Greetings, readers. I’ve been in an Abbey with no wi-fi and no internet for 5 days. No mobile phone signal either.
At first, I felt a bit disoriented, to be honest. We own a business: was is thriving, or were there fires? (It throve in our absence, Someone Else took over.) And when the background noise of social media is turned off–Facebook, and the relationships in it, Blogging, and all the friends and relationships that engenders, Twitter, email, and there is a great silence, it takes a while for your breathing to adjust. To enter long slow time. That’s why I need at least ten days to thoroughly unwind, to hear God’s vision, direction and correction for my life. (But given that I had that in August, I didn’t really need it so soon.)
Believe it or not, I drove to the next towns, Lynton and Lymouth to get online on the first two days. How odd! And when neither my iPad nor my 3 mobile broadband could get a good signal, actually knocked on a guesthouse, and asked to pay and use their Wifi. Yeah, chutzpah! (We do this on our travels in Europe, with great success–as we had with this most charming woman in Lynton. She refused payment, as we suspected, though we left some. The Croft Guesthouse in Lynton, Devon by the way. Beautifully furnished, warm and welcoming.)
By day 3, I thought this was nuts. I could get along just fine without the web and the web without me… And quite enjoyed our separation.
And used it to catch up with a big task which I might have put off for much longer had I the distractions of the internet.
I had been writing a big memoir of an Indian Catholic childhood, time in a boarding school with German and Irish nuns, and work with Mother Teresa off and on from 1991 to 2006. Several chapters have won prizes, including a National Endowment for the Arts Award of $20,000, a State Arts Board award of $6000 and been published in a range of places from national magazines to literary journals, sometimes at $1000 a piece! But when it came to agents and publishers in 2006, I found a famous English agent who wanted changes, and an American agent, who wanted different changes, and didn’t see how to make them, and got depressed, and founded a publishing business instead.
Well, that’s the one piece of unfinished business in my life. I do not want to die without finishing and wrapping up that book: I have poured so much thought and love and passion and beauty into it.
And so at last, I had time to sort out the pieces into chapters, the chapters into sections, and looking at it after 5.5 years, I see to my relief that is a good book. Interesting. Much of it (though not all of course) is well-written.
And so I am going to go back to revising and rewriting it with joy and confidence, without the angst that it might not find a publisher.
Because you see it WILL find a publisher. And that publisher will be me. I know enough about marketing now to know I can find readers for my book. I will get it professionally edited, of course, but will only accept the suggestions that find an answering echo with me (something one can’t do with professional writing.)
Will it be less good because I plan to get two professional editors, and then accept or reject their suggestions using my own judgement? In some ways, perhaps, and in others, no. It will retain its uniqueness.
It might be, as Touchstone would say, “A poor thing, sir, but mine own.” And there is a great pleasure in having a piece of writing exactly as you wanted it (though as I said, I will of course take advice in what Pope called, “the last, the greatest art, the art to blot.”)
When Milton felt frustrated at the slow pace of his writing, he comforted himself by saying, “All is, if I have grace to use it so.”
Same here. So that is what I need: grace. Grace to focus, grace to prune off distractions. Grace to turn off the pleasant distractions of the internet and focus. Discipline to keep fit so I can write, and discipline to write.
I need to dwell in God’s waterfall, since by myself boiling down and condensing and shaping that massive manuscript (I don’t dare number the pages, but it’s big) in addition to continuing to run this blog may be too difficult a task for me.
In one way, it’s good to have your back against the wall, face to face with a task too great for you, to learn how to rely on grace and God’s power.
And, honestly, I know very little about this in practice 🙂
Open the floodgates of your waterfall of creativity above me, Oh Lord. Let me dwell in it!