It's Time for Women to Write the New Stories

It’s Time for Women to Write the New Stories

 
It’s Time For Women to Write the New Stories. Written by Jess Davidson. Painting: Detail from “Orphan Girl at the Cemetery” by Eugene Delacroix
 

Awakening woman, don’t try to tell me you don’t have something to say about the state of the world. I know you do.

Awakening women have stories to tell. More importantly, we have stories to re-write, for our own good, and for the good of all women. As we go on our own journeys, we begin to see things in a new light, and we begin to know, deeply and with certainty, that many of the narratives that have been written for and about women (mostly by men) aren’t cutting it anymore.

What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.

Eugène Delacroix

Women need new narratives and new heroines to model the full complexity of the experience of womanhood. We need honest, accurate, and even hopeful reflection of the nature of women and the potential for women.

I wrote my book without a plan. I just decided to begin and see what stories I needed to tell. I didn’t know the plot I was writing at the beginning. I didn’t know the themes or conflicts I was writing. Hell, I didn’t even know my main characters’ names until halfway through.

But as I wrote, I learned a lot about what has clearly been on my heart. I wrote the things I felt it was desperately important to talk about. I wrote about mothers and daughters, I wrote about marriage and partnership, I wrote about stubbornness, fear, wisdom, and surrender. I wrote about women in the midst of their competence, and I wrote about women in the pursuit of something (other than romance).

I wrote a story that I needed to see told.

And I’m going to keep on creating new stories, new narratives, and myths, that I need myself. And someday I hope to share them, because I believe that we all benefit from women telling the truth about womanhood.

Truth lives in fiction. Fiction allows us to tell the truth in ways that are larger than just our individual experience, but which become universal. Fiction reveals us, and fiction can redeem us.

This is a call to every woman who has felt a story pulling on her heart.

What is the work inside of you that you’ve been avoiding? The thing you know you have to create that you have felt unprepared or unable to make? The thing you’ve been afraid to speak into existence, the thing you haven’t felt ready to own up to yet?

What is the creative work that your awakening is calling you to do? What do you know you need to make, to create, to express for womankind?

That creative work is your Real Work. And it’s time you got started.

Let this be the year that you give your heart to your creative work. Don’t let another year go by without writing the words, without telling the stories, without saying what needs to be said, without creating what you wish were in the world.

I Wrote a (Terrible) Novel. It Was Exactly What I Needed.

I Wrote a (Terrible) Novel in November.
And It Was Exactly What I Needed.

In November, I wrote a novel. As part of NaNoWriMo, I wrote over 60,000 words of original fiction. And I was overwhelmed with relief and pride to have done it.

I wrote fiction throughout my childhood and adolescence, but stopped during college. Fiction is my first and great love as a writing form. But after almost a decade away, I was afraid I’d forgotten how to tell stories.

Writing a novella-length story in 30 days is a difficult exercise, but I was reminded of how exhilarating the telling of an original story really is. I started with absolutely no plan - no characters, no plot ideas, no nothing. I just sat down at my keyboard on November 1 and started writing whatever came into my head.

And in the process, I started to learn what had long been on my heart.

For the last two years or so, I’ve felt a call to return to fiction. Throughout my journey of awakening, throughout my years of reading nothing but women’s writing, I’ve felt the urge to write new stories.

Stories of soft and strong women. Fierce and fragile women. Women in their complexity not just as women but as human beings. The things that we have yearned for, the things we have been denied. The things we are now grieving.

The novel is terrible. It has no clear storyline. It weaves and wanders. It saunters and stumbles. It surprised me on more than one occasion, when I would write a whole chapter during a lunch hour and come to a screeching halt at the end and wonder, “Where the hell did that idea come from?”

But storytelling is the great truth-telling. In story, we can speak to the universal through the personal. We can express things through our characters that we may have been afraid of speaking out loud in our real lives.

In the next three months, I have a goal of writing three short stories, one a month. I am writing female-centric stories as a form of reclamation. Because in my stories, women can be everything that women in our world are allowed and expected to be - and more. My characters can be honest. My characters can be true.

