It’s been five months since I began seeking representation for my novel, Cherry Bomb. As of today, I’ve queried 68 agents, and I’ve received 24 rejections. A few of the remaining 44 agencies are still reading partial or full manuscripts (which they requested) but most others I just never heard back from. Some of the rejections are flattering and encouraging. Others are short and not so sweet, like these two recent ones:
“As much as the subjects interest me I’m just not connecting with the story as much as I’d need to in order to take it on.”
“While this sounds like a strong project, I’m afraid it doesn’t strike me as a likely fit with me and my particular editorial contacts.”
As a spiritual person, I sometimes—not always—ask God’s blessing on my work, my writing. And during this process of trying to get my novel published, I have asked His help from time to time. But issues of faith aren’t clear-cut to me where my writing is concerned. It’s not like I’m writing devotionals or inspirational books intended to draw people closer to God. I’m writing fairly gritty literary fiction (novels) and personal memoir (essays). My goal is to create art that reveals truth. But then again, can’t a person ask God’s blessing no matter what her line of work? There’s nothing innately spiritual about what a plumber or a salesman or an architect does, but they can still ask God’s help. After all, we are whole people, who have physical, spiritual, and emotional components.
I just read another essay in A Syllable of Water: Twenty Writers of Faith Reflect on Their Art. This one, “A Twitch Upon the Thread,” is by Emilie Griffin, author of over a dozen books and numerous essays. Griffin says:
Writing is an act of faith. The faith is in the wanting, the yearning, the desire. It Is desire that drives us to spin and weave—out of words, out of sentences—some fabric of meaning, a picture that clarifies, something that sheds light, makes sense out of confusion or even warms the heart. Such yearning is an aspect of faith…. I think we writers must suspend disbelief in ourselves. Instead, we put faith in our own powers, our gifts, our call to write.
I don’t know if I’m “called” to write or not, but I know that it’s something I must do. And like Zach Brown says, “Every one of us require to keep picking through our souls.”
To express our faith, we dig deep for understanding. Sometimes we cry out in anger against the offenses that should not be…. We question God, we challenge the things in creation we don’t fully understand. But also we observe, we take delight, we remember, we celebrate, and we praise.
So, if Griffin got it right, my yearning to create art that reveals truth is an aspect of faith. And maybe not only faith in God, but faith in myself. As Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I write well.”