I'm coming to realize that writing a novel was the easiest part. I'm most of the way through the editing now and I find myself inventing all kinds of procrastination techniques to slow it down. The closer I get to the end the closer I get to the part where I have to decide what to DO with my novel. And that opens a Pandora's box of questions I'm not ready to answer yet.
I had a dream last night. I was being questioned by two church men. They were men I know, nice men on any normal day, but in my dream they were asking me to tell the truth about myself, about the things I believe and don't believe, and I could see the judgement building behind their eyes like tiny fires. I got that old feeling in my gut: a twist and a knot like a fist beneath my ribs.
Then I told them the truth. The real truth. And I woke up.
Part of my procrastination has to do with this, I realized. Writing fiction has a way of revealing you for who you really are - and I am still afraid of being judged by the same old people.
The other part has to do with fears of the unknown, fears of failure, rejection. Those are the old familiars for any writer or artist or human.
Fear. An old, crooked demon if ever there was one. I face it here in this space too. Every time I write something that doesn't line up with someone's ideal, someone else's faith, the little judgement fires kindle in my inbox, the comment box, and I find myself shrinking from them. Sometimes I shrink all the way into silence.
In the mornings lately, I've been reading the book of Matthew. I feel like I should say here that this is significant. I haven't been able to read the bible for some time. Every word of it is loaded with other people's voices and I needed to wait until I could read it and hear only one voice again. A couple of weeks ago, I chose to read Matthew. I wanted to hear Jesus in his own words. I started making a list of the things he said. I'm on chapter 12 now, and I have two pages of teensy tiny writing full of his words. He's been talking a lot about fear. Not directly, always, but it's there. And I'm coming to realize that there's ever only one response to fear - and that's LOVE. Love for yourself and your work, love for God, love for strangers, love for the wounders, love for the person with judgement kindling in their eyes, love for the publisher that might not like you, the agent who doesn't want you, for the world that might not ever understand you. Love them all, because love makes you brave enough to keep loving, and that's the point of it all, right? Love is the point of writing, of working, of breathing.
Somewhere else in the bible it says "Perfect love casts out fear." I suspect the inverse might be true as well. So I'm just opening wide my arms and praying for love, casting that old demon into the outer darkness and plunging forward, praying God will make a place for my feet to land.