I spoke with a friend of mine the other night, who does marketing consulting for publishers. We talked about my writing. Now that The Lion, the Mouse and the Dawn Treader has gone to press, my next project is to work on the new edition of The Aspiring Mystic which will hopefully be released in time for the Wild Goose Festival.
But then what?
Spiritual writing for me is a calling, not a career or even a livelihood. Yes, I want my books to be successful, but at the risk of sounding clichéd, “it’s not about the money.” But one of the challenges of a writing career is that publishers and agents — and yes, I myself — are always wondering, “What’s next?”
I wonder if after I finish the revision of Aspiring if I should just take a year off from writing. Or just concentrate on this blog, adding more content not only to the daily feed but to the mysticism and Celtic spirituality pages. Or finally get serious about creating content for Youtube, or maybe even a podcast.
I suppose I’ll know when the time comes. This time last year I had no idea that I would be writing a book about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader — and now here it is, due to be released in just a few weeks (yes, I wrote it quickly, but it is a short little book). But still, there’s always the question — what do I want to write about?
I’m interested in the topic of holiness. Holiness is so central to mysticism, and yet it’s a concept that has fallen out of favor in our day, even among many Christians. I mentioned this to my friend. He seemed unimpressed.
“Well, it might sell into the charismatic community,” he said, clearly looking for something positive to say about it.
“I know, I know, it has no market value whatsoever,” I said. “Which is a large part of why I’m interested in it. I want to explore why it has become such a radioactive topic, why no one thinks a book on holiness will sell to anyone except for hardcore Christians, who often are not so much looking for holiness as for justification for their own perspective.”
We talked about how such a book could be marketed. Perhaps another word, instead of holiness? Perhaps something whimsical, like “Holiness on the Edge” or “Extreme Christianity” or some such notion? We bounced ideas around for a few minutes, but neither of us found anything that really had a “wow” factor. Eventually somebody changed the subject of the conversation, and holiness was left behind.
What do I write about next? It’s tempting to ask such a question in a rather angsty way, as if my entire value as a writer hinges on the next book. Then I take a few deep breaths and try to be faithful right here and right now. I don’t have to have the next book figured out. I don’t have to come up with a marketing plan, or a proposal, or a target demographic. At least, not yet. Six months from now, when I’m done with the revision of The Aspiring Mystic, hopefully the next step will be clear. After all, we who seek to live in the cloud of unknowing need to get used to the idea that we will only be able to see one step at a time.