Thursday, July 12, 2012

Recovering a Sense of Faith

“Creativity requires faith,” writes Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. “Faith requires that we relinquish control. This is frightening, and we resist it…This resistance is really very understandable. We are not accustomed to thinking that God’s will for us and our own inner dreams can coincide.”

The discussion of The Artist’s Way at TweetSpeak Poetry concluded a couple of weeks ago, but I kept reading and rereading, and blogging. Last week, I wrote that I was waiting for an email, one that I hoped would resolve a dilemma about the manuscript for A Light Shining, the sequel to Dancing Priest.

The email came. Nothing was resolved. Things got murkier.

The problem was that a serious reader, whose opinion mattered, had problems with the manuscript. As it turns out, the editor didn’t have the same problems; he had different problems. The publisher had only minor, very minor problems, easily fixable.

The problems posed by the reader and the editor would require an extensive rewriting of the manuscript. I don’t mean minor editing. I mean wholesale rewriting – characters disappearing, new characters appearing, new introduction, elimination of scenes that played through to then end, and elimination of whole sections (except for part 3 – everyone liked part 3). What they were describing was an entirely different book. Two entirely different books, actually.

Right now, I’m thinking through three possible courses.

First, choose the reader’s recommendation or the editor’s recommendation, or a hybrid of the two, and completely rewrite the book.

Second, ignore both and plunge ahead.

Third, shelve it. Put it away. Go on to something else. Essentially, forget it and the rest of the Michael Kent saga, because there is no saga without this book. This one is the critical one, the pivot upon which all the rest turn.

The first course is possible, but then whose book am I writing? The serious reader’s? The editor’s? Something inside me resists doing this, and I’m honest enough with myself to admit it could be pride or ego. But I don’t think that’s it. If I were writing to sell lots of books, writing to “the market,” writing to get on the New York Times Bestsellers List or become famous, this would clearly be the path to follow.

I’m not doing any of those things.

The second course is really not an option. If two significant readers had major problems with the manuscript, then there is clearly something wrong with it. Something has to be changed.

Notice how I’m talking about the manuscript. It’s no longer a manuscript. It’s a problem.

The third course – put it aside, shelve it – means shelving a dream. Perhaps shelving the dream.

I’m truly not trying to make this more dramatic, but these stories, starting with Dancing Priest, were part of a dream. This is what I wanted to do, almost as far back as I can remember. I set the dream aside for a long time, but I never forgot it. It was always there in my mind.

When I started writing it all in my head in 2002 and started putting it on paper in 2005, and then adding more and more to the story, and then turning it all into a series of stories, I didn’t know if there would ever be anyone besides myself who would read it.

And that was OK.

While the problem seems to be one of editing or rewriting, it’s actually bigger than that: I’ve lost faith in the manuscript, and that means I’ve lost faith in all the manuscripts that follow. Perhaps my faith in the story was too fragile to withstand what’s now happened. Perhaps it’s best to let it all go and look in other directions.

So I read this final chapter in The Artist’s Way, “Recovering a Sense of Faith,” and I find that it’s good to read. It doesn’t really change anything about the manuscript. But it’s good to know that others have experienced this, that a lot of the resistance comes from within, and that my inner dream may be exactly what God has planned for me.

That is the hope.

We’ve finished reading The Artist’s Way at TweetSpeak Poetry. Next Wednesday, Lyla Lindquist will begin a new discussion – the first six chapters of The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker. Come join us if you’re so inclined, or at least come see what it’s all about.


Maureen said...

I wonder if there is possibility in considering "stories" instead of "novel" for your next book.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you, Maureen. I'm in a terrible situation right now with my publisher, and it's gut-wrenching. I hope this works out for you, and when it does, nudge me so I can by your beautiful work of art.

Karen Kyle Ericson said...

I face a lot of criticism in my work too (especially when I was doing web design and tech writing). I miss my Mom always telling me how wonderful my work is. What I've learned to do is put things aside until the feelings fade. All wounds need time to heal. Once I can emotionally detach, I become more objective and creative again. I'm sorry for all this, my heart goes out to you. As a fan, I hope you'll go back to it later. I totally enjoyed Dancing Priest. If you want me to read the new manuscript I'd be happy too. Seem to have a gift in editing... go figure.

Anonymous said...

just publish it

diana said...

what Nance said. go for it. do minor changes and see what you think - choose the editor's way. don't let this go, please.

S. Etole said...

I'm waiting and will be glad to read it and give you a second opinion!