In his seminal book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King tells this story —
A friend came to visit James Joyce one day and found the great man sprawled across his writing desk in a posture of utter despair.
“James, what’s wrong?” the friend asked. “Is it the work?”
Joyce indicated assent without even raising his head to look at his friend. Of course it was the work; isn’t it always?
“How many words did you get today?” the friend pursued.
Joyce (still in despair, still sprawled facedown on his desk): “Seven.”
“Seven? But James… that’s good, at least for you.”
“Yes,” Joyce said, finally looking up. “I suppose it is… but I don’t know what order they go in!”
In March of 2014, I published Delight in Disorder, a devotional memoir about my life as a pastor with bipolar disorder. It was nearly 5 years in the making.
I devoted the rest of 2014 and 2015 to promoting my book; sharing my story. I saw the impact it had on others and began to write spiritual reflections I published in my blog.
In 2016, I shifted my focus from personal essays to poetry and, over the course of 12 months, composed over 100 works of free verse. I submitted these for publication. Precisely 1 was chosen. Meanwhile, I was writing for devotional magazines and finding good success. It was clear for my work to be read, it need be about my faith as well as my life.
In March, 2017, I published the first post of this Delight in Disorder blog. I started with a dozen subscribers. I’m now pushing 300. Over 1,000 followers access my (now 200 archived) through my Facebook author page.
In the past 3 years, I have produced works in magazines, journals, newspapers, newsletters, and blogs.
But people still ask me, “When are you going to write your next book?”
So if you haven’t heard as yet, I’m writing a book. The working title is: From Despair to Delight: Stories that Cultivate Compassion with Those Who Have Mental Illness.
My first book was personal therapy. My editor, Leanne Sype, encouraged me to write as if I were a tour guide through my bipolar mind. It turns out a good many people found this therapeutic as well. I have received cards, letters, emails, and messages from such diverse folks as a homeless man from Tennessee to a teenager battling bipolar in South Africa; from a prisoner in solitary to a senior pastor of a large steeple church; from a young mom battling postpartum depression to a man with schizophrenia who lost his brother to suicide.
This upcoming book will be just as personal, but rather than a tour through my mind, it will be a guide to mental health ministry. By sharing stories from my life as a pastor who has bipolar disorder, I hope to show how the Holy Spirit has worked through the body of Christ to build bridges between faith and mental illness.
This is what I want to do. This is what I plan to do. So, what will I do?
In order to stay focused on this writing project and come out with it in a timely fashion, I have set a release date of May, 2020. Specifically May 31 — Pentecost. I want to give myself plenty of time for necessary editing, formatting, cover design, promoting, etc… So, my target date for a completed draft is the end of the year. The completed draft will be around 30K words. I now have 10K. There are 10 writing weeks left in the year. So, if my math is correct, I need to write:
2,000 words each week.
If I were consistent, I might write 500 words/day for 4 days of the week and use the other 3 as respite, to edit, or make notes for upcoming chapters. The trouble is, I’m anything but consistent. In fact, I wrote those 10K words in 2 weeks and have spent the 2 months proceeding and 2 weeks following dry as a bone.
Then again, I’m not James Joyce.
Nor am I Stephen King.
I will write what God gives me to write when it is given to me. Yet I will not use inspiration as a feeble excuse. As Jack London once said,
You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.