It’s my hope to share more about the creative process over these next few months, and I’ll be keeping notes on my experience of creative recovery as I go ahead with this audacious (and life-giving) ambition.

Most of all, I am thrilled to be writing fiction again. Fiction has always had my heart, and always will. I have spent far too long away from it. It is what I have always known I’m really meant to do in this life. It’s my Real Work.

And I can’t not do it anymore.

More to come. x

Creative Lessons of the Winter Solstice

Creative Lessons of the Winter Solstice

On the Wheel of the Year and Creative Recovery

 
Creative Lessons of the Winter Solstice: On the Wheel of the Year and Creative Recovery. Written by Jess Davidson. Painting: “Untitled” by Gustaf Fjaestad
 

This morning we welcomed the first sunrise after the longest night of the year. And I can’t help thinking: We are still here. We are okay. We have made it this far. And there is still so much farther we can go.

The winter solstice feels to me like the true new year. It’s a testament to and a celebration of our resilience, our persistence, our perseverance.

Just as the longest night of the year promises lengthening light to come, it reminds me that so too can our dark creative seasons lift as our creative spirits are reborn. Although we may have had some long, lean months (or years) of creative fallowing, we can still feel that our creative spirit lingers.

We find ourselves, at midwinter, right on the cusp between the old and the new, the past and the future, what has been and what might be. We are allowing our creative pasts to be let go, and we are creating space for dreams and visions to brew. We are in the void.

This season is the pause, the space between breaths. It is the instant an object with momentum appears to stand still as it hurls its velocity in a new direction. This is a moment when all of our creative possibilities lie before us. The season of the void is pure potential energy. And the void offers us an opportunity to remember who we are.

If nothing else, the truth is, we are still here, and we are creators. We are artists, writers, culture shapers, new myth makers. We feel this in our bones, and that urge to express the things we believe are worth saying about this human experience will never die. Our creative spirits are indomitable. Despite whatever creative setbacks or disappointments we have experienced, despite whatever odds we have felt stacked against us, we have survived.

We have Real Work to do, and the creative spirit will not let us forget it. We have something to create, something to express, that no other creative being has created or expressed, or has even been capable of doing. What each of us has to offer is unique. It is woven into the fabric of our souls, and it is our task not to drop the thread.

Who we are and what is within us has been with us since forever, since long before the beginning. Our creative work, our vocations, our callings, are contracts we long ago made with our souls. We are here in this lifetime to express ourselves as best we can, and with as much honesty and joy as possible.

I will never be willing to not create. The creative spirit is not just in me, it is me. This is a time of year when many celebrate the birth of a miracle child, but the truth is that we are all the Miracle Child. We are all the Light of the World. We all have messages of salvation for the world, of how we might live, and live well, as partners in this collective human experiment. It is up to us to write the new stories that will shape our future.

Our creative spirits cannot be crushed or tamped out. They may, at times, be dulled, dimmed, or dampened. But the creative spirit will rise, and rise again.

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.

Mary Oliver
excerpted from “Sometimes”

An Affirmation

Today, I affirm my rebirth as a creator. I have something to offer the world, and it is within my power as a creative being to bring it to expression. The truth is, I know what I am here to do. I know, and I know that I know. There is nothing that I have done wrong or failed to do. My creative spirit endures. My creative spirit is perpetual. All creative possibilities lie in the future. I am a creator.

Reflections

1 — What are my deep creative wounds? The creative disappointments I thought I would never get over? I will name every one, and mourn them if I need to. Write love letters or hate mail to them. Say prayers for them. Cry over them. Pour one out in their behalf. Thank them. Release them to the past.

2 — What do I know I am here to do in this life? What is my calling?

3 — What have I loved creating ever since I can remember? What did I enjoy being praised for as a child? What did I wish I was praised more for?

4 — What do I have to look forward to creatively this year? What do I feel is untapped within me? Where is the pure potential within myself as a creator?

5 — What would my message of salvation be for the world? What do I want to express and communicate through my creative work? What do I need to talk about? What do I need to explore? What is worth saying?