I wrote this part of the story after the story started to go live to the public. I already sort of intended to come back to Cello and what sorts of things she got up to… but I actually didn’t have anything really solidly formed.
I assumed, when I started, that it would simply be one chapter which would appear in the collection which I’ve now called Cupboard Ghost. It very quickly became a lot bigger, and a lot more personal, than I thought it would.
One of my recurring interests is Sex Cults. I’m not going to put it up there as an overwhelming Special Interests but it’s a thing I always find interesting when it comes up. So I was pretty excited about watching Part Two of The Vow earlier this year which is a documentary series about NXIVM. One of the things I find deeply fascinating about NXIVM is how eerily similar it is to the sorts of New Age groups and organisations I was involved with as a younger person despite, as far as I am aware, none of them being involved in underground sex trafficking. There are so many of these cult and cult-lite groups and they’re all… the same.
I’ve often thought that my Mirror Universe self would make a great New Age Cult leader. I feel like I know exactly what I’d do to bring people in and hook them. But I absolutely could not do that in real life because I’m not selfish or malicious enough. But writing SelfWork gave me an outlet for that otherwise useless knowledge. Also it was a lot of fun.
I’ve said above that all of these groups are the same. In fact I felt like I had to make SelfWork more different from the main group which inspired it because I didn’t want people to read this story with an experience of one of these groups and be sure they’d identified which specific group it was based on. So I feel like in some ways SelfWork is more different from real life predatory New Age Cult-lite MLM groups than they are from each other? But also if you think you know which group inspired SelfWork most directly you’re almost certainly incorrect but also you’re completely correct because they’re all the same.
The most exciting feedback I got on Untitled Cello Piece came from a pre-reader unfamiliar with either myself or any other part of Tamika Wood. This person expressed slight confusion with the flashback/forward format which seemed pretty weird for what was obviously memoir. Cello is a very real person to me. It’s wonderful that she reads as such a real person to other people.
It’s also wonderful and a huge relief to be able to finally – finally! – refer to Cello by her name. Every time I have typed “Michelle” up until this point it has felt very weird. She was named Cello before she was named Michelle. She was named Cello before she played the cello. The reasons for her legal name and her instrument are because her name is Cello rather than the other way around.
Although the feelings of Tamika Wood’s Birthday Party were very personal to me and some of the details from Alan Sebastian’s life were taken from my own so that I didn’t have to waste any time thinking unimportant things like that up… it is only in Untitled Cello Piece that I have written about things that happened to me personally. Not everything that happens in Untitled Cello Piece is taken from my real actual life… but some of it is. And that made it both very hard and very easy to write.
I generally cry a lot when I am writing these stories. And even more when recording. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I read over some of these stories and chapters I still get very emotional. But then that’s why I created them in the first time – it’s a stim for me. Anyway sometimes writing is sort of like applying a cheese grater to my heart and desperately hoping that someone else feels something.
Writing Untitled Cello Piece was a lot like that.
When I am recording I like to do things with my voice to bring emotion to the lines. I hope that you can hear a bit of that. I do that by experiencing the emotions of the characters and letting it come out in the way I speak. In Untitled Cello Piece I had to hold that back a bit or you might not have been able to understand the words. So I really hope it made somebody feel something.
- I wrote the other behind the scenes posts so that this one wouldn’t seem so out of place.
- Cello Parker is also a point-of-view character in Tamika Wood’s Birthday Party. If you want to read more about her time before SelfWork and more about how and why she left you can check that story out!
- I spent a lot of time carefully creating the SelfWork “not a” hierarchy and it obviously doesn’t matter if you don’t remember the details of the rankings and who’s above or under who and who runs each level of the program. But if you want to you can find that information on the Character page for Untitled Cello Piece. It’s not at all important. I just didn’t want all of that careful work to go to waste.
- For a while I had a completely different naming scheme for the chapters but it was pointed out that without context those names did not make any sense. Which was kind of the point because some of the story is about not making sense of things without context but then I realised that since I never provided that context it just didn’t really work.
- I told a friend about my new naming scheme and he asked “is it punnerific?” I said “oh did I tell you about it already?” and he said “no! I just know what you like.”
If you’re reading this when A. it’s new and B. are a person who celebrates Christmas, I hope you have a good one of those. If A NAND B I hope you have a good whatever thing is upcoming which has the potential to be good.