One of the slogans of my program is “Every surrender brings us closer to God.” (And another is, “Every true surrender is covered with with scratch marks.”) I’m going a little crazy at the moment trying to discover and accept God’s guidance around the publishing of my book.
Because I have decided to publish it online in an unfinished state [I changed my mind about this later, but am leaving this journal entry from early 2012 in place], using blogging software for the online version, but using regular book authoring software for actually writing it, I’ve ended up creating a large amount of technical work for myself. I happen to be a programmer, so I thought it would be ok, but I’ve ended up using several tools that I had never used before and nothing worked particularly well together — blah blah — the end result being that I’ve probably spent eighty percent of my time working on the book dealing with this technical crap. — “Oh, well,” I told myself, “I’m in no hurry. This is a labor of love, I’m doing it to help other people. This method of publishing allows me to make it available for free and help the greatest number of people.” [I changed my mind, by the way, because it became clear that publishing it for free would mean that pretty much no one would ever read it.]
But as the writing and research progressed and I discovered news articles and online discussions and other books addressing issues very close to my topic, I realized that the topic is very timely and that right now would be a very good time to get this book out to the public and ride something of a wave of general interest in these issues.
Then, a couple weeks ago, the automatic news search I have set up for stories about atheism pointed me to a book review of Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion. I practically freaked out when I saw that: famous author writing on my exact subject with practically the same exact title! It happened that I first saw this book review around 10:30 on a Friday night, which is already past my bedtime. My wife was already upstairs in bed, and I had already been dawdling before getting myself to bed. (Not to mention that everyone in the family had already been suffering from a stomach virus which has now been circulating in the family for more than three weeks and keeping all of us from getting sufficient sleep.) Anyway, I immediately purchased an ebook version of it and started reading it. By the time I had torn myself away from it and laid in bed for more than an hour asking God to help me put it out of my mind and go to sleep, it was after 1:00 am, and my daughter started vomiting in her crib.
Two weeks later, I have been focusing every spare second on trying to get the WordPress site up and running. I hired a contractor on Elance and am now trying to hire another on oDesk. I’ve purchased a number of technical books, written a bunch of broken code, switched out my WordPress theme countless times, continually thinking that an acceptable site was just around the corner.
This morning (after yet another night of pooping, vomiting, screaming children and about three hours of sleep), I told my sponsor that this book stuff is seeming unmanageable. She urged me to focus on getting my family healthy and getting sleep and putting aside the book, or at least my anxiety about the book, until I can engage in the work calmly.
But it’s been two weeks since that book came out! If I can get my site up now, I can post links to it in the comments of online reviews. I could send a letter to Krista Tippet (the NPR spirituality maven) and convince her to interview me because this topic is so timely. And besides, I have contracting proposals pouring in from India and Pakistan and Serbia and Indonesia offering highly skilled programmers and designers (with incomprehensible English for the most part) for $20 or $14 or $6 an hour!
My sponsor reminded me this morning, I’m doing this to help people, not to get famous. Another of the slogans of program is “You can’t give away what you don’t have.” Trying to help other people without having one’s own spiritual condition, sobriety, abstinence, in order is pointless or counter-productive. “God has a plan.” — However much I don’t believe that God has a plan, it is an appropriate slogan in this instance, since it is crystal clear that God’s plan is not for me to get three hours of sleep a night because of vomiting, screaming children and still feel that the most important thing I could be doing with every spare second is getting this book online so I can get interviewed by Krista Tippet. So, I can remind myself: “Feelings are not facts.”
Every time I sit down to write (not to work on the software), I get the sense this is the book I was born to write. The words flow effortlessly (like my children’s half-digested food, I can’t help thinking.) It’s fun to think about, I know there are people who will appreciate reading it. But those age-old thoughts of fame are hard to put aside. I know from past experience that they have the potential to poison my experience of writing. Thoughts that start as fun, exciting fantasies transform mysteriously into something else — anxieties, expectations, repetitive, dull distractions, disappointments, fear of failure, eventually (in the case of the last novel I worked on a decade ago) a feeling that the only thing worse than giving up would be continuing.
I’ll use this page for a list of links to reviews and discussion of Religion for Atheists