My last official blog post here was June 7 – a little more than three months ago (I admit, I cheated a bit on my hiatus and posted the pieces I wrote for the Journal Star in June, July and August). It was a good and necessary break – even more necessary than I initially anticipated, as it turns out, because…
…I am writing another book…two, in fact! This past spring I signed a two-book contract with Baker Books — one for non-fiction and the second for an “Undetermined” Biography/History. I admit, before I signed my name, it made my heart nearly cease beating to realize I was committing to write my fourth and fifth books. Somehow embarking on books four and five makes the whole business of being an author feel very real. I think because my first three books weren’t knock-it-out-of-the-park best-sellers I didn’t really consider myself a legit author, which I realize is the most ridiculous thing ever, but there you go…sometimes we are our own worst enemies.
Suffice to say, I slogged through a few thousand words or so of book one this summer, and let me say, for the record, it was a S.L.O.G. I am super excited about this book. It’s something I have been thinking about and living into for at least the last two years (and I see hints of it in my journals even longer than that). This is a book of my heart. BUT…that doesn’t mean it’s always going to come easily.
Which leads me to my next point. A few nights ago I told a friend, “I failed at summer.” When she asked me what exactly I meant by that, I explained that for most of the summer, rather than accepting the different rhythms and routines (or lack thereof) of the season, I pushed hard against what I saw as summer’s limitations. I tried to force the season to be something else, something it wasn’t meant to be. For the entire eleven weeks of summer, I never stopped trying to force it. It was, in a word, exhausting.
While I knew going into it that a new part-time job and two teen/pre-teen boys and a husband home for the summer would seriously limit my capacity for the deep, creative work of book-writing, in the end, I refused to go with the flow of the season and embrace its freedom and gifts. Instead, I pushed, pushed, pushed against it with all my might. As a result, I was not only hugely unproductive, I was also constantly frustrated, resentful, and generally a giant pill to be around. I was like the Peanuts character Pig Pen, except instead of a cloud of dirt hovering around me, I emanated doomsday despair and negativity with a heaping side of grouchiness.
The funny thing is, when I finally did sit down to write actual words on the page after the boys returned to school and my husband returned to his classroom in mid-August, I found I was ready. I may not have produced much in terms of word count over the summer (which was extraordinarily frustrating at the time), but it turns out, I was still very much working on the book that whole time.
I was reading. Taking notes. Jotting down relevant quotes. Journaling. Staring into the middle distance. Ideas were percolating and gestating. By the time I sat at my desk and put my fingers to the keyboard, the book (or at least a big chunk of it) was ready to be written. Those three months of seemingly little concrete productivity had actually been an important part of the creative process. I just hadn’t recognized it as such because the outcomes were not immediately apparent or tangible.
This summer I learned the hard way about the importance of trusting and valuing the season I am in. Ecclesiastes said it best, right? “To every thing there is a season. And a time to every purpose under heaven.”
This summer was my season to tend – to nurture the scattered seeds, to water and fertilize them, to wait patiently, biding my time while the first tender seedlings rooted and sprouted. This summer was a gestational season – an important, dare I say absolutely critical time in the process of writing a book. I just wish I had recognized the necessity and value of this season and embraced the beauty and gift of it, rather than pushing it to be something else.
Trusting every season doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m great with the harvest, with seasons of obvious fruitfulness and productivity. But I’m learning that the slower seasons, the periods in which we step back, surrender, and quietly let things be, are necessary and important too. Slowly, largely through great trial and error, I am learning that there is indeed a season for every activity under the heavens. Even, or perhaps especially, when the activity of that season doesn’t look like you expect it to. Even when it’s an activity that does not produce immediately apparent results.