Get Better Acquainted with Your Devil

I don’t follow astrology, but occasionally a friend sends me a link to particularly interesting horoscope of mine, such as this one:

“My definition of a devil is a god who has not been recognized,” said mythologist Joseph Campbell. “It is a power in you to which you have not given expression, and you push it back. And then, like all repressed energy, it builds up and becomes dangerous to the position you’re trying to hold.” Do you agree? I hope so, because you will soon be entering the Get Better Acquainted with Your Devil Phase of your astrological cycle, to be immediately followed by the Transform Your Devil into a God Phase. To get the party started, ask yourself this question: What is the power in you to which you have not given expression?

Even if this particular prognostication isn’t true (and I seldom find horoscopes to mirror anything in my daily life), it is germane to all of our lives. For example: grief. If we repress grief, it assumes an enormous power over us for the rest of our lives, but if we make friends with grief, or at least acknowledge it and let it run its course. Grief isn’t either a god or a devil of course, but it does seem to be a great evil. It can also be a force for good if you let it, helping turn you into the person who can survive an inimaginable loss.

gift2I’m not sure what devil phase I’m in now, what power in me I haven’t yet expressed. Nor do I know what position I’m trying to hold. If this horoscope is true, I will find out soon enough. And if it isn’t true, well, it poses an interesting question. I don’t like repressing any sort of energy, because it takes so much extra energy to keep anything repressed, but if I am repressing something, chances are I wouldn’t know what it is that I am repressing.

Someone once told me I am suppressing my creative energy since I’m not writing fiction, and I suppose it’s possible, but the truth is, there are all sorts of ways to be creating, including blogging and dancing, both of which I am doing. Besides, writing isn’t a god for me — it’s always been an intellectual choice, rather than something I’m compelled to do.

It would be more interesting, of course, if the alleged energy I am repressing is something I don’t know about, because the surprise of finding it and unrepressing it would be fascinating. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m all that fascinating. Still, I’ll be open to both my Get Better Acquainted with Your Devil Phase and my Transform Your Devil into a God Phase. Could be illuminating.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.


The Writer’s Journey

Malcolm R. Campbell, my guest today, worked as a college journalism instructor, corporate communications director, technical writer and grant writer before publishing The Sun Singer in 2004.  Malcolm says:

Writers’ journeys are filled with highs, lows and limbos, and down at the what’s-my-next-word level the path often looks like a mess. Joseph Campbell suggested that our lives often appear disorganized when viewed close up. Yet when the point of view is pulled back far enough, the route from here to there and back again stands out as perfect and well orchestrated. 

I wrote my fantasy adventure novel “The Sun Singer” in 1983 because there was a story inside my head that I thought I ought to tell. A young man suddenly becomes psychic when he visits a bronze statue of Apollo. At first, it’s fun. Then he sees a tragedy and his gift is immediately tarnished and he tries to ignore it until he ends up in a mysterious alternative universe in the western mountains. He needs the gift to survive and to complete a mission his avatar grandfather couldn’t complete. 

When I found an agent who liked the novel, that was definitely a “high.” While she thought literary fiction with a teenaged protagonist would be a challenge to market, she liked the story and settings and wanted to try Within a month, I withdrew the novel when she told me one of her other clients books suddenly became a bestseller. That meant my novel would sit on her shelf for potentially a year before she could actively work with it. This was definitely a “low.” 

The low got lower when the manuscript was rejected by about 100 publishers, many of whom liked the book but said that nobody could successfully sell a literary novel to teens or a teenager’s story to adults. This was pre-Harry Potter! They wouldn’t touch the book unless I added ten years to the character’s life. This began a 20-year period of limbo when “The Sun Singer” sat at the bottom of the sock drawer forgotten until I self-published it in 2004. 

The agent did me a favor. She saw the novel in a pre-PC era. The book was a paper manuscript typed with an electric typewriter. When I took it out of the sock drawer in 2004, I had to scan it into a file with an OCR program. What a mess. In the process, I fine-tuned the book a great deal. It became a much better story. 

I suspect most writers can tell similar stories. Manuscripts that look hot, then look cold. Stories buried in the back of a file cabinet that suddenly come to life years later. 

My upcoming novel, “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire” is quite a different story. I had been trying to market a companion book to “The Sun Singer” for over a year when a publisher told me that in today’s market, no publisher was going to take a risk on a 240,000-word, push-the-envelope literary novel by an unknown. 

Intended or not, I heard a challenge in those words: do something to become known. That meant putting another manuscript in the sock drawer and writing a much shorter book for a mainstream audience. I wrote the first draft straight through without stopping. The story seemed to tell itself because it was sitting right under my nose. My alter ego “Jock Stewart,” a hard-boiled 1940s-style reporter, had been running a blog called Morning Satirical News with exactly the style and focus I needed. 

After taking 20 years to publish “The Sun Singer” and 10 years to write the companion book, writing a book without all the angst of creation was a very empowering experience. It represented a jog in my writer’s journey that I had never foreseen. I’m still rather stunned by what’s happened. I have a feeling, though, that one day I’ll stand back and see everything from another perspective and feel that what happened had to happen as though the trail was always clearly marked on an old map I’d forgotten about.

See Also:
Pat Bertram and Malcolm R. Campbell Discuss the Writer’s Journey
Celebrating Five Years of The Sun Singer

add to : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook