One of the things I tell my students is that one can always grow as a writer – indeed, that good writers are always learning and improving – and I try to follow my own advice! In that spirit, here are some of the things I’ve learned (or been reminded of) in the past year:
1. My writing is my work – it is not me.
This was a particularly important insight, given that the highlight of 2014 was the publication of the second (revised) edition of my memoir, Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms, from Ignatius Press. It’s taken me a while to get to this point, but now I can say, without false modesty, that I think it is a good book, and worth reading. But not everyone will be interested, and of those who do read it, some won’t like it. That’s okay. (I do hope that people will enjoy it and find it useful, though!)
2. I can’t do everything (and shouldn’t try!).
In 2014, I decided to bring my blog, Hieropraxis, to a close. I’d been blogging for HP since 2007, and I’d enjoyed it and found it a worthwhile endeavor, but I’d eventually realized that I had too many irons in the fire. In order to have time – and more importantly, mental and emotional energy – to do my scholarly writing the way I wanted to, I needed to scale back on something. I’ve come to appreciate much more, in the past few two or three years, that I need to include rest and breathing room into my schedule; I have to make decisions about what to say ‘yes’ to and what to say ‘no’ to. So, I gave grateful thanks to the contributing writers for Hieropraxis (all of whom also had plenty of their own writing to do, as it was!), brought down the curtain, and re-worked my site to simply be my ‘work website.’ (With a space for the occasional blog post, like the one I recently did with a preview of my academic research on Tolkien.)
And in any case, this wasn’t too tough a decision, since I still write blog posts for All9!
3. Slow is okay.
As I’ve been doing more scholarly writing, I’m coming to understand that it is a particularly slow process. In April 2015, the book C.S. Lewis’s List: The Ten Books That Influenced Him Most came out – my chapter in it, on Charles Williams’ Descent into Hell, was first written in 2012. The time lag for that book was perhaps longer than usual, but it’s normal for at least a year or a year and a half to go by between submitting the final version of a chapter and seeing the published book.
One benefit of giving up regular blogging is that it has encouraged me to take a longer view of my writing. I want to do good work on my current project (on Tolkien), I have to allow myself time and sustained attention. Of course, balance is important, and I have to watch out for both procrastination and perfectionism! But that third P is essential – patience.
Here’s to a productive 2015!
Holly is a poet, teacher, and apologist exploring the intersection of literature and faith, reason and imagination. She is the author of the memoir Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms.