“You have to love the writing process,” people say, and that is true. But what has always made me chafe against that statement is the implication that the process should be enough. Having readers, being published—those goals should be secondary, or perhaps not goals at all.
I do want readers. I do want to share what I write with the world. Just as songwriters want their songs to be heard. And painters want their paintings to be seen. And fashion designers want their clothes to be worn. And designers of canoes and skis and chairs want to see people paddling and skiing and sitting. It’s the sharing of what you made with other humans—which is both terrifying, at first, but also wonderful—that completes the terror and wonder of the actual process of creating.
However. Sometimes what you thought was ready to be shared turns out not to be. And that, I have come to believe, is the case with my second memoir, After Ecstasy. It’s a book about faith and doubt, and after more than two years of rejections, I have lost faith in its readiness.
Thank God it occurred to me, finally, to ask for some human help.
What I did was to seek a wise person in the publishing world, who did not know me personally and was willing to give me a serious critique for a reasonable fee. I was lucky. I found someone who was able to deliver difficult news in a way that gave me hope and left me feeling like I want to keep writing. My wise advisor has an idea for a future book that would not be a memoir but would draw on the work I’d done in After Ecstasy. I’ll leave it at that for now, because I’m still ruminating on her intriguing suggestions. But for the first time in my life as I writer, I understand that old maxim: you have to love the process. I have to love the fact that I wrote a book, and learned so much about writing, and also about my own patchworked spiritual life, since that was the subject of my book. And now I am learning to love the fact that it’s not going to be published. It’s not as hard as you might think, because I now see why it’s better this way.
And the process of writing it, and what I learned from that process, will always be mine.
Yes, I could self-publish. But I’m serious when I say I’ve lost faith in my book. There are parts of it I cherish, and there are other parts I don’t. Some of that has to do with how I’ve changed during the pandemic years, and how the world has changed, and how my doubt-riddled faith has changed.
So I’m renaming the After Ecstasy page on this website In Progress. If anyone asks what exactly is in progress, I’m calling it a book of essays, since that is what it will likely be. I’m also working on a story I want to tell—not sure yet what its genre or format will be—that is inspired by my grandmother, and maybe I’ll write that one first.
I don’t know yet. But I’ll keep you posted.
There’s more about me here and more about my first memoir, Her Beautiful Brain, here.