Death and regeneration – an everyday tale of writing

Just across the road from where I live, there’s a piece of woodland where I often walk. This morning, when I reached the stile, I found warning notices that tree-felling was in progress, to clear diseased trees.

Warning notices
Warning notices

I was shocked when I saw the extent of the devastation, a long section of beautiful woodland around the path reduced to an ugly scar.

Where once were tall majestic trees

Something about the angle of the felled tree trunks reminded me of the Tower card in tarot, and that made me feel better.

XVI - The Tower - 'Thunderbolt' in the Osho Zen Tarot
XVI – The Tower – ‘Thunderbolt’ in the Osho Zen Tarot

The card traditionally shows a tower being burned, destroyed or blown apart, with figures tumbling from the top. Angeles Arrien, my favourite tarot commentator, says, ‘Because this card looks so violent, it has often been misinterpreted.’ She says the Tower is actually ‘the universal principle of healing, renovation and restoration.’

I’ve been experiencing the Tower lately in my writing, with a story I wrote and submitted over a decade ago. Back then, it went as far as acquisitions with several publishers and was only rejected on grounds that they had already taken on new books on similar themes.

So coming back to it, I knew the book was of publishable standard, and I wasn’t planning to do anything radical,  just prepare the text for kindle. But on re-reading, I had a strong sense that I could write the whole thing better now, after this long delay of time.

I copied the file and started chopping out the dead wood and carving up the action; then I started all over again, strengthening the voice, deepening the characters and restructuring the plot.

For a while, I wondered whether I was actually just destroying a perfectly good story, but what’s grown from the wreckage is a far fresher, stronger and more satisfying novel.

Hopefully the woodland near my house will soon begin its own regeneration.

Have you ever had to ‘kill your darlings’ as a writer? Or been through a Tower time, when things have fallen apart but ultimately made way for something better?

17 thoughts on “Death and regeneration – an everyday tale of writing”

  1. that certainly made me think jennie, about wisdom arising from pain,about the phoenix rising from the flames,about the gifts that can come as we grow older and our bodies slowly decline. do i feel some writing hovering there? do you know .i believe i do. thankyou.

    1. Thank-you for this thoughtful comment, Yeshe – I like the way you’ve broadened the idea to encompass pain> wisdom and the experience of growing older. I’m glad you feel some writing coming on!

  2. lots to think about here- literally as I need to remove some trees from my garden- and also about our desire to hold on when sometimes it’s best to let go – thank you x

    1. I had to have three moribund conifers removed this year – ooh, it was hard – but it’s like the rest of the garden is heaving a joyful sigh of relief now in the sudden sunlight. Enjoy your garden regeneration, Vicky

  3. I know exactly what you mean about going back to a project and reworking it. Each time I’ve done this, there has been a feeling of the Tower card or the Ten of Sword – destruction leading to healing and re-creation – and the work is always better afterwards.

    1. Yes, it’s ‘going back’ to a project, but also moving it forward – as you say, a re-creation

  4. What an unexpected and surprising parallel, Jenny. I can understand your initial reaction on seeing the trees. I always find it so sad. But, as you say, sometimes it is necessary. Yes, I have done as you have and put stories away, but felt strongly that there was something in them, gone back years later, re-written and made them a lot stronger. Sometimes we do need to get rid of the dead wood for new growth, don’t we? Lots of luck with the story!

  5. Very thought provoking Jenny. Sometimes we have to clear away the dead matter from our minds to be able to release those new buds of creativity. And I can relate to you going back to a story and wanting to give it new life. I think it’s useful with some writing to leave it for a while and then go back to it and be bold in reworking it.

    1. Be bold, yes – that’s the word. The temptation is to preserve as much as you can. I find it very liberating, as someone who started writing in the age of typewriters, that we can nowadays make a copy and hack that about to our heart’s content, knowing that in the worst case scenario, we still have the complete original on file

  6. Ah! – the Tower. This card always reminds me of Uranus – lightning strikes and sudden shocks! This wonderful planet surprises us, takes us unawares in order to free us up (his ultimate aim), especially in our thinking. This can be very alarming initially so no wonder Uranus is known as ‘The Awakener’. Pluto is the planet associated with regeneration and renewal – he urges us to cut away the dead wood in order that new growth can take place. These two planetary giants are currently still causing all sorts of upheavals in our everyday lives as they are in a challenging square aspect to one another. As ever Jenny, you have seen and acted on the deeper message.

    1. I love the idea of the deeper message, Pat, and I do believe that the more consciously we open to it the more easily we flow with it. Certainly, when these experiences I’ve described here with the woodland and the book I’ve been rewriting triggered thoughts of the Tower, I was also very much aware of Tower energy working more generally in my whole life at the moment. It’s always good to hear the astrological influences too, working even more generally in the lives of us all.

  7. I’m really glad to have stumbled across your blog, your voice just speaks of the page to me, wonderful, really looking forward to reading more

    plus your take on the tower has made me feel better about yesterdays pick 🙂

    1. Hello Human! I’m delighted you’ve found my blog too 🙂 One thing I love about Tarot, like life really, is the way the challenging times always contain the potential for healing, and even one might say, the instructions.

      1. yes, I had to step away from them for a while, as they became a downer and caused me to become negative, but they have resurged now that I have found the necessary strength. Sometimes I think we can go all willy nilly for answers rather than participating and ‘letting be’ 🙂

        big comment, complete

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