When school was cancelled for COVID-19, I had a few days to create videos and Google Classroom assignments for my students. Imagine my surprise when, on the second day of eLearning, after my 5th graders submitted attendance at 9:30 AM and I answered their poorly capitalized questions, I heard my heart (where Jesus communes with me) tell me to get off the computer and read a novel. It wasn’t difficult to obey, even though I felt it was irresponsible on the part of the Holy Spirit. What kind of employee does personal enrichment during hours of the workday?
As the week progressed, God was becoming more and more irresponsible regarding my teaching duties, suggesting that I spend the greater portion of each day on the couch with The Brothers Karamazov (my old friends…) and complete my grading and lesson planning in the night.
And then, at a casual moment:
“Do you remember when I invited you to finish writing your book, and you didn’t?”
“Painfully, yes.” Work had seemed way too urgent, and I’d ignored the call to finish a novel by the end of a summer.
“And remember how once the time has passed, the book is past.”
“Because I’ve become a different person.”
“So now, again, it’s time to write.”
1600 words a day and honesty. I wrote raw scenes I’d be afraid for someone to read, rough scenes, ramblings… I made vocabulary notecards (“fanfaronade” being the best new find), wrote a letter to a literary friend describing my novel. I puzzled over my character’s Enneagram number (9 or a 6?) and discovered she may be a priest rather than a deacon; or does she end up homeless and alone? Most of all, I wrote and wrote and wrote.
A few times during those weeks I had an odd feeling. To use major (and theologically dangerous) hyperbole, it was as if my salvation depending on my writing my book.
The scenes that I most felt the Holy Spirit pressing me to write were moments in the character’s first lesbian relationships. I thought—gosh, if this goes in the final draft, I’ll publicly be a complicated Catholic. Of course, that is exactly the space that God has been pushing me into for a year. Thinking about how members of my Church will react to my writing has kept it bottled up for years. I just wonder if telling a story which speaks of an authentic experience of God AND portrays life which doesn’t sit neatly within prescribed Catholic behaviors might open the reader up. This is my WHY: I can’t stand that someone’s experience would be excluded without being explored.