A Requiem for Finishing the Editing Process

So… you know the feeling when you’ve rushed to get to the airport, and dealt with parking, and ticketing, and security, and after what seems like an eternity you board your flight and find your seat, and only then you can finally relax. Before long the flight attendants close the door and show the security film and then the plane begins to taxi out, away from the terminal and heading out to the tarmac, and the moment arrives when it is waiting in line to take off. And at that moment, it seems for the first time really, you are able to let go of all the stress involved in getting to that point, and now you can take a deep breath, and relax, and feel the excitement of all that is about to come into your life, because all you have to do now is wait for the plane to take off, and then your trip will truly be underway.

You know that feeling? That’s how I feel today.

This morning I submitted the corrected proofs for The Big Book of Christian Mysticism to my publisher. This means that I am now completely done with the editing process of my book. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sent a few pages to sign off on some last minute changes, but beyond that, my work is done. Now I can relax and wait for the book to get published — and feel the excitement build as the release date nears.

It’s been quite a journey. I first envisioned the idea of an introductory book on Christian mysticism, believe it or not, while I was a practicing Neopagan — perhaps twelve or thirteen years ago now. My agent and I pitched the idea to several editors, but we never seemed to find a home for the book. In the meantime, I grew restless with Paganism and chose to return to Christianity, and in doing so, forged a web of truly wonderful relationships with the monks and lay associates of the monastery where I now work. Immersing myself into contemplative spirituality, for a while I gave up on writing altogether, except for my blog. But then one day the editor who had shepherded two of my books — Embracing Jesus and the Goddess and 366 Celt — called me up and asked me what I was up to. We schmoozed for a bit and then I brought up that dormant idea of a beginner’s book on Christian mysticism. It turned out that he was editing a series of what he called “big books” — like The Big Book of Near Death Experiences, or The Big Book of Soul — and so he suggested that a work on Christian mysticism would fit in nicely with that concept. He had me send him a proposal, to which he promptly replied with a publishing contract.

That was in the fall of 2007. Originally we decided that I would have until January of ’09 to finish the book — but I kept pushing the deadline back. Sometimes this was in response to challenges that arose in my life, such as the burglary that brought havoc into my home in the spring of 2008, when I lost not only my laptop, but even my backup (which I foolishly kept on a memory stick, plugged in — you guessed it — to the computer itself). But even worse for any hopes I had to complete the manuscript on time was my ongoing angst over the book’s audience and tone. Was this book for Christians, or non-Christians, or both? For Catholics, or for all Jesus people? Should I be selling mysticism to Christians, or selling Christianity to mystical seekers (or both)? I knew I couldn’t write an academic book, nor was that what my editor wanted, but by the same token I couldn’t just turn my back on the history of Christian mysticism. Finding the perfect balance between scholarship and personal experience, between apologetics for mysticism and apologetics for the Christian faith, consumed much of the writing process. More than once I jettisoned all or most of what I had written and started over. Missing the January ’09 deadline, I pushed back to April, then May, then July. When July 2009 came and went, the phone calls from my editor get testier and testier. Finally, in the middle of August I turned in a manuscript, haunted by the fear that I had written a truly awful book.

If my editor agreed with me, he never let on — but he did suggest that the book was about 20% too long, and rather than ask me to butcher my own baby, he brought in a hired gun to shave off the fat. It was a saving grace. Even though I then had to go back and, often as not, clean up the new messes created by the copyeditor’s zeal to fix my original mess, the end result — which I wrapped up this past February on the Feast of St. Scholastica, just days after the passing of my beloved 20-year-old cat — was a book that, no matter its faults and weaknesses, I could live with. And then, when at the beginning of this month I saw the page layouts, my enthusiasm for this book finally eclipsed my self-doubt and second guessing. The proofreading process proved to be simply a joy, and in the meantime early reviews of the book — from other writers who have been asked to consider endorsing it — have been overwhelmingly kind.

