Deadly Ever After

The Writing Adventures of The Undead Duo–Julie Hutchings and Kristen Strassel

Digging Deeper: What It Means To Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Chocolate Cherry Hazelnut. I made it up.

For those who know me, I have been very quiet recently, haven’t I?  For those who really know me, you know I have been tirelessly editing Running Home.   You have seen my short stories, probably know my mouth on Twitter, but I assure you, Running Home  shows a different side of me.  One I have protected for a long, long time without really knowing it.

Kristen nips at me often to stop making changes to the novel.  It is unbelievable to have someone that you trust that way to tell you that your novel is good just the way it is, and not to listen to everybody.  I am not one to take criticism personally.  Kristen actually thinks I greet it with too much enthusiasm…every suggestion I take with an “I can do that!” go forwardness.  But when it came to this particular critique, I shied away, mentally ran screaming, and denied the need for it:

Dig deeper. .  

I have known my MC, Ellie Morgan for 5 years.  She doesn’t “speak” to me, the way other writers claim happens, I am her boss.  She is part of me, and I am the controlling part.  She came to me when I needed her most as an outlet for my fear of change, my fear of death, my fear of failure.  After I had a baby.  To think that I hadn’t poured myself into her enough to make her someone readers connect with was not only painful, it was absolutely terrifying.

You hear the phrase “dig deeper” all the time when it comes to critiques, and it never bothered me, until it was applied to Ellie.  I have edited Running Home to perfection, in my opinion.  I have made it exactly what I want it to be.  I felt finished, done, laid out.  Exposed to a degree.

Because without ever saying as much, Ellie has my own overwhelming fear of death.  It’s the only thing that I truly feel I cannot conquer, the one thing that has stripped me of so much.  It’s something that has become so much a part of me, to put it out in novel form, risking rejection of my very imagination, was a welcome difficulty.  You see, I am not one to give in to much of anything.

Ellie’s also representative of my feeling that I am meant for something I will never find.  The idea that I cannot even express my disjointedness from the world is a difficult failure to admit to.  And failure is right up there in things that scare me a bit.  I know in my heart that I hesitate at success for fear it won’t happen.  For fear that I will see my limits, and they won’t be good enough.

So when I was told to “dig deeper,” I was spent.  It sent me into a depression that is still painful to think on. Insomnia, pointless crying, lack of energy, weird eating patterns, clingyness, it was all there.  I finally had to face something that I never wanted to belive.  It was no longer scary to think of my fear of failure, my fear of never finding my true purpose, even my bone-deep fear of inevitably being abandoned by the people I love.

My real fear in making Ellie deeper was that maybe, just maybe, there was nothing else. She was me, and I had finally been, ultimately, just not good enough.

What if this was all the depth I had?  What if I was that surface that there was no more of me to give?  Had I finally really reached my limit, and had nothing else to offer?  Was there something in me that I would never be able to find?  Is this all there is?  No amount of soul searching to uncover my hidden depths was as painful as thinking I just didn’t have any.

So, following a month long, in-depth, heart-rending re-reading of Running Home, I think I have finally nailed it.  And maybe the most important lesson in all of this for me, is that if you don’t find Ellie compelling enough, then you don’t find me compelling either.

And I know myself better than that.  I hope you all want to know, too.

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20 thoughts on “Digging Deeper: What It Means To Julie

  1. This was very moving and touching, Julie. You are an amazing woman and so is Ellie. Both of you have more than enough. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise!

    • Mari, your friendship has helped pull me through some of these issues, and I can’t say enough how much I (and Kristen) both appreciate your support. Thank you.

      • Thank you, Julie and Kristen. I needed to hear this today.
        I also appreciate your friendships. You both have helped me so much too.
        I believe that people are brought together for reasons. We were brought together to hold the other up when it was impossible to stand on our own.
        I am forever indebted to you both. ((hugs))

      • We always seem to find each other at the right time, don’t we? I could not be more appreciative of you and the unbelievable friends I have made on line of all places! People who really understand me, and care, and have never even heard my booming nightmare voice.

  2. Julie
    I can honestly say that I have never come across a writer, no, a person who has so much depth and honesty before. There are two or three people with whom I would trust an emotion. You are one of them.
    This was an insight to you that fills me with respect and admiration. It also tells me that Running Home is on my reading list.

  3. dylanjmorgan on said:

    Good blog post.

    It’s great to have finally completed a novel and edited it to what you feel is the best the work could possibly be. But beware. Your proofreaders might find stuff you didn’t and might make you realize the novel isn’t as “nailed” as you thought it was.

    I know because I’ve been there, 7 times. But it’s all part of our growth as writers, and it’s worth every sleepless night and anxious moment.

    So, when are you sending it to me?

  4. I’m really proud of you for writing this post. This took guts. I know how hard it’s been for you to wrestle with this for the last few weeks. I’m also glad you’ve come to peace with it and you’ve figured out how to make it work for you and Ellie.

    I do worry that you take all of the suggestions to heart too much. I know what an excellent book Running Home is, and I’ve never wanted you to lose the heart of it based on what people think of the first ten pages. Just like regular people, not everyone is going to connect with every aspect of a story.

    I can’t wait for the world to read Running Home.

    Kristen

  5. Are you saying that I am a cold hearted bitch incapable of emotion?
    Kristen

  6. Sometimes we’re given feelings to lead us on a new path. What we’ve always believed or agreed with doesn’t fit anymore. Or we may have never fit perfectly because we were never made to fit perfectly. Times like this we need to step back and look at every small path not just what we feel. I’ve been here lately too.

    Hey I get to read it too! I was already promised a look… then it wasn’t ready yet.

  7. Pingback: Digging Deeper: What It Means To Julie « Severed Limb Movement

  8. Wow! This moved me greatly. I’ve been down the road of depression and it’s no picnic. I look forward to reading your work.

  9. Christopher Shawbell on said:

    I have only three words to follow: I LOVE YOU.

  10. Christopher Shawbell on said:

    Now I have more… You’re amazing, Julie. Your courage is so damn powerful. I am so happy I met you, my friend. I have been in a difficult struggle of late, and you have brought the first true smile to my face in many days. How I stayed on this lonely writer’s path so long without you and all the wonderful folks in our little group I just can’t fathom right now (writing screenplays no less! God! Is that ever Hell!). You have been a big part of my recent growth and confidence.
    My deepest gratitude,

    Christopher

    • Chris Shawbell, to hear something like this from you boggles the mind. I am endlessly inspired by you, never have I seen a person so inspired and dedicated to their writing, their growth as a writer. And don’t forget that you helped me in my deepest despair, as well. I am eternally grateful. It brings tears to my eyes at this very moment even still. You should have every bit of confidence in yourself, you are a spectacular writer, and an even more spectacular person. To hear you say that you think I am amazing and powerful, when this is exactly what I think of you makes me hurt inside with pride. I love you, my wonderful friend.

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