Prayer and writing seem like two completely different activities, perhaps even opposed to one another.
Unless we think a little more deeply about what is required of a writer and by one who prays. In order to do so we need to understand that both involve work. Similar kinds of work like focus, and creativity.
I, Claudia. is done. Both the digital and print books should be available within the next week. And now I’m reflecting on these last ten months of immersion in the ancient world. And the joy of writing this story about Claudia Procula and Pontius Pilate.
Early in the writing of this latest book, I told friends who asked about its progress that the writing felt like prayer. And then would listen to those words I had just said with more than a little surprise. Could work and prayer be one thing? Just as the desert fathers and mothers claim? The process of the book has been different from any of the others; like writing the end first.
The notion of unifying work with prayer seemed like a pipe dream. Until I broadened my conception of work.
My idea of work was once restricted to the days when I worked for an institution. Only after I left that career did I broaden my concept of what it meant to me. Because I’d had a ‘career’ with an impressive title, everything else seemed like playing around, including the writing I did on vacations and weekends. Work meant getting a paycheck. Once I understood that the ‘dream’ of retirement was not one I embraced and that I needed to work, I began to broaden my definition of work to include activities that may not pay or may even cost me, if not my own money then surely, my effort. Within this context of work then the parallels between writing and prayer are these:
Patience is listed as a virtue because none of us has been provided huge dollops of it.
Most of us are exactly like the toddlers we think we’ve grown past when it comes to getting what we really desire, what we firmly believe we require, perhaps even deserve. When whatever we wish for does not appear in hours, days or weeks, we throw virtual tantrums if only verbally. Why, we ask has -fill in the blank- not arrived, happened or changed?
There are times, I have learned, that I simply cannot pray. There are times also that the words don’t come, the writing just does not flow and neither can be forced regardless of my self-imposed deadline. Patience.
Persistence follows right on the heels of patience.
The alliteration is proper. So tempting when the going gets tough is to give up, give in to those voices that clamor in each of our minds, “You cannot do this!’ ‘Whatever makes you think you are good enough?’ The only answer I have is to persist despite the fact that it may be impossible.
Of my three parallels, this last is the riskiest. because by its very nature is so risky: Trust. Why risky?
Most of the time when we pray, we neither hear nor see anyone, we trust that there is someone listening despite all sensory evidence to the contrary. Risking that in the silence, somewhere deep is a person, one who listens. It’s the same when we publish what we write. Most of the time we hear nothing.
Trust is also required for another, equally important reason. Both prayer and writing, by necessity, are solitary and sometimes lonely activities. This is so because each of us is unique, we are told, irreplaceable. Which means that others, whether they be celebrated mystics, priests or top New York Times selling writers, are unable to tell us how to pray or how to write. Trust.
Therefore when I, Claudia declared herself complete at under 70,000 words, I was, at first, terrifically anxious, (the average historical novel is around 100,000 words)
But realized the only way I could lengthen the story would be to pad it. And trust that this length, the shortest of any of my books to date was right.