I finally received my first royalty cheque from Amazon over a year after I published Stories of an Everyday Pilgrim. The amount? One hundred dollars and seventy-five cents. Humbling.
I always wanted to write a book. Praying the Ignatian Exercises as a retreat in daily life clarified and affirmed my vocation as a writer. I joined a community of writers, dedicated myself to this call, and took seriously my vows to accept critique, edit and forsake other loves.
On October 6, 2015, I submitted my work to the world not knowing how it would be received. To date, there are about four hundred copies of my book in circulation. Not exactly a bestseller.
Why is that? Because of my ability or content? Because I didn’t market it enough? Have I have fallen short in some way? Feeling the weight of my responsibility in this holy calling drove me to produce the best book I could.
Now, when I consider what God is doing–or not doing–with my offering, I remember something Maxine Hancock said. Hancock, an award-winning author, once told this to a class of writers, “It’s God’s job to go wide; it’s our job to go deep.”
This encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing: continue to come to the altar of my laptop with courage and honesty, trusting that what I do is enough.
In response, God asks, “And will you trust that what I do is enough? That this is how wide I want to go and that it’s accomplishing all I want it to? Will you also believe that I am pleased with what you’ve given?”
I think again of what I received from my Ignatian retreat. More than an affirmation of my calling, I received a knowing, deep in the core of my being that I am loved. I am loved by God who is Love loving, the one who changes the world by planting seeds and stories one by one and watching them grow. And that is more than enough.
If I had a message to my contemporaries, it is surely this: Be anything you like, be madmen, drunks, and bastards of every shape and form, but at all costs avoid one thing: success . . . If you are too obsessed with success, you will forget to live. If you have learned only how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted.–Thomas Merton, Love and Living
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“There were so many things in the [Ignatian Spiritual] Exercises that changed me and transformed me, that showed me who I was… and where I believe God wants me to be,” said actor Andrew Garfield in an interview for America. When Garfield landed the lead role as a Jesuit priest in Martin Scorsese’s Silence, he decided to pray the Ignatian Exercises to prepare himself for the part. Interviewer Brendan Busse writes, “When I asked what stood out in the Exercises, [Garfield] fixed his eyes vaguely on a point in the near distance, wandering off into a place of memory. Then, as if the question had brought him back into the experience itself, he smiled widely and said: ‘What was really easy was falling in love with this person, was falling in love with Jesus Christ. That was the most surprising thing.’”
What love mischief are you and God doing to care for the earth?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.
As an artist I know what it’s like to put the best you have out there, but have it only really reach a very few. Sometimes I do arts festivals, where a couple of thousand visitors will see my work over one weekend. But when I say ‘see’, I mean probably half a dozen out of those who look will really see, and of those maybe one or two will buy something. (My ambition is to earn enough to pay tax!) The rest of the visitors are out to have a nice day, and whilst I’d love to say I never begrudge that, in fact I frequently do. The truth is I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the sheer numbers that glance at my work – if that – then look away. But, being more reasonable about it (as well as more charitable!) I think my work, being a bit odd, a bit out of kilter, quite religious, and out of tune with so much of what is going on in the art world, let alone all the rest of it; I think it will always only be for a few. That sounds possibly exclusive, or elitist, or maybe just the rationalisation of the disappointed. But really, how could it be otherwise? We know from ordinary relationships how rarely we truly see one another, and deeply felt creative work of all kinds can be off-putting to many – though everyone will be in need of it sometime…
Esther, your work touches me often. I read every post you write and there is nearly always something in there for me. I love the honesty of your writing, and the simplicity. I often think I ought to reply and comment more often, and time often seems too short to do this. But in so many ways I am just like those people at the festivals, and maybe even those glancers they take more away than I’ll ever know. In my wiser moments I’m glad I’m doing something that doesn’t entirely make good sense, from the world’s perspective. Someone once said to make your life such that it makes no sense unless God is real. Maybe this is what we’re both up to.
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Michael, what a joy to find your words waiting for me this morning. Thanks for sharing how being an artist has been for you and for telling me how my writing has impacted you. I am greatly encouraged. May our work find its way to those who long to see and hear what God has given us, who also live lives that make no sense unless God is real. Peace be with you!