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!