I inadvertently cracked someone up with the following exchange in the produce section:
Him: What would you say is the single most important factor in your success as a writer?
Me: My faith in God.
Him (having heard about the dirty dirty leftist dildo book after it was read by his wife's book club): Oh...seriously?
Me (seriously): F#@k yeah.
He belly-laughed, then asked me, "Why did you feel the need to drop the F bomb in there? So people won't think you're a holy roller?"
I haven't thought about it, but I'd probably have to say that's correct. A lot of Christian rhetoric strikes me as disingenuous or accompanies views I find very un-Jesussy, and as a huge fan of Jesus, I find that off-putting. I think subconsciously, maybe I do hope my salted vocabulary will keep me from sounding like the late great Tammy Fay when I say "God's hand is on me."
Talking with this guy (no one I know, just one of the many random strangers who inexplicably decide to talk to me), I experienced a wonderful moment of feeling completely coddled by God, because even as the F bomb left my lips, I was seeing my career flash before my eyes, and it's awesome. Epic failures and totally surprising scores. Flaming elk turds of disaster and exponential blessings I was never wise enough to pray for. Looking back, I see that every single setback that made me weep and gnash took me in a better direction than the one in which I was resolutely trying to go.
Hence my longstanding resolution to say one prayer and one prayer only on behalf of my career: "Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace." Praying for a big advance or juicy collaboration gig--that's like dipping a bucket of water out of a river. I'd rather jump in and let it sweep me along. The Tao. "The Way, the Truth, and the Life." Its current is strong. You can swim against it if you want to, but you'll exhaust yourself traveling only a fraction of the distance.
On the most practical publishing level, recognizing God's hand on me endows me with the ability to take risks without fear, to leap knowing the net will appear. It requires me to have compassion for the people I work with and to treat them with respect and love, because it would be an insult to God to treat his children -- even his wounded, bratty, bitchy children -- with anything less, and that's an essential ingredient in collaborative book projects. It opens my eyes to the beauty of the people I meet on the street, because I see in them the image of the Creator, and those random people who talk to me are a never ending fount of inspiration, dialogue bits, and plot sparks. On a pragmatic level (lest I go too woo woo for you), faith--especially when it's tested--enables me to see every rejection as just another box on the flow chart, chutes and ladders taking me toward the place where I know I'll find joy, because joy is in me, in this place.
Don't get me wrong: I do struggle with day to day particulars. I cry when I feel thwarted and drop F bombs with little provocation. But my baseline life is filled with undeserved love, enormous joy, abiding peace, and sincere gratitude. And then every once in a while, all the pieces serendipitously fall into place, and for a brief, blinding flash of yes, I see the blueprint.
Two weeks ago, my agent went out with a proposal I've been struggling to get legs under for almost four years. I've begged, battled, and banged my head against the wall over this thing and ended up doing hundreds of hours of work for which I've never been--and might never be--paid a dime. Ten days after the initial offering, something happened that catapulted my collaborator into the national media, and as the proposal went wider, with better entry than I could have orchestrated, all I could think was "Thank God for that editor who passed on it two years ago. And thank God for that financial setback that forced me to push it to the back burner. And thank God for my previous agent's inability to see the project's potential. And thank God for the ghostwriting gig I didn't get this fall, which would have made this impossible."
Tonight, at the end of a long, winding week of ups and downs, I watched "The Color Purple" (buy the book!) and was reduced to tears (as always) by Shug Avery's triumphant rendition of "Maybe God's Trying to Tell You Something"--for both the great music and the moment of redemption.
There's no such thing as a sure thing in this biz. I have no idea what will happen to this proposal. It could be six figures; it could be elk dung. Either way, I hear the proverbial "still, small voice" telling me that what is...is. And it's good. A step in the right direction. Reserving the right to feel momentarily bummed if God is trying to tell me my proposal is dead, I have to say I'm getting better at "rejoicing in all circumstances, knowing that all things work together for the good of those who love God."
Go into the coming work week, armed with the knowledge that God's hand is on you. And yes, God is trying to tell you something: You are loved. You are strong. And come learning experience or moment of flourish, you are exactly where you're supposed to be.