The Slow Telling of a Story 5: The Further Slowdown

I told you a few days ago about the rewriting process that led to a major overhaul of my book, Darkwater.

(You can find that post here. Also, get caught up on Slow Telling of a Story 1, 2, and 3.)

I did that rewriting, a huge burst of writing energy, right at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, my working life had changed significantly. As a parish pastor, my weeks are usually spent doing a combination of four things: preparing for and leading Sunday worship; visiting the sick and homebound; preparing for and attending multiple committee meetings and class sessions; and communicating with the congregation in various ways. These add up to a very busy week, most of the time. But when the lockdown happened, a whole lot of it changed. For one thing, visiting the sick and homebound completely stopped. Hospitals and nursing homes were closed to all visitors, including clergy.

Preparing for worship changed completely. Instead of preparing bulletins and coordinating volunteers, I was now a director and video editor. The organist and I began to meet with an assisting minister and a videographer every Saturday morning to record our parts, and then I’d spend a few hours on Saturday afternoon editing it and getting it to our webmaster for upload. After a few weeks of that, it became just the organist and me, as our assisting minister would record their parts at home, and I became the cameraman myself.

Working with committees was different. Suddenly some committees just stopped meeting, and the others met over Zoom, a software package I’d only barely heard of in February, but which I found to be my best friend now. And communicating with the congregation — well, that’s the one that just snowballed. I saw it as my duty to be in constant contact with people — mostly through email, Facebook, and letters. (A small group of laypeople offered to make phone calls to everyone in the congregation, so I focus on written contact, something I’m better at anyway.) And this took up more and more and more of my time. I didn’t mind — I felt like I was providing a much-needed service for people — helping them to remain connected in a very difficult and confusing time. But it added up to a lot of time, and it added up to a lot of writing energy.

Between all the writing to communicate, and the writing I was still doing to prepare sermons, and all the writing I did to revise Darkwater, there wasn’t much left in the tank. I spent more evenings at home than ever before (for lack of meetings), but I was so exhausted I had nothing to write. My blog lay fallow for months. My journal was untouched Emails went unanswered. I got increasingly stressed out, and probably some of that was because I wasn’t using one of my usual coping methods: writing about my problems.

Then the murder of George Floyd happened, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of guilt and shame for never taking racism seriously enough. I poured myself into book after book on racism; I found a few ways to work on racism at church. I stopped caring about Darkwater, and even started to wonder if the world really needed another book by a white man. Perhaps it would be best to just let it go. Forget publishing. How much of this was actually caused by depression is hard to say, but it wasn’t negligible.

Three months passed with no contact with Boyle & Dalton. I was fine with that, in the state of mind I had. Finally, in August, I decided to reach out. Turns out that they were deeply affected by COVID-19, and timings and deadlines had been knocked off-kilter as they all began to work from home. I had an extended conversation with the CEO, during which she shared that my revised manuscript was finally going to an editor for the second round of developmental editing. There were some tasks I should be working on in the meantime, including trying to line up some people to write “praise blurbs” for the book. These are the quotes you often see on the back cover of a book that say things like,

“This book changed my life! It’s a perfect example of putting words in the right order, with punctuation too!” — Johnson J. Johnson, Ph.D., Professor of Putting-Words-Together, Frogtooth University.

She encouraged me to find people with “titles,” which made sense to me: after all, would you be convinced by a blurb that said it was by “Frances Flydale, friend of the author”? I’ve actually had some luck finding people to write blurbs: a seminary professor/author, a bishop, a counselor, a retired director of a counseling center, and a psychology professor. But I’ll tell you: asking these people to write them is not easy for me. I don’t like trying to sell myself, even to people I know. I don’t like asking people to write good things about something they haven’t even read yet. (Of course, they’ll read the manuscript before writing the blurb, but not before agreeing to write it.) I have had to fight the Dark Voice a lot in order to reach out to each one. The Dark Voice keeps telling me that the book is really no good, that these people will only say nice things because they’ll feel guilty, that it doesn’t matter anyway because nobody will buy the book, and so on and so on and so on. But I have pushed through. I’ve got one blurb in hand, and four more on the way.

And that’s where I’m at. I have a few more things to work on right now while waiting for the report from the edit: I can write up my own bio, work out my author photo for the cover, work on acknowledgments, and so forth. And if I can keep my end on track, there’s a decent chance of publication before Christmas. It’s amazing; I still can’t quite believe that I’m going to be holding a book with my name on the cover in just a few months.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay.

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