I don’t know about you, but I’ve been listening to the Encanto soundtrack pretty much non-stop. The song that is most resonating with me in this moment is “What Else Can I Do?”, a duet between the heroine Mirabel and her practically-perfect-in-every-way older sister Isabela.
At the beginning of the song, Isabela, who has the supernatural ability to create beautiful flowers (especially roses) out of thin air, surprises herself by making a cactus: something sharp, something new. The cactus’ asymmetry and especially its dangerous needles stop her in her tracks. This creation is not approved by her family, or the town, and leads her to ask, what else can I do?
A relatable question for a writer.
As my body’s healing progressed, I was able to turn in the latest edits for my memoir. Another step closer to being done with the editorial process. There is a pub date (October 25th!). We are getting folks lined up to blurb. Bound manuscripts are going out soon. The wonderful designers at Harper are in the process of creating the cover.
Which is to say: The book is officially in production. It’s no longer just in my head, an ephemeral thing that my editor and I discuss over coffee in our own creative cocoon. Other people are getting involved now; some days, it feels like they’re pouring in. The book is being transformed into a product in real time.
I do not resent this; I knew it would happen. But it’s happening so fast, you see. Perhaps it feels that way because I was in the hospital for so long, so recently, and there, it’s as if time slows down to the hours of sleep you can catch between blood draws. Or maybe this is how publishing a book always is. At any rate, it doesn’t feel like there’s enough time left to “get it right” before the book slips through my fingers and into the publisher’s hands, the manuscript a baton in some game of capitalist relay. I have often caught myself wondering what else can I do? — in a fear-driven way.
What else can I do… to not be an embarrassment in front of my peers?
What else can I do… to make sure the book sells? That I’ll get another book deal?
What else can I do… to achieve those Big Things that authors hope for but dare not admit in public?
The answer to those questions, honestly, is not much.
The Full Moon in Leo arrives today at 11:56a Eastern. It’s a sunny day here in Brooklyn, which feels fitting for the astrology. Leo energy embodies the best of the creative process: its purpose, its warmth, its ability to light the way for others — but perhaps most of all, its courage.
This full moon is about finally reaching the heart of the matter. Fitting: Leo, as a sign, rules the heart. What do you care about? What can you do — but what do you want to do? What are you excited to do? What does your heart yearn for, when no one else is watching?
I think we all know that there is no such thing as a book that’s done, only a book that we’ve had to decide to stop working on (for our own sanity).
In these final weeks of editing, my personal project is releasing the perceived expectations and criticisms of the outside world, and even the voices of the beloved friends and editors who have been on this journey with me for years. All of their recommendations. All of their notes that I’ve so assiduously saved and referred to.
I need it all out of my head now.
In order for me to publish something I can be satisfied with — and proud of — I know that in these final edits, I have to embrace what Isabela sings, “I’m so sick of pretty, I want something true / Don’t you?”
There are a number of editorial and craft choices that would make for a “better” narrative, perhaps, but that don’t feel true to me, for me. (Which raises the question: would that really make it “better”?) Choices that have been recommended to me by brilliant peers, things I’ve seen done in bestsellers and books regarded as stalwarts in the field.
They won’t work for me. So here, in the final edits, when the fear is highest, I’m not doing them.
This is Leo’s challenge — to follow the courage of our conviction. To be ourselves. And at the end of the day, I am making craft choices and creative decisions based on being present with myself, my desires, my story.
What can you do when you are deeply, madly, truly in the moment?
In trusting myself to write this memoir, I’ve learned so much about what I can do.
Writing Prompts for the Full Moon in Leo
In “What Else Can I Do,” Isabela also sings, “What could I do if I knew it didn’t need to be perfect — it just needed to be?” What does this bring up for you in this moment?
Six months ago, we had a New Moon in Leo on August 8th, 2021. Where were you? What were you doing, wanting, feeling? Who were you connecting with? What seeds were you planting? What has grown between then and today’s Full Moon?
P.S. ICYMI, my bestselling course Astrology for Writers: How to Make Your Writing Work for You is back and available for immediate download for a limited time! Unblock your writing hangups and internal narratives + embrace the writer you were born to be.
This morning I found myself unexpectedly, seemingly out of the blue, thinking about people I was with around this past Aug. 8. Some pretty intensely beautiful thoughts, too. Then I read your post here. I love so much how the New Moon in Leo goes with all that.