Cycling Through Stories

by helenzuman in Cults, Memoir, Zendik

Once upon a time, in a coffee shop in Park Slope, I met up with a fellow ex-Zendik who’d lived at the Farm for a couple years (to my five). His outlook on his Zendik experience was essentially positive; he’d stayed as long as it served him, no longer.

Soon after, I formed a hypothesis: No story is intrinsically harmful; harm arises from clinging to stories too long.

The corollary of this hypothesis is that stories serve me best when I’m willing to cycle through them—to try them on, check for a fit, cast them off when they start to pinch.

In the twelve-plus-year process of writing, publishing, and now sharing my memoir, Mating in Captivity, I’ve cycled—kicking, screaming, biting, cursing—through a number of stories, most notably these:

  • What happened to me is so fascinating that all I have to do to land a hotshot agent and a six-figure book deal is write it down.
  • Once I overhaul my manuscript, an agent and then an editor will help me take it from pretty good to great.
  • Once I take responsibility for fully realizing my manuscript—for making it as good as I possibly can—the agent who requested that I revise and resubmit will snap up my project and whisk it to market.
  • Once I make my book physically and electronically available, it will dazzle potential readers with its beauty and strength. It will grow arms, and grab passersby, who will then devour it, rave about it, demand that each of their friends buy eight copies as birthday gifts. Eventually, Oprah will descend from the heavens and anoint it with cash-scented oil. That is, it will sell itself.

Um, no.

Yes, I tumbled into a mini slough of despond, when I got this memo. But then I climbed out: I realized that selling books, and otherwise learning how to generate income through sharing my gifts, is a long-term process. Perhaps it will take me another twelve years to master the business of being an author. In the meantime, I intend to enjoy the heck out of exploring this strange new territory, which includes a delicious trove of educational resources offered by organizations like Book Selling University.

I hereby embark on this next stage of the authorial process, guided by a new story:

  • My job is to learn all I can about book selling and marketing, while cultivating humility, curiosity, patience, and generosity; nourishing my web of relationships; and taking good care of myself.

What story have you clung to, past its expiration date? What story are you ready to let go?

If you liked this post, you’ll love my memoir, Mating in Captivity, in which my twenty-two-year old self enters a cult with a radical take on sex and relationships. Learn more here.

2 Responses to “Cycling Through Stories”

  1. Angelique says:

    The power of our stories amazes me – to connect, to cycle through, to revisit, to re-imagine, to re-write . . . to heal, to grow

  2. Sea says:

    TRis is so refreshing for me and startling all at once. I’ve still got too much Zendik story at times plus. And all the reasons why I don’t have time or resources to write and play music today. Working on it thanks Helen.

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