I’m slowly reading Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life, which I bought at the gift shop at Holy Island when I was there in May. Though Holy Island is now a tourist destination, I still felt the quietness and peace that has made it a sanctuary and place of pilgrimage for hundreds of years. I was inspired to bring such stillness into my life.
The other day, while reading the chapter on obedience, I came across this quote from Thomas Merton that very much applied to me, and I think most artists can identify with it:
“Hurry ruins saints as well as artists. They want quick success and they are in such haste to get it that they cannot take time to be true to themselves. And when the madness is upon them they argue that their very haste is a species of integrity.”
Flickr photo from Jim Forest
My memoir took 13 years from start to finish. Many times during that process, I prayed for quick resolution. I prayed for an agent to take the manuscript, and then when that didn’t work, I prayed for an editor to take it. Like with any prayer, you can ask and you may never receive, or you may not receive on a timetable that’s of your choosing. It’s not up to you. I was often impatient during the process and at many points wanted to give up.
But looking back, I now see that the process took the time it needed to take. My book would have been radically different (and I think, worse) if it had come out after five years or eight years or 10 years.
My current project started in 1999. Yes, 1999. I’ve worked on it in fits and spurts and there were times when I took years away from it. But still, it’s been on my mind for almost 20 years. But I’m quite patient about this one because I’ve already been through the process. It has a somewhat political theme, and with today’s political landscape I keep thinking the book will be more relevant than ever. So I think it wasn’t meant to come out earlier.
As creatives, we still have to do the work. We can’t just sit back and do nothing and expect our creations to come out. We have to stay steady, keep working, not give up, and trust the process. Our projects will emerge when it’s time for them to emerge.
Have you ever felt frustrated at the time it takes you to create something? Are you impatient, or are you able to resist that “hurrying” that Merton speaks of?
Holy Island, Northumberland, UK. Photo by author.