The other day I told a friend that no one comes to this blog; I don’t publicize it, I simply write it for myself. Those are all pretty much true statements; sometimes I just need to get things out. This post is another example; I’ve got something on my mind that I want to understand, and since I live alone I have no one to talk to about it. I rather like living alone, except at times like this. (I could talk to the dog, but he thinks he’s a literary critic.)
I stayed up all night last night, polishing the final draft of my new novel. Believe me, that writing’s intended for an audience. I hope it finds one; I could really use for this book to be successful. I’m much better known now than I was when I finished my last one, and somehow I feel more assured when it comes time to flog it. I need the money, I already have an audience for other work, and I’m confident of my talent. Those things were less true when my first two books came out; today I’m well known in the Episcopal Church. They don’t all like me but I don’t need them to; name recognition is what drives book sales, and at the very least I have an original point of view. I’ll never be a star writer but I have the ability to entertain and sometimes to make people think.
The book is very long – I always do that – but it’s a fun read. The themes are kind of epic – I always do that too – but people who love to read are willing to engage any topic that interests them, as long as the writer hooks them from the start and keeps them coming back.
Of course I can’t evaluate how well I do that, but I’m thrilled to death with this work. You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll wonder, What’s that boy done now?
Getting this book done has been the major goal of my life – indeed, my spiritual vocation – for the last ten years. Even while I wrote another book, I’ve been working on this one, eating and sleeping with these characters. When I wrote “The End” a week or two ago, I even felt a kind of letdown; now what? It’s a great thing to achieve your big goal, but what happens to a quarterback the day after he wins the Super Bowl? I have advice for champions like that: do the same workout you did two days ago, just stick to your routine. A new goal will arise as this one starts to fade.
We’d all like to move from success to success, but life’s usually more like ups and downs. So live your life, love your friends, eat some good food and relax awhile. Trouble’s no doubt coming, but until it gets here, it hasn’t got here yet. Enjoy yourself.
I’ve spent the intervening time, from The End to now, polishing the manuscript and deepening it. I decided to change the name of the town where the action takes place; that meant lots of retyping. New details came to me, so I put those in. I collapsed several paragraphs, took out a bunch of commas, cut some stuff. The book’s now as good as I can make it at this time in my life.
(Flashback: I remember being petrified when I finally received copies of my first book in print. What if I didn’t like it? What if I found all kinds of mistakes? But I sat and read it, and thought, “It’s nearly perfect. I’m 99.9% pleased.” And I still am; haven’t read that book in a long while, but it sits happily on my shelf. It was the #1 Gay bestseller for awhile on Amazon and I still get small royalty checks. The second book bombed, but oh well. Maybe someone will rediscover it someday.)
Now here’s the really weird-but-good part. My fiction is congruent with my daily reality. I’m not reproducing the one in the other, but they go together; if I could make a chart of the writing and the living, it would look like a kid’s drawing of waves on the ocean.
It’s a happy book; I’m a happy guy for the most part. Of course I suffer sometimes like all Gay people do, and all human beings. I don’t pretend that everything’s all hunky-dory when it’s not. But in my other work, as That Darn Vicar™ on the Daily Office websites, I might spend all day trading love letters with excellent people all over the world. It’s a privilege, and it delights me.
Sometimes people write me with their hurts and I try to respond. I’m a social worker by trade, and it doesn’t bother me at all when people tell me their troubles. To me it’s an honor to get to hear them – and I become myself more and more in the process of exchanging with folks. If people didn’t trust me a little, and have some basis for trusting me, they’d never spill their guts to me. But they do.
(I’m also aware as a lay evangelist that my job’s easier than the ordained clergy’s. I don’t have to worry about a big old building or who’s putting how much in the collection plate. I don’t care what Old Mrs. Moneybags thinks of my liturgy, the pictures I choose or the captions I write. If I want to put up the Gay Lord’s Prayer for LGBT Pride Day, I do it. The most she can do is cancel her e-mail subscription, but I know I’m getting five more in the next 24 hours.)
(I knew an Old Mrs. Moneybags once; she was mean to my mother, and therefore deserving of contempt.)
As an author I realize how odd it must be to so many readers to run across a happy book. We’re all supposed to be into the Dark Side these days, but I wouldn’t give you 2¢ for it. I understand there will be people who reject what I write out of hand, and that’s okay with me. They’ll write reviews on Amazon, “It’s too idealized, the characters are too perfect. The plot is senseless and the writing style is juvenile.” I’ve gotten ones like that, followed by four that say, “I loved this thing!” So you win some and you lose some, big deal.
I’m not Pollyanna; this book deals with murder and oppression – just as the story of Christ does. So remember that title; Good News from Gay Guys. I think it’s catchy, but at any rate, it fits.
The only real question in my mind now is how to publish it. A good friend recommended a publisher and I sometimes fantasize about submitting the book to them. I’d have to buy Microsoft Word, because they assume that the entire world owns it, so it’s the only thing they’ll accept. I’ve used it before, but I don’t feel a need to make Bill Gates rich when there are better products available. Still, if that’s what it takes, the rules are the rules, and I don’t care. I’d have to spend two weeks reformatting everything, but so what. I believe God put me here to write this book. Not the others so much, but this one. So of course I’ll do what God says. Maybe he decided a long time ago to make Bill Gates rich, I dunno. Just doing my job here, Lord! Here I am, send me.
Like all Gospel writers I have an evangelical purpose, to support LGBTs and invite them back to church. Being Episcopalian, I’m not heavy-handed about it, or I wouldn’t have put so many jokes in. (Or as much sex, because that’s part of the good news too.) But you can see why I’d think this book is a big part of my vocation. I could just be fooling myself, but I do have a spiritual director and 1.5 million hits, so let me glide blissfully on.
I love what I do; I love who I am. I love all my friends and the people I’ve met. And now in my 60th year I am finally learning to apply God’s love personally to myself. I’ve been all about the abstraction before this, and not enough about the relationship.
But it’s a relationship book, so at last I will let myself be loved by God as just Josh.
I would guess that’s an issue for other Gay people, but maybe not. The great thing is that if we live long enough, we can all get the healing we need.
Love and healing are the same thing, so I write about love.
You can see why I’d be an okay person by now; doing all right.
I’ve still got the usual unfinished business of life – but two last points:
1. God says life doesn’t end; we’re here permanently.
2. I finished that book. It has all the message of Josh in it for anyone who wants to hear. I can’t make them hear – Jesus couldn’t either – but I can say my little word and feel good about it.
Now it’s a holiday weekend, Independence Day, freedom, liberation. It’s no coincidence at all that the book ends on the 4th of July, with fireworks and a band. “Kent stood on the pitcher’s mound, loving his life; he didn’t know how he got so lucky as to be born here.”
I’m grilling some chicken and making potato salad; feel free to drop by.++
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