This is My Work. I Won’t Give Up.

I am sitting here at 4 in the morning with a copy of Transfigured Faith on either side of me. These are the copies that friends have read, written on, and given back. Both friends’ comments have challenged me. One of my friends suggested some major restructuring: organize thematically instead of chronologically. Remember when I tried that back in March? It didn’t work. When I first read that suggestion, my heart sank.

Because I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to be done with this thing, to send it out into the world, and to write something else. I don’t want to work on it anymore.

But the truth is, it’s not done with me yet. This piece of writing has worked on me as much as I’ve worked on it. When you sit down to narrate your life, everything changes. Something that was one shape now morphs into another. An experience that made you feel one way when you were a teenager now makes you feel something different. Suddenly you’re confused: Who’s the narrator? Am I writing this life, or is it writing me?

This writing changed me.

And evidently, it’s not done helping me grow.

So. I’ve reorganized my manuscript thematically. It worked this time. I’ve created a completely new document in Scrivener, and my chapters are now grouped around similar themes. Worship. Marriage. Salvation. Loss. In fact, I even wrote an entirely new chapter the other day on food, feasting, and fasting. Preview: Velveeta. Dumplings. Cornbread. Somtam. Sticky Rice. My mother. Maids. Grandparents. Making communion bread (that was a fiasco!). The Paschal feast. Anyway, this will take a little bit of re-writing to connect all the pieces. And there are still sections that need revision no matter what chapter they’re in.

I feel better. But I still feel daunted. I mean, I’m 35. If I’m gonna be a writer, I’ve gotta get a book out there!! Now!! Or so I feel. And I’ve worked on this thing for so long (I know, reader, I know you’re tired of hearing about it.) and I’ve thought I’m so close to done so many times, and now I’m still not done.

I’ve found some encouragement in a blogger I’ve discovered, though. Her name’s Esther Emery. She lives in a yurt. Sorry, I find that so fascinating it’s like almost part of her name now. Esther-Emery-Who-Lives-In-A-Yurt. (By the way, when I found her blog, I told Steven I wanted to sell our house and get a yurt. Sadly, he said no.) Anyway. Esther is fascinating in other ways, too. She recently wrote this post: When You Still Don’t Have a Literary Agent, Do It Anyway, in which she talked about her struggles with finding an agent and publisher for her book. And do you know what she said?

Maybe you’re in this situation, too. Maybe you’re the writer with no agent. If you are, my friends, I’ve got some words.

Don’t wait.

Don’t wait for a literary agent to give you permission to speak your mind.

Don’t wait for a book contract to give you an excuse to hire a babysitter.

Don’t wait for fame to give you the responsibility to do great things.

Wow, right? THEN she wrote a little fantabulous e-book that she is giving away FREE and I’m a sucker for a free book, so I downloaded it. Oh, it is beautiful. Right away I sent the link to two of my creative friends so they could download it also. It’s a book about creativity and courage and your voice. It’s about time and fear and jealousy and hope. Unleash Your Wild has been such an encouragement to me.

There are so many great quotes I could share from this book, but I’ll limit it to these two:

 “This is a great work. A long-term work. You will be doing this very work, the day you die.”

 “There is room for you. Even for your wild, undomesticated self. Choose faith instead of fear. Walk slowly, back, into your own skin. You’ll find it fits you. When you get there the table will be set and the wine glass full. Welcome home.”

So. Here I sit, engulfed in this long-term work. Here I sit, trying to walk back into my own skin. Here I sit, my early morning writing hour almost done now, a manuscript that’s still undone, an upstairs full of sleeping people whom I love, and my heart is full and my eyes are wet.

This is my work. No matter how long it takes. I won’t give up.

7 comments

  1. Briana Meade says:

    Gosh, Karissa, this is beautiful. I am looking forward to reading whatever book you put out there. It sounds amazing. Yes, I did go to CMIS (actually most people nowadays go to a school named Grace—I was the generation directly after you, so I was still more involved with the Thai culture,etc, whereas now it seems like people have segregated themselves even more into mission schools, compounds, etc. Thanks for reading my piece. I will literally wait with bated breath to read any book you put out into the world.

    • kksorrell says:

      That makes me sad to hear about the segregation. We planted a Thai church and I loved my Thai youth group there. Yes, you are right about being the generation after me. I was there from 89-96. Lived in Bkk. Went to Ruamrudee International School. I loved it. Went to school with people from all kinds of countries, religions, cultures. It was fabulous. My book is about growing up as an evangelical PK/MK and converting to Eastern Orthodoxy as an adult. One day it will be done! :)

  2. This sounds so much like my journey, Karissa…. except that I’m 62, so my biological book-publishing clock is way ahead of yours! I’m also tired of working on my book, and the editor’s suggestions are overwhelming at times. (And then of course there was the car wreck and I was unable to work for several months.) So now I’m about to get back into the revisions. Again. And it’s the hardest work I’ve ever done. But I believe in the book, so I’m going to get it done. Just finished Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch” (amazing writing) and am reminded that she takes 10 years on each of her books. Yes, she got started before you or I did, and at 48 she’s got three best-sellers. But we’re all on our own “clocks” living our own very different lives. You are raising children and working full time while writing. Don’t be hard on yourself. I’m so impressed with your work ethic. Hang in there! And if you need to throw some diversity into your work, take a short break from revisions and write an essay or a short story and send it out. For me, an essay is “instant gratification” and so rewarding in the midst of writing/revising the long form, you know? Thanks for sharing your thoughts… I’m sure they are helpful to many other writers!

    • kksorrell says:

      Susan, I actually thought of you as I was writing this. YOU are a big inspiration to me, too. I appreciate your positive attitude through all the stops and starts – your accident, especially!! I am sure when it is said and done, your book will be fabulous.

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