Body-Mind-Spirit - Inspiration for Writers, Dreamers, and Seekers of Health & Happiness
Faith: A Writer’s Safety Net
Not long ago, a student who has been taking my classes consecutively for the past three years stopped by to pick up a letter of recommendation for a PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship. This same student, during her second year in my class, wrote a novel, for which she secured literary representation last fall. Our class is on summer break and I hadn’t seen her since June. After we took care of our PEN business she shared her growing frustrations with me about her writing career. “I felt like I gave my baby away,” she told me, and then lamented that she rarely hears from her agent and has no idea what’s going on with her book. Unfortunately, for writers lucky enough to sign with an agent, this is not an uncommon story.
We talked about the state of publishing, and discussed pros and cons of conventional, hybrid, and self-publishing. We deliberated over how much the business has changed over the past few years, chewed over the closing of bookstores, and analyzed the advantages of owning the rights to your books. We both agreed on the pleasure inherent in maintaining creative control of your work, and noted that even if you’re lucky enough to land a book deal, you still have to hustle and promote your baby while your publisher takes the lion’s share of your profits. In the end, she came to this realization: “I can either lament the way things are or embrace them.”
An hour before this conversation, I’d sat in church listening to a talk about faith. The reverend had asked: “When your faith is absolute, do things always work out?” The congregation immediately responded, “Yes.”
“Maybe so,” he replied. He paused and added, “But then again, maybe not. When your faith is absolute, things work out only when you’re not attached to a specific outcome.”
This reminded me of an old Sufi story about how things aren’t always as they seem:
One day a farmer finds and captures a beautiful white stallion. All the neighbors gather to congratulate him: “How fortunate you are. Allah has blessed you.” The next day his son attempts to ride the horse, falls off, and breaks his leg. All the neighbors gather to commiserate with the farmer: “What a shame. Allah must be displeased.” The next day the solders come to take every able-bodied man into the army. Because the son has a broken leg, the soldiers leave him alone. The neighbors gather to congratulate the farmer: “How fortunate you are. Allah has blessed you.”
And the story continues. It’s clear as the story progresses that no single event is good or bad.
Perhaps my student’s disappointment is really just a stunning opportunity for her to fully embrace and step into her own as the confident, capable writer and entrepreneur I know her to be. “In today’s publishing climate,” I reminded her, “there’s no need to wait for someone else to make your publishing dreams come true. You can do it yourself!”
The Bhagavad Gita, a Hindi holy book, says, “We may never see the fruits of our labor.” But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t labor. Writing is a labor of love. Why deny yourself its joys and healing gifts? The fruit may be invisible, but if you’re working whole-heartedly, you will definitely feel its sweetness. Look for that. Believe in it.
At the end of his talk about faith, our reverend read a poem called “Do It Anyway,” which was written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta, India. It is a revised version of an earlier piece written by Dr. Kent M. Keith.
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
I’d like to add:
If you write a book, you may not be able to sell it.
Write it anyway.
If you publish your work, people may ram judgments down your throat.
If you show people who you are through your writing, you may be shamed.
Show them who you are anyway.
Show yourself who you are; this will make God smile.
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