Pausing Soal: Waiting for New Growth

Her mother was just a sketch of fading white. “Please,” Soal said, putting her free hand out. “Come.”

“But I failed,” her mother whispered.

Soal shook her head, tears filling her eyes. “I cannot know,” she choked out. “I do not know what you are. But I do know that you are the one who first showed me that I was . . . unwhole.” She reached her hand out further. ”You are the one who taught me my name.” Her hand slid through her mother’s ghostly hand. “You are still someone to me.”

It took me some time to realize that I needed to let Soal simmer while i moved on to other projects. Soal had bloomed onto the page in a mere three months, with only four weeks of revisions to bind it into a cohesive whole. The journey of writing Soal was a breath-taking journey of words, images, and characters that drew from a place of intense vulnerability.

I was sure I could resolve the last few weaknesses of the manuscript in one more revision, at the same break-neck speed I had experienced before. But as I sifted through those last few flaws, the process grew longer and longer as I struggled to extricate the flaws from the vibrant characters and setting that I wished to preserve.

After weeks of of stagnation, I finally realized that Soal needed more time. She needed other books to be born before she could find her full form.

But that didn’t mean it was easy to let go. I remember not being able to look at the faces of my friends as I tried to tell my writers’ group that it was time for me to move on. I remember the surprisingly intense feeling of grief. To my surprise, as the words slowly came out, my friends nodded in agreement.

“It’s okay to grieve,” one of my friends said gently. “Soal taught you a lot.”

Soal expressed something so important to me,” I responded shakily. “There are scenes that just . . . transform me. The emotion, the senses, the vulnerability, and the struggle . . .” I sighed. Soal had spoken something I had not been able to in over five years of internal processing. She had created a story that I couldn’t put down–a story that I needed.

“And it’s ok to move on,” my friend continued for me. “Your experience with Soal was real. The truths and the beauty you excavated are real. But often, we need time in order to find the full form of our creations.” She gave a small smile. “I took me years to write Cece. But I found her.”

The understanding and kindness of my friends held me through the unexpected sorrow of moving on, and reminded me that I was not losing Soal. Her journey had changed me, and her story would continue to grow in hidden corners of my mind. The vividness of each conflicted character, the dark glow of the setting, and the aching beauty of the theme would still be there, growing, and waiting to find their final form.

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