Friday, March 20, 2009

I've Turned it In

Hooray! Yesterday (Thursday) at 2:53pm I sent Bethany House my last installment (chapters 47 - 51) of the final draft of The Enclave. I'm done! It ended up being 51 chapters long, but many of them are short chapters. (Still, I know it was much longer than BHP wanted).

I cannot believe how challenging it was to write this. Challenging in itself, but also challenging to my faith and my peace of mind. Every new chapter, every new scene, it seemed, would begin with a dark stage, a couple of unrelated elements, and sometimes a general idea of where things needed to be at the end, but not always. As one of my journal entries says, "I have a shoe, a stone and a spoon. Now how do I fit all those together?"

Because that's how it started, there was almost always a day or two worth of waiting at the outset, where I just could not get anything to happen. No matter what I did. After awhile I realized that sitting around waiting is kind of boring... Well, I could've gone off and done other things, but I don't believe that's what I was supposed to do, because that inevitably leads to me getting too distracted and distanced from the work. I don't routinely get ideas in the midst of doing something else. I just think of more things to do besides write.

Anyway, it's been a long march of every day having to completely trust the Lord for whatever He was going to provide. When I got to the blank spots, it would be, "What should I do here?" and then, "What specifically should I do with myself... sit? nonstop? outline? do housework?" And the answers were always different. There was a never a pattern that consistently produced the scene, the dialogue, the words. Sometimes a nonstop would do it. Other times, I'd be working on a birthday card and then sometime later, with no real awareness of it happening, I'd be in writing. Sometimes it would just be a matter of reading the rough sketches I'd set down. Or writing down questions about the material on index cards and noting whatever options as answers came to me. Or lying in bed staring at the ceiling.

Whatever it was, it wasn't consistent and I began to understand that God was indeed releasing the story in His time and in His ways. We've been learning in class about not making rules, not trying to come up with our little formula for the Christian life and then running off to execute it, but to stay in a moment by moment, intimate and real reliance on the Lord's direction. And to accept whatever He portioned out with peace and contentment.

That was really a challenge. Especially at the end. I would look at the material I had left and think, "Oh, yeah, now I see where we're going. I should be able to do this in a couple of days. And then I'd tell my editor. And as soon as I went to do it, there'd be that silent, empty stage again. Another day of doing nothing. Even yesterday. I'd thought last Friday that I'd have everything done by Sunday night the 15th. Then spent the weekend stuck. That broke and I thought okay, I'll still get it done by Tuesday. Then Wednesday. Then Thursday morning. I'll get it sent in early Thursday morning... then by 10am, then noon... at the very latest 1pm. Every time I came up with a time I wanted it to get done by, there'd be something else I needed to do, or something else I couldn't figure out, and there I'd be. Whatever I'd written just falling off a cliff and no idea what to do next.

I asked Him for those times. Asked Him to let me be finished by 10 and noon and so forth. And He said no. I kept trying to control it, kept setting deadlines for myself, then feeling tense because I knew on some level I wasn't going to make them, then confronted the fact that once again I had to relax in His timing and really trust Him to deliver. Whether I agreed with that timing or not.

The way I could tell that I wasn't doing that was that I would begin to feel tense. My thinking seemed fine, but emotionally I would start to slowly and subtly get out of whack. Then I wouldn't want to write, and would have to step back and look at what I was doing, and confess that and once again remind myself that He works all things together to those who love God, and that He will accomplish all His will, and He's faithful... I really started to learn the value of focusing not on the details of the problem but on Him. Focus on the problem, what it is, what needs to be done, how it can be solved... tension. Focus on Him, and forget about all that... peace.

So it's done. And now I can sorta have my life back for a couple of weeks (the galleys, I hear, will be coming the first week in April) maybe read a book, watch a movie, clean my house, wash my car, play with Quigley (who's become a fantastic dog, by the way, but more on him in a later post)... try to answer my terribly backed up reader mail. Rest. Two weeks will go by in a flash.

But then so will the two weeks after I get the galleys...

Hooray! I'm done!