I never know how much of the struggles of writing I should put on my blog, but of all the categories, people look at “writing” the most. So, I guess there’s some interest.
I’m writing my second book, and I think that I’m about done with the first draft. I like to think that especially since the deadline’s at the end of this month. Of course, it’s taking a long time to get each chapter into my editor.
In fact… the whole thing is taking a longer than last time. Let me tell you what’s different this time.
While writing the first book, I could not show any of it to anyone. Except my writing group. I had to keep it all under wraps, because I was afraid that people would tear it up before it would even get a chance to develop. Some people have a blustery confidence that whatever comes out of their mouth is right, true, and worth proclaiming. I admire those people, but I am not one of them.
I’ve never read any birth-order studies, but I do know that as the third-born and youngest, I never won a game while growing up. Never. Ever. I certainly never won an argument. In fact, just about everything that came out of my mouth was greeted with eye rolling. Or a disgusted “That’s not true,” followed by an eye rolling.
And then, in college, when women really begin to shine, when they begin to realize that being the smart girl will pay off in the world, when their intellectual curiosity meets grateful professors, I was at a small Bible school where women were regarded as “helpmates.” Our sole purpose at the institute was to become educated in the cultural norms of pastor wifery and to receive our M.R.S. Instead of encouraging intellectual development, I think that some of us would have probably excelled more if we had been labotomized.
By the time I started writing the book, I had seminary and seven years of the pastorate under my belt, but it was still excruciating. I fought demons every morning. Every single seminary professor who told me I was a poor writer (there were three of them, and I can quote their acerbic comments verbatim) and every single rejection letter flashed into my head.
Then there was my family. Not only did I have my eye-rolling sister in my head (a sister from many years ago, I might add. She’s now grown up, and hardly ever rolls them at me). I thought for sure that I would totally embarrass my mom and dad in front of their Religious Right friends, and I figured that they would completely disown me.
I thought about all of the people who did not like me in my former churches, and how they would read the book, shake their heads, and say, “Yep. She’s an ego-maniac. Just like we said when she was here.” A new, shadowy dementor greeted me each morning, just to tell me how foolish I was for thinking I had something worthwhile to say.
Two things got me through it. The first and main thing was a lot of prayer. I walked a lot, and had the growing sense that I was being called to write. Each time some piece of nasty history would rear its ugly head, I would put on my tennis shoes, and take a brisk stroll to pray and clear my thoughts. Then I would realize this passion for reaching out to my generation, and I realized that I had to do whatever was within my power to draw attention to the need. I don’t know… all that energy just had to have a place to be released.
The second thing was I knew just how difficult it is to get a first book contract. Somehow, I got lucky. Richard Bass and the editorial board at Alban took a very big chance on a young, unknown, and scantly-published writer. I know a lot of very talented people who are not so lucky. I didn’t want to blow what could have been my only chance.
This time around, I am secure in the fact that my parents did not disown me. My sister (who’s adamantly pro-amendment B) read the chapter on inclusion in a Sunday school class that she’s teaching (although I don’t think she ever got around to telling the class that it was written by her sister…).
And (I do hate to admit that I’m such a small and petty person, but) I do take a tiny bit of comfort in realizing that a couple of those critical professors have never written a book of their own. They have contracts that have never been fulfilled. I wonder if they got stuck in their own trap of criticism.
So, they can still sit back and pick apart my writing all they want. My writing may not be perfect, or even up to their standards, but I got a book done. And now I’m working on my second one. I guess I just realized that the academy is not the final word.
Now, it’s more my schedule than my demons that I’m fighting. Trying to find time in the midst of mothering, traveling, pastoring, and leading conferences, workshops and retreats is difficult. Now I’m fighting exhaustion more than shadowy figures. I dream of a two-month sabbatical, where I can go with my family to some exotic place, preferably on the beach, a place where someone else does the dishes and the laundry, and I can just write.
That place does not exist. However, the passion and the calling still do exist. So, I’m still scribbling notes down at each stoplight, editing chapters as my husband runs into the grocery store, and constructing arguments as I wait at the bus stop. And I still get up at 4:30 each morning, with a burning need to write.
The photo is by Kantor