So I’m done. Of course, I’m not done in the sense that I will now turn my attention to marketing and promotion, important tasks that must accompany the publication of any book. I’m not done in the sense that soon I will be settling down to write yet another book, and of course, on a daily basis there’s always this blog. But the years I have spent dreaming about, then writing, and finally editing, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, are now behind me. The book is not perfect, but it’s perfect enough. I can finally say with complete sincerity that, if you enjoy my blog, then I believe you’ll love this book.

And that’s exciting. I can finally stop worrying about actually making it to the airport, and now just embrace the promised adventure of the trip to come. Thanks for being part of the adventure thus far. Here’s to exhilirating times to come!

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  • Christine Anderson

    Congratulations! So good to have you back in the blogosphere. I’ve worked in publishing for more than twenty years and deeply appreciate the ups and downs and challenges that are all part of writing and publishing. Enjoy your well-earned reward, and may a tidal wave of blessings–and sales–follow publication.

  • Dwight

    Congratulations. I look forward to reading your book.

    Is there any chance of having a Kindle edition?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

      I sure hope so, but that’s the publisher’s call. Be sure to request a Kindle edition from the book’s page on Amazon.

  • http://brazenbird.wordpress.com Brazenbird

    Congratulations Carl!! That’s so exciting. I recently purchased your Celtic 366 and am enjoying it very much. I just pre-ordered your book through Amazon and can’t wait for it to arrive in August.

    Well done!

  • Gary

    Congratulations. Query, requiem or birthing announcement, or distinct parts of each?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

      Gary, I’d definitely say a little bit of each… although the actual “birth announcement” will really come in July or August.

  • suzanne kurtz

    Dear Carl,

    Congratulations, every blessing, and may your dear cat live in light perpetual, and I am so sorry for your loss.


  • Ellen N. Duell

    Good grief! Did you INTENTIONALLY mix those horrid metaphors? “butcher my baby” “hired gun” to “shave off the fat”! What terrifying imagery, not to mention silly interpretations.

    That cannot be a sample of your writing excellence! It would exhaust your guardian editor in a trice.

    It makes me feel reluctant, a little, about the book!

  • oakabbey

    Congratulations Carl, and every blessing on your life and work! I’ll be pre-ordering the book for my birthday, and will most likely add it to the suggested reading list for the OAK.
    Deep Peace!
    Cheryl Anne

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    Ellen: Sorry if my visceral imagery seems inappropriate to you. I thought I was being playfully over the top — more silly than terrifying. I don’t ever use imagery that violent in the book itself, although at one point I do compare mysticism to tofu, which some people might think is an act of aggression. If you want to get all psychoanalytical, let’s just say that you caught a glimpse into my deep ambivalence toward editing (particularly when it’s my work being edited).

    As for the mixed metaphors, all I can do there is plead “no contest” and throw myself on the mercy of the court. Heaven knows I’m not perfect.

  • http://www.suprarational.org Ron Krumpos


    Congratulations. It took me 5 years to write 100 pages. Comments by my 20 advisors resulted in many revisions.

    While it was a relief to see it published online, it was also difficult to say it was finished. Whatever and however we write about the topic, there are never words which are exactly right.

    PS I love mysticism, but hate Tofu
    (and my wife is Japanese)

  • soma77

    Congratulations and thanks for your hard work. We were born to witness God mingling with our lives, taking us beyond the five senses, giving us inspiration, and accelerating our feelings, intuition, dreams, and achievements.

  • http://kimquiltz.wordpress.com/ Kimberly Mason

    Congratulations! I look forward to having the opportunity to buy it and read it!

  • http://kimquiltz.wordpress.com/ Kimberly Mason

    I really appreciated your take on the feeling that you have turned in absolute crap when you first turn your work into an editor. I have just recently started writing again after a long, really long, hiatus from journalism and I have that feeling every single time — only four times total so far, though, perhaps it gets better later? *g*

  • Maggie Daly

    Congratulations on your completed work. I’m looking forward to reading your new book. Sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved feline compantion.