Stop what you’re doing
Newsletter: October 2018
Dear Web friend
Greetings again and if you look out your window, there’s an old truth out there, probably muttered by some desert cave dweller:
‘Stop doing what you’re doing and good will grow.’
It’s offensive, of course, because what I’m doing is so thoroughly important. How could I possibly stop? So I probably need to get over myself and the raging sense of offence. ‘Does this cave-dweller know who I am?’ I ask. ‘Have they not read my books?!’
But I do know their truth as I ponder a difficult letting go for myself. And actually, it does involve the books which they haven’t read… because they’re not alone.
For the last umpteen years, I’ve always been writing a book, different sorts… meditations, murder mystery and more recently, historical fiction. But now, for the first time forever, I’m not… I’m not presently writing a book. (Ouch!)
This is not an exercise in self-hate. I’m always learning; and ever-aware of how I could have ‘failed better’ as a writer – yet I am happy with my recent work, proud even. So it’s not self-loathing that’s to blame… just appalling sales.
The Church Times reviewer called my recent Abbot Peter memoir Another Bloody Retreat ‘an absolute triumph’. But I doubt my kind publisher is calling it that…
And the publisher of The Soldier, the Gaoler, the Spy and Her Lover called it ‘a masterpiece’ on putting it down. But with the number-crunching done, they didn’t stay for the sequel.
As a hermit, I only write to create a conversation. I write to open doors I might struggle to open through bright-eyed and determined networking; not my strong hand. And so if there’s no conversation created, only the tumbleweed blowing past my door, I feel the energy dying.
This is sad for me. There are 50 books I’d like to write, 100 more stories to tell, and who knows, the scenery might change… never say never. (And yes, some individuals have been wonderfully encouraging.)
But without the grace of some energy other than my own, a lifting wave not of my own making, the message appears to be, as the cave dweller reminds me, ‘Stop doing what you’re doing, Simon, and good will grow.’
Or to put it another way, ‘Un-attach from your author identity and the ruins will declare new things.’
And even now, it’s true, through the mists of disappointment, I sense deep gratitude for the literary chances I’ve been given. They could easily not have come my way. So sweet gratitude and delight also – delight that these literary children (almost indecent in number and probably some bastards among them) are still out there representing this hermit in the world.
Here’s the family photo album, should you want a peek…
So we’ll see and we’ll see… but for now, the pen lies quiet on its cushion; ink without employment.
I touch on these themes in my blog, As we walk by the light of the moon.
And away from my small considerations, life goes on and I’m aware that while the cave dweller’s words might sometimes be true, they are not usually true; because things do need to be done and the world is blessed by things being done.
Indeed, wonderfully good things are being done all over the world even as I write, which makes me happy… teachers, social workers, receptionists, parents, prison officers, carers, carpenters, undertakers, shelf stackers, protesters, doctors, shop keepers, journalists, vicars, refuse collectors, accountants, gardeners, neighbours, builders, road sweepers, authors even… too many doers-of-good to mention, but the list certainly includes you.
The good news is that we do what we do until we can no longer do it… and then a new truth becomes apparent, and the ruins declare fresh ways.
‘Stop doing what you’re doing and good will grow.’ Today’s (painful) good news from the cave…
With very best wishes in both the action and the ruins this autumn