Last night, I read a blog post by author Sarah Dessen about how after eleven months of work, she is abandoning her latest book project. No matter what she tries, she says, it just won’t come together.
“Rather than forging onward out of panic and fear, throwing more ideas at this giant, gaping maw of mess, I’ve just….stopped. It feels weird and makes me very anxious. But I have to have faith that it will get me where I need to be, wherever that is.”
I was so stunned and relieved as I read this, I started to cry. All I could think was, It’s not just me.
For almost two years now, I have been writing a book on praying for a husband. Well, writing is the wrong word. That’s what I did with my other books. This time, it’s been more like wrestling with words: groping, guessing, backspacing and deleting, and putting things together that clearly don’t belong. It’s been awful. The project is completely backwards. It has a title (The Courage To Ask), a gorgeous cover, and a solid introduction I wrote two years ago excerpted in the back of the new edition of my memoir. But there is no book.
Instead, it is hundreds of starts and stops splayed out across the home screen of my laptop like someone took the pages and threw them into a high wind. These pages include endless disconnected thoughts, with writing that fluctuates wildly from inspired to mediocre to that doesn’t even make sense…sometimes within the same sentence. I have made so many promises to myself and others about this book. My intern Charlotte has been on standby for essays to review since October. Worse, the cover designer Cameron rushed to finalize the design so we could have this book out LAST FEBRUARY. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get a handle on this project. I see small glimmers of encouragement, and my heart is in this like nothing else I’ve worked on. I firmly believe that a husband is a wonderful, important, entirely appropriate and good thing to pray for. But I can’t write the book.
It’s a complete soup sandwich, as my friend Catherine would say.
Reading Sarah Dessen’s post convinced me of something I probably knew already: I need to walk away. So many other projects have been back burnered as I’ve tried to wrestle this disaster into some sort of order. And yet “some sort of order” is not what I want for this project at all. As Dessen points out, we’ve all seen books from authors we admire where you sense that something was off in the process – narratives that aren’t as well thought out as earlier work, or don’t bring the same level of entertainment/inspiration/escape as you’d hoped for when you picked up the book. For a book about asking God to bring great husbands to women who long to be happily married – which is in the top five things I pray for in life, ever – I want to create a life raft for readers who feel like they’re drowning in the despair of lost hope. Not a soup sandwich, something that sort of works but isn’t at all what you’d hoped for.
Maybe someday. But not today.
Until then, if you’re one of the people who emailed me to volunteer to be an early reader, or to ask to be notified the second this book comes out – thank you. Please know this: Just because I can’t write a book about praying for a husband doesn’t mean that God can’t answer those prayers. Even if you barely dare speak them. Part of why I’ve been so flummoxed in this process is I’m so aware of how much bigger God is than I can comprehend, and how much I don’t understand His ways or plans. He seems to ignore prayers we plead late into the night…and then bless us with things beyond what we would have though to ask for in the morning. My prayer is that your experience of God blessing you with deep, fulfilling romantic happiness is just like that. Beyond all I can ask for or imagine. Just because I can’t write it doesn’t mean God can’t do it. I think that’s helpful to know.