A Loss of Faith (‘Cause It Was Sink or Swim and I Went Down, Down, Down)

posted in: almost famous | 5

drowning

Rufus recently posted (essentially) about how Occultists don’t like to show our asses to each other, especially on the intertubes because we’re all trying to pretend we are Constantly Crushing It and Living Our Truth and Having All Teh Sex, Money and Happiness All Teh Time.

I’ve been pondering that.  At first, I was dismissive about it applying to me.  After, I constantly vomit up all my unenviable aspects of life for your viewing pleasure on the regular.  My divorce, my years working six days a week/12 hours a day, my health issues, my Are-You-There-God-It’s-Me-Margaret doubts about the after life and let’s not forget my constant but confusing litany of don’t live like a filthy hamster/I personally live like a filthy hamster.  It seems like I show everyone my ass fairly often.

Like, whenever someone talks about being envious about my life, I like to dramatically hiss, all this!  and grandly gesture to my tiny home, my gross hair/whatever my skin is fucking up currently for me and/or all the fat that congeals around my tummy that must make my mother crazy trying to decide if a baby could possibly be living there (no.  Tape worms only plz).

So I was like, I’m L7 on this.  I already overshare with the intertubes to a ridiculous amount.  And let’s be real with our self, Deb, in person too.  Like, that time you were at an occultist brunch and you looked all your (more published) little friends in the face and said, ‘I always know when someone is trying to put something in me.’  And they said, ‘Like magically or. . .?’  And I said, ‘Both.’

Except there is always One Thing, isn’t there? 

I haven’t been honest with you, Charmers.  I’ve been struggling.  It’s hard to put so baldly.  Making the transition from a dream is a wish your heart makes to you signed a contract with repercussions for not following your dream is difficult.  And terrifying.  Usually writing comes very easily for me, but each word for this book comes so slowly and like it needs to be torn from me like MacBeth’s prophecy gets ripped out of the witch by Hecate in the blood prophecy scene in Sleep No More.

The first book I wrote, it was about proving to myself that I could even do it.  And I did it.  And I feel incredibly blessed and overwhelmed every time someone recognizes me at a Pagan Pride and says that they bought and read my book and that it’s changed them.  And shy too about it, because every time someone does, Bridgette and Jow insist on pinching my arms and growling at me, you’re famous!  You’re famous!

But at the same time, I was in a race only against myself and I was just trying to sell enough copies to editing/illustrating publishing costs, which was a hurdle I cleared within the first year of the book’s publication in 2013, thanks to all of your kind purchases of my book.

This . . .is different than that.  When I wrote my first book, I was nannying and working twelve hour days, six days a week.  I cried a lot, I was often covered in baby fluids, my house was a wreck, but all I had to do was work as hard as I could and keep pressing forward no matter what.  I just had to be good to the children I cared for, craft and write.  This was all in the hopes that I would some day fill my artistic dreams while still being able to financially support myself.  To be completely honest, I was so deep in the ocean of just keep swimming, just keep swimming that there wasn’t a lot of time to worry about anything else but supporting myself and continuing to create.

My life no longer resembles that time period.  My new career that I started a year ago provides me with a steady salary, 401K, health care and paid time off.  The work is engrossing and requires a lot of my brain, though (most of the time) less of my body.  Transitioning into this new role has been difficult as the work is incredibly detail oriented and it’s a field where there’s no such thing as a small mistake which is every bit as stressful as it sounds until you get used to it and get better at your position.    I have an established bunny trail of shows I do for my shop, so it’s not trying a new venue every other weekend and I have an established stock for those shows as well as an established Etsy.  I now have a book contract with Llewellyn which is a very different vibe than when I DIY’ed my first book.  With my first book, I selected my illustrator and editor and we all worked together.  With this book, Llewellyn selected me.  So, it will be far more polished but I’m the one who has a standard to live up to here.

Now that my schedule is more predictable, this leaves me with ample free time to stare blankly at my computer screen and think, oh god, I’m never going to get another book published by a publisher again because my sales will be shit and when I go on book tour, everyone will be really mean and say I don’t practice what I preach and I have never, ever read enough grimoires and my magic is inferior because it is covered in girly-girl germs and not deeply rooted in text book historical magic.  

When I blithely declared 2015 the year of glamour, I naturally had no idea what that would entail.  It’s forced me to start confronting my social anxiety, it’s made me reclaim some things I’ve let go of, it’s made me more rooted in my body, it’s made me confront a lot of my fears, it’s made me go out into the world again, it’s made me less of an armchair observer and more of an active participant in life and it’s been really hard.  Really hard.  As my friend JohnM just reminded me, you used to be Queen of the Night and now you are having a panic attack about playing Vampire with ten geeks you haven’t met yet.  This has to get fixed, now.  And it does, because an important part of glamour is the ability to interact with others.  If you can’t do that, it’s not really going to work.  I’m working on tapping back into that part of me that’s gregarious and clever and fun.  But really, it’s a lot of screaming in my brain and looking for escape routes right now.  But I keep putting my face in the blender and I keep trying to say yes, even if I say no first.  I suppose that’s why in a way it’s good that I’m writing this book – because it doesn’t come easily for me.  This has the disadvantage of others thinking because it looks easy for you that it actually is easy for you.  Much like a triple axel in figure skating looks easy on television, it’s really hard to even get to a salchow in real life.

Writing this book has been one of the hardest things I’ve done and I honestly didn’t think it would be.  I’ve been blogging about glamour for a long time now.  But knowing that this is going to be read by people who haven’t loyally read my blog forever and know I’m a mess in a dress who can put a good, glamorous face on it, has stymied me.  Just sitting down to write it has been difficult.  For the first time in a very long time, I had writer’s block and anxiety that was so bad, I couldn’t write anything at all.  I kept thinking, oh god, I’m losing the thread.  Does any of what I’m saying make sense?  Will anyone even get it?  Has it all been said before?  When I tour for my book, everyone will look at me and think, who the fuck does she think she is to tell me about glamour?  Just look at her.  She is a sloppy, fat mess who is covered with cat hair and acts like a feral, rabid rabbit.  I sure as hell will not be buying her book, good day! 

I tried writing everywhere and with all kinds of combinations of things.  Inside my home.  Somewhere else.  At my laptop.  At a full computer.  With gin and tonic.  Without gin and tonic.  At night.  During the day.  Nothing worked.  I was becoming panicked just thinking about writing.  I started to think I couldn’t do this.  I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was eight, I’m a writer before I’m a Witch.  If I can’t write, who am I?

I didn’t know.  All I could see was becoming an almost-famous washout who burned out before she even got a book published by a publisher.

It’s only been in the last few weeks that it’s started to come together for me.

In case your arts are not cooperating, here is a list of things that make it so I can actually write:

  1. Music with words, but that I don’t know.  Spotify has been helping with this greatly, it makes me feel like I’m constantly getting radiomancy omens.
  2. Headphones, even if I’m the only one home.  I need to tune out the world and be completely focused, even if it’s a quiet empty room.
  3. A ritual.  I usually make a pot of loose tea for myself when writing and I drink it out of a tea cup that has a saucer.
  4. Keep trying.  Even when it’s not going anywhere, keep at it.  Because you need to.

 

I am going to make it through this year
If it kills me
I am going to make it through this year
If it kills me

I am going to make it through this year
If it kills me
I am going to make it through this year
If it kills me

– “This Year”, The Mountain Goats

Deborah Castellano
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble.
Her frequently updated catalogue of published work is available on Author Central.

She writes about Glamour Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her podcast appearances are available here.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more!

In a previous life, Deborah founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV.

She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.  

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5 Responses

  1. Dear Deb,

    I keep six or seven blogs in my magical reading list more or less at all times: John Mchael Greer, you, Gordon, Rufus, Io at Via Gnostics, Stacey at coffe and blood, and Ivy of Circle Thrice. Sam at digital ambler hasn’t been posting much, and there are a few others gradually dropping off the radar. But you are on the list, and you have been for a while.

    I credit you with helping me start my daily tai chi practice four years ago with “new year, new you,”. And you’ve helped me think about wardrobe and other issues in completely new ways. So, I’m waiting eagerly for what comes next.

    But I feel your stress about the writing challenges, and I share them. Nobody really reads the tai chi posts I do; they come for the interstitial posts about Belding and poetry, and making and magic. But without the tai chi, there wouldn’t be writing about the rest of the stuff I write about — even though I’d likely be better known and more widely read if I dropped that content in favor of the stuff people come to read.

    So I wish you good daily writing practice, a strong seal on your headphones, and delicious tea in beautiful bone china cups with elegant saucers. May the writing be fruitful, may the work come steadily even if not easily, and may power arise from your words.
    Andrew B. Watt recently posted..Tai chi Y4D294: fourMy Profile

  2. For years, my other blog, Syrens, sat mostly un-updated because I was scared shitless to get personal.
    Getting Personal is tricky when you’re talking about polyamoury, and you’ve had all of three open relationship, two of-which are on-going, and you’re writing in a Small Community. Talking about my personal struggles with insecurities of all kinds has generally meant trying to find ways to talk about things hypothetically so that I’m not also talking really specifically about one or the other of my current partners.
    So… There are reasons why one avoids showing one’s ass that aren’t all about wanting to look good to the assumed audience.
    But there’s a lot of fear around what The Readership (er… such as it is) is going to think, too. Urban Meliad is… it’s Woo + Food, for the most part, and I can natter about recipes and tarot cards and hand-spinning and (a) be fairly confident that these are things I’m pretty good at, but also (b) be fairly confident that people who show up to read that stuff actually want to *hear* about how I Accidentally Made Cheese When The Milk Went Off, And Also Mercury Is In Retrograde, Look At That. Whereas when (I assume…) someone shows up to a blog that purports to be about Capital F Feminism with a big helping of Radical (ish) Sexuality on the side… I’m assuming they don’t want to hear (again) about how I Am Really Insecure And Also Possibly A Nymphomaniac Who Is Frigid?
    Yeah…
    So I basically stopped talking (…on that blog) for two years. Now I’m all “Vulnerability, hooooooooooo!” (well, sort of), but it took me a while,and it does sometimes bite me in the ass.

    Your fears about writing are totally understandable. Both the fear that people are going to be “Are you kidding me??” and the fear of “What If I Never Write Again???”
    However: (1) People who show up for book tours are generally not the people who say mean, snarky things to the authors. Those fuckers live on reddit, or whatever, and can’t be arsed to say anything without the annonymizing shield of The Internet firmly between them and whoever they’re snarling at. Also (2) YAAAAAAAAY! It’s starting to come together! Go You!!!! 😀 And, further more (3) Thank you for the suggestions of what works for you. Those are always good to hear.<3

    Personally? For both fiction and poetry (but especially poetry, because: shorter), I find writing long-hand, in a coffee shop, works really well (for me). The going is super-slow, because I can only camp out on $2 coffee for so long before I either pass out from not eating or the cafe needs the table, and I long-hand at about 1/8 the speed that I type, BUT the phsyicality of actually writing with a pen combined with the low-distraction level of a place that isn't my home-full-of-dirty-dishes-and-knitting-projects AND the fact that I'm, strictly speaking, renting the space to work in (at, like, $0.75/hr, but that really doesn't matter), seem to be a perfect storm of actually getting things written, so there's that.

    Anyway. Thank you for sharing this stuff. It's honestly kind of wonderful (not in a shadenfreude way, more in a "Me, too!!!" way) to know that you struggle with this stuff, too. Thanks. <3
    Meliad recently posted..Tarag? Skyr? – Adventures in Cheese-Making Part Four!My Profile

  3. Hmmm, yes, I see, mmmm.

    Shut up and take my money.

  4. I’ve been reading your blog for quite a long time now, Deb. I’ve gotten the chance to read about your struggles as well as your successes. You’re a good writer. And all I really want to say is that it’s okay if it’s hard. You’re allowed to say, “hey, this is really fucking tough.”

    I know you’ll keep kicking ass.

  5. Richard Norris

    Ah, a Toreador worrying that she might be seen as a Poseur. I get that working up your Auspex, Celerity, Presence, cleverly snagged Thaumaturgy, and various creative talents can be frazzling, even while you work on your Resources. But you have creative talents in spades. I read this blog because its magic from a different angle, its where the messy work of sewing worlds together gets laid down if not logically explained. And while sometimes your writing is breathless, because that’s the way things are now, it shows you put yourself INTO that writing, it shows YOU. So its you I come to because you’re awesome, you are doing “it”. And you can keep doing “it.” So drink your black tea (vitae), cram the Daughters of Cacophany into your ears, and flow as you know how.

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