I've been trying not to write this post for a week now. Actually trying my hardest not to even think about it, but with more news this afternoon, there's nothing to be done but dive in, admit the truth, write this post in a rush without thinking. Then begin to move on. See, I've been flirting with the hope that my manuscript, drafted so long ago (eight years maybe), revised within an inch of its life, has really been almost finished, that the copy I sent to my agent in New York would receive her rubber stamp of approval and be moved on to a publishing company. I've been holding my breath for weeks.
A week ago I finally heard...and the news was crushing. There are several issues, external to my writing, that have combined to prevent my book from being published. The publishing industry, like every thing else, is suffering in this recessed economy (doesn't that word, recessed, make you think of a break...a recess? like any time now the bell might ring and we'll all be back in business?). Companies are folding right and left, and publishers have now put a moratorium on receiving new books--even from established authors--until at least the middle of 2009. For new writers, the outlook is bleak. And this afternoon, I received another email from my would-be agent, and her words were fatal wounds to my hopes. My book, which is 'quiet', in publishing parlance, as well as being somewhat dark, is not a good prospect. Women's fiction (which mine is), in this climate, needs to be much more uplifting and hopeful than a novel about suicide and death. So, I have a couple of choices here:
I can completely rewrite it so that the deaths are merely sidebars, not the main subject. I can try my hand at finding some one willing to publish it as is (though this sounds quite impossible at the moment), or I can simply shelve it for the time being.
As you might guess, none of these options are very promising. To have put my heart and soul into this for so long, not to mention my family's belief in me in such practical ways as living in a much reduced state while I've worked on it, makes it all very difficult to contemplate. But there it is. But I think I've come to a decision: for the foreseeable future, I will lay my story down. I think the fat lady is singing, and even though it's a sad song, I can hear her loud and clear. Feeling like a failure, I lift my voice to sing with her: there will be no "October Afternoon."
The thing is, many of us come to a point in our lives where we believe ourselves to be failures. We spend long years doing something and come to a point where we lose that job, are shut out from a certain path, are rejected relationally. We wake up some morning and wonder whether we've actually been a fraud all this time, if we've misunderstood what we thought we were called to, misheard God. And it's not merely embarrassing, even humiliating; no, the very loss of that dream cuts so deeply, so close to our essence that it's only a step away from feeling that we aren't worth anything. I don't think I'm alone in this. Marriages fail, businesses we've put our hearts in go under, the company we've given our hearts to cuts us off with merely a small severance (if that). There are sooo many ways for our dreams to die.
So I join the ranks. I struggle with what this means, with what such an arduous, painful, exhilarating journey all means. What God intends. I worry about having to tell all those people who have asked--mercilessly--when my book's coming out, about those who have seemed to simply enjoy the idea that they might know a published author. Yes, I am embarrassed about that. But more than that--so much more than that I can barely see it from this side of it--I am sad. Sad for this story I've believed in that won't be told, sad that I failed, and most of all, sad that I've done this to my Beve and my children. All for this, for this nothing...
And yet. What I know when I get to the end of this lament, this truth-telling, transparent moment, is that resurrection is always possible. That death isn't the end of the story. I don't know when and how that resurrection might come, or whether it will come in a way that I might like. I don't know if there will be a life after death for this story. But I do know that God knows. And I know that there will be better days ahead. That even though grief is real and overpowering tonight, I will breathe a little easier tomorrow, and still easier the next day. If there is a writing talent in me, it is not finished simply because that story is. And after all, that's the real gift. I can't imagine ceasing to write, even if I have to cease writing this book.
In the end, I surrender to this moment. I say, though tears stream from my eyes even as I type it, "Your will, Lord--NOT mine--be done." I say with the Psalmist, "The Lord is good. Blessed be the name of the Lord." And, when I look at the whole of my life, I believe it. Hallelujah. Amen.