evening two decades ago and on what, for me, remains one of the most transformative moments of my life, I am astonished by all that my Muse has managed to push through me and by all that I have managed to surrender to.
Over the past 20 years, I have
- completed and published The MoonQuest: The Q'ntana Trilogy, Book I and won five literary awards for it
- written and published The MoonQuest's two Q'ntana sequels: The StarQuest and The SunQuest
- written and published two books for writers, The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write (winner of two awards) and Writer's Block Unblocked: Seven Surefire Ways to Free Up Your Writing and Creative Flow, with a third (From Memory to Memoir: Writing the Stories of Your Life) coming out in a few weeks and fourth (Organic Screenwriting) next up in my author's queue
- written and published Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir
- written and published The Book of Messages: Writings Inspired by Melchizedek
- adapted my three Q'ntana stories into a trilogy of screenplays, all of which have been optioned for feature-film production
- begun to adapt all three Q'ntana stories into a trio of stage musicals
And so when the 28th rolls around in a few days, I'll be raising a glass to toast The MoonQuest and to everyone and everything in my life that made it possible. It's been quite a journey!
To honor The MoonQuest's 20th birthday this week, here is the story of its birth, excerpted from Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir....
Birth of a Book
An excerpt from
Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir
Time to stop journaling?
My journal had been my best and only friend through my first two months in Nova Scotia. The thought of letting it go terrified me. I may not have been using the word “surrender” yet, but I was committed to the concept. I would do my best to follow my highest inspiration, however inscrutable.
That day, I set my journal aside. I would record no emotions, experiences, dreams or meditations. Nor would I seek guidance from the blank page. Instead, bundled up against the wintry bluster off Pubnico Harbour, I walked and walked and walked. When I wasn’t walking, I curled up in a chair and read or meditated. I was bored and, with no writing outlet, tense.
Nine months earlier, my moving boxes still stacked against the walls of my Rowland Street flat, I had hosted a writing workshop in my living room. Present were the six PC&W students who had asked to continue with me in a series of private classes. That morning, I had devised an exercise based on Courtney Davis’s Celtic Tarot. The deck had so seduced me a few days earlier in Toronto’s Omega Centre bookstore that I couldn’t not buy it, even as I failed to understand the impulse. Now, I did. I would have each student draw, closed-eyed, one of the major arcana cards. Then with their eyes open to the chosen card, I would lead them through a guided visualization into writing.
I rarely write during a workshop that I’m facilitating. Instead, I watch the participants, hold space for them and remain available to them. This March 28 class would be different. Once the six women were engrossed in their writing, some inner imperative insisted that I also pick a card. I reached into the deck and pulled The Chariot. Without full awareness of what I was doing, I then picked up my pen, pulled my yellow-paged notepad toward me and began to write. What emerged, after a rambling preamble, was the tale of an odd-looking man in an odd-looking coach. Pulling the coach were horses as oddly colored as those on the Tarot card. That scene would become the opening of the first draft of a novel I knew nothing about.
Next morning, I picked up the story where I had left off and, most mornings for the next few months, I continued writing. It was a challenge to my controlling self, who bridled at the journey into the unknown that each word represented. So stressful was the process that after a few days I forced myself to write in bed before getting up. I figured that if writing was the first thing I did, I wouldn’t spend the rest of my day trying to avoid it. I also wrote longhand. It wasn’t that I believed handwriting to be superior. Rather, years of freelance writing — crafting other people’s stories to other people’s deadlines — had forged an uneasy association with desks and keyboards. It was easier for me to be creative as far as possible from my computer. My penmanship being as poor as it was, though, I resolved to type up each day’s output as I went along.
It was now mid-December. I had not opened my journal for a week and, although I went to bed earlier and earlier, my days felt endlessly long. One afternoon after I returned from my walk, I had a sudden urge to dig out my fantasy manuscript, buried as deeply in a box as it had been from my thoughts. I dusted it off and placed it on a corner of my kitchen table. I didn’t dare open it. It sat next to me through a dinner, a breakfast and a lunch. It sat there, both seductively and accusingly, daring me to pick it up and read it. A dozen times through those twenty-four hours, I reached for the stack of pages then pulled my hand back. I was afraid to touch it, afraid that the manuscript wasn’t any good, afraid that I had outgrown it and would have to abandon it.
After lunch that second day, I gingerly carried it into the living room. Although I was certain it would be unreadable, I set a pen and notepad next to me...just in case it wasn’t. Two hours later, barely aware of what I was doing, I picked up pad and pen and began to write, continuing as effortlessly as though I had stopped for five minutes not five months. What I realized as I dove back into the story was that I hadn’t outgrown it. Rather, it had been so far ahead of me that I had needed those five months of life experience in order to be able to catch up with it and carry on. Three months and three hundred additional pages later, the first draft was finished — a year to the day after the Toronto class that had birthed it. And it finally had a title: The MoonQuest.
Excerpt from Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir -- © 2013, 2014 Mark David Gerson
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