It’s real, you guys. It’s happening. My book is now available for pre-order on Amazon! The release date is still March 2014, but my publisher–Convergent Books, a new imprint of Random House–has it up on the Convergent Books website, too. It’s super exciting to see my AUTHOR profile up next to Addie Zierman and the other wonderful authors at Convergent. Squeeeeeeeee! *happy dance*
Girl at The End of the World
my escape from fundamentalism and search for faith with a future
by: Elizabeth Esther
Releasing early spring 2014
pssst: like my FB author page to get early, insider announcements and book info!
I gave everything I had to the first two drafts of my book. And now, I must give more. This has shattered me. Because it is true. I must give more.
And yet, giving more is not what I thought it was. Giving more actually means letting go more. Loosening more. Freeing myself more. I’m still hanging on. I’m still second-guessing. I’m still afraid. I’m still writing in half-measures. The first draft was all fight and victory. The second draft was all victim and being acted upon. The third draft is a marriage between victor and victim. The third draft erases the dichotomies and allows all of it to co-exist together: the rage, the victory, the soulfulness, the sorrow, disappointment, the pain and joy.
The third draft requires nothing less than everything.
I am reminded that nothing less than everything is also what love is. A true, fully splendored love is not a love of half-measures. It is not only victor. It is not only conquest. Love is also a servant. Love is also gentleness, surrender, receiving, giving.
I went to bed for two straight days. I was depressed as hell. I tore down parts of my blog, slashed and wailed and screamed. I have been keeping back half my heart from you. And I don’t want to give it because I know what will happen: rejection.
Yes, rejection. This is love’s risk: rejection. That I will hand you my vulnerable, breakable heart and you will stamp it out on the ground. Or, maybe you’ll accept it, but I’m still scared because: I HAVE REJECTED OTHERS’ HEARTS.
Oh, God! I am part of this Internet culture that despises and mocks and finds fault and blames and accuses and is So Very Outraged. I am the chief of all rejecters!
I lay in bed and I wept for my sins. How did I come to this place? How did I come to be the arbiter of grace, the gatekeeper of grace, the decider of who and who should NOT be the recipient of grace?
I have come to this place because I have built a habit of self-righteousness, a habit of outrage that is, actually, a habit of cowardice. How many times have I taken the cheap shot? How many times have I engaged in the rank futility of online arguments? How many times have I exchanged the open-hearted grace of Christ for the quick thrill of Being Right?
This is my sin.
And it has shown up in my book. I am incapable of writing a book that is complex and poignant and transformative because I rely on HASTE. My writing instincts have been shaped by blogging. I know how to go for the gut appeal, the conversation-starter, the provocation.
But this does not work in books. At least, not in the kind of book I really need to write.
I must wean myself off the addiction to feedback, approval, going viral, punchy tweets. I must SLOW DOWN in order to really give.
I must give nothing less than everything.
I have all these fears: you will leave, you will forget me, you will walk away, I will become irrelevant, I will miss an opportunity, I will miss my deadline, people will not be reading books by the time mine is done (yes! I’ve actually thought that).
And then I look at these fears and see them for what they really are: egocentric. It’s all about me. And all about MY career. And MY ideas of what it should be. And MY hopes to be like ___________(fill in the blank great writer).
I have to give up. Again. It’s a daily thing, this giving up. This is what faith is. It is a giving up. A letting go of outcomes, of plans, of hopes and dreams. It is a letting go of haste and hurry and convenience. It is a letting go of thinking it was All Up To Me.
It is a letting go of thinking that I can just hammer this thing out and produce a brilliant manuscript because I AM A GIFTED WRITER.
I am a sprinter (bloggers usually are) but writing a book is a marathon. If I’m going to make the transition to truly writing a book I can be proud of, I have to let go of blogging. I really do. I’m not going to make any hard and fast rules, here. But blogging is short-form writing and what I’m trying to do right now is long-form writing.
Two drafts later I realize I SUCK AT LONG FORM.
But! There is hope! Because I’ve already reworked the first four chapters and I have to say: they are pretty kickass. My editor agrees.
If I can give nothing less than everything, then the book I will put into your hands will be a damn good book. I will serve you, the reader, by giving nothing less than everything.
I will serve you and I will risk giving you my broken, vulnerable, breakable heart.
Because that’s what love is. Love gives nothing less than everything.
There is a price to pay. It’s called letting go.
This is me.
This is me casting myself upon nothing less than the mercy of God.
kyrie eleison, christe eleison.
He brought me up out of an horrible pit,
out of the miry clay,
and set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
I made it. I’m here. I’m safe. I’m free.
I finished, by His marvelous grace.
To God alone be the glory.
Halleujah, amen, let’s have champagne for breakfast!!!!
Felt completely heartbroken last night. Just utterly torn up and wrecked. I’ve reached that point in the book where I feel like I simply can’t, can’t, can’t take another step. I want to quit. I want to raise the white flag of surrender.
I’m at 26,000 words. Halfway.
Every single day I’m re-entering the pain. I’m opening a vein and bleeding. I would like this to stop now.
I went for a long run this morning. I reached the point where I felt like I couldn’t go on. Each step hurt. Each breath. That’s when the inspiration hit me:
This is a test.
The Test is not that shitty things happen. That’s just the reality of life. The Test is not that life is unfair. It’s unfair for everyone.
The REAL TEST is whether I can remain open, vulnerable, tender and loving.
Or will I close up? Will I shut down? Will I grow hard and bitter? Will I wreak my own vengeance? Will I become cynical? Will I hate?
This is The Test and let me tell you, I am tempted. I am tempted to get angry. I am tempted to get cynical and hateful.
There’s nothing like reliving everything to remind you exactly how and why you got hurt. There’s nothing like re-entering the pain to remind you how people abused you and how you abused those who came after you.
I am tempted to lash out.
And I am also tempted to soldier through, push on, try harder, chin up.
I am tempted to SURVIVE.
But I’m not going to do that.
I’m doing everything differently this time.
I’ve let go of being a survivor. Now, I’m stretching myself out on the altar.
I’m choosing to stay open. I’m choosing to love. I’m choosing earnestness. I refuse to hate. I refuse to dishonor the story with sarcasm. I refuse to even editorialize.
I choose to simply tell the story and trust my readers. I trust you. It’s not my job to tell you how to feel.
I choose to lay myself on the altar and let the story tell the story.
I choose to stay soft, vulnerable, open. Yes, you can take a swipe at me. Yes, you can hit me. Yes, you can throw me away.
I will stay here. I will stay loving. I won’t let what happened to me turn me cynical or sarcastic.
I won’t fight back with arguments.
The story fights for me.
I choose love.
I don’t know how people write books and blogs simultaneously. I really wish I had that kind of superpower. But I don’t. I can’t even write a blog post right now. My whole entire self is stuck in 1984. At least you know where to find me. I’ll be the kid freaking out that the Rapture happened and she was left behind. Today I took a drive to my hometown and looked at all my old childhood houses. I went to the park where my Dad told me our secret family password–the one that I was supposed to use in case the Anti-Christ arrested he and my mom. Oops, I’m giving the book away. See? I can’t write books and blogs simultaneously. The upside of visiting my hometown? I remembered everything correctly. The downside? I remembered everything correctly. I’ve forgotten how to use paragraphs. I keep forgetting to eat. I’ve never felt so cold in all my life. I feel like I’m bleeding myself all over the pages I write. This is good news, I promise. Look, I’ll even start a new paragraph.
This book I am writing? Oh, it’s very good. It’s pretty much my best writing ever. You will be glad I’m not blogging. Hell, I’m glad I’m not blogging. I just wrote hell. I really am gonna get left behind at the Rapture. I