This week I’ve been watching #FFWgr tweets. The Festival of Faith and Writing is a Christian writers’ conference that happens every two years. In 2014, I watched the tweets, too. At that point, I’d been trying to be a Christian blogger for at least two years. I blogged three times a week, had published several essays in spiritual journals and websites, read and commented on other spiritual blogs, and connected with other Christian writers and bloggers on Twitter. I was also attempting to write a spiritual memoir – not just write one, publish one!
I remember a photo that a couple of blogger friends shared last time: A bunch of Christian writers I knew from the internet gathered into a group picture at a coffee shop. I wanted to be there. I wanted to be part of that group. I wanted someone to say to me, “Hey, I love your blog!” I wanted to be part of the club. I swore to myself that I’d attend the Festival in 2016.
More motivated than ever, I went away to a cabin in July of that year to try to finish my book, Transfigured Faith, a story about my entrance into the Eastern Orthodox Church, which I had been working on for two years, getting up at 4 am to write before work. Here’s what happened at the cabin: I was bored. Yes, I wrote. I spent many hours in a chair at a desk. But I was tired of my own words. On the last day at the cabin when I read the manuscript for the final time and said I was done, I felt nothing. I didn’t feel exuberant. I didn’t feel relieved. I felt nothing.
I went back home and blogged and acted excited. I wrote a book proposal. I sent it to my top three agents. I sent it to a few small publishers. And I heard nothing. The school year began, and I tried getting up at 4 am again. It didn’t work. I was exhausted. And I knew it wasn’t just the early mornings. Something was wrong. I finally realized that
1) I’d spent more time and effort trying to make a name for myself and impress people with my writing than trying to create a well-crafted work of art.
2) The book I’d written wasn’t my story anymore.
In the process of writing a faith memoir about my movement from evangelical Protestantism to Eastern Orthodoxy, I started to lose my faith.
Maybe it was seeing my teenage guilt in all my old journals that I’d mined through during the writing process. I was the godliest goody-two-shoes you could find when I was a teen. And yet I felt so guilty about everything.
Maybe it was the miscarriage I had halfway through writing my book and the way it taught me about creative failure and creative power in women and then led me to feminism.
Maybe it was the changing tides of culture and the increasing judgmental attitudes that kept Christians in the news and made me ashamed to be one.
Maybe it was the Christian blogs I was reading, many of which seemed to reflect a more open and vulnerable faith.
Maybe it was simply the process of trying to write my faith out. Flannery O’Connor famously said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
Perhaps it took writing it down to realize that my faith was floundering.
So I put my printed copies of Transfigured Faith away in a drawer. I stopped writing faith essays and started writing poetry again. After I while, I quit writing publicly about faith and I quit reading most of the spiritual blogs I’d followed for so long. And then I came to realization that I no longer wanted to blog.
I wanted time to focus on my other writing pursuits: poetry and and a long-dreamed-about novel. I wanted to work on the art of it. I wanted to create. But I was tired of creating in the middle of a public arena. I wanted to disconnect from the circle of spiritual writers I’d once so desperately tried to be a part of.
So here I am, no longer a Christian blogger, no longer a blogger at all really, “watching” #FFWgr from my couch again this year. My 2014 dreams are gone, but it seems that I still like to talk about and think about faith, even if I don’t have much.
The truth is that spirituality is still an undercurrent in my writing. I have a whole stack of faith-wrestling poems that haven’t been published yet. I even address spirituality a bit in the novel I’m working on. Perhaps, no matter what Christian dogmas I accept or reject, the pull of belief will always have a hold on me.
While I’ve enjoyed keeping up with the Festival of Faith and Writing this year, I’m also reflecting on the distance. I see now that I’ve needed some distance from everything I was reading and writing two years ago. I’ve needed quiet time for my soul and psyche to process all of my feelings and struggles. I’m still processing. I’ve needed to get away from that constant push toward self-promotion and social media connections. I’m still trying to deeply understand the strength of silence.
Congratulations to all my writer friends who attended or presented at #FFWgr! Thanks for letting me spy on you for a couple of days through Twitter! I might be there one day, or I might not. You never know. For now, I’m keeping my head down and working on my art.