The moment we indulge our affections, the earth is metamorphosed; there is no winter and no night; all tragedies, all ennuis, vanish--all duties even. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I received feedback from another artist about a writing project that left me wallowing in self pity. How could the reader be confused? How could there be no positive feedback? Was the writing really that bad? I recognized my pathetic response right away. I was hungering for acceptance, but instead was told the project needed to be abandoned. Start over. And I'd paid money to get this feedback.
For several weeks I laid on my self-pity mat, flat on my back and gulped in fear and doubt. Paralyzed. I'd responded this way to negative feedback in the past. Yet this blow felt more painful. The reader was someone I highly respect and admire. I thought perhaps I was somehow in his "league"--that I might write almost as well as he did. Yet after the feedback, I sensed I was in a much lower caste than I'd realized. I concluded it would probably be best to abandon the book project as he suggested. Start over, devise a detailed outline of every chapter. Yet even in my disparagement regarding the project, some of the negative response did not ring entirely true for me. Certainly, I was not paying the reader to praise every word of the material, but to come to a conclusion of dismembering the book seemed overly harsh. I continued to wail, moan and cry. "How could I be so misunderstood?"
I became restless, there on the bed of self-pity, and eventually other thoughts began to increase in volume. Questions surfaced. "How do you usually work best?" "What are your strengths as a writer?" "What are your formulas for creating?" "And what about your affections in life?" "You've been so long in the bed and 'bedlam' of self-pity that you've abandoned your own affections." The realization that I'd let go of my affections pierced through the misery. My primary affections include being in nature, movement, solitude, the page (both reading and writing), music and pursuing spiritual mysteries. And I'd learned over the years that these affections are the very landscapes where I meet God to receive His wisdom and bask in the light of His laughter and unconditional acceptance. Where I discover my most creative self.
I rose from my bed, donned earphones tuned into Beegie Adair on Pandora, went outside into the mild, winter day, the sun slanting through orange leaves that still clung to dark tree branches. My mind cleared, and I began to formulate some action steps. I could buy a new ink cartridge and print out the 30,000 words I'd written. I could take several hours and "take some pity" on this project instead of myself. I thought of that fairy tale where the ugly duckling believes he is unworthy compared with his peers until he gazes at his reflection and sees that he is a white, elegant swan.
Returning to my collage of affections led me quickly out of self-pity and into gazing at my own reflection instead of focusing on other writers and what they might think of my projects. Today I printed out my manuscript and read with compassion the words on the page. I made gentle changes (no red ink) and "cut the fat." I sensed God saying, "Ah, you're back. I've been waiting for you. Let's do this. You sit down at the keyboard. I'll guide you."
What makes up your collage of affections? Don't abandon them, kind reader. Indulge them. God waits there for you. Go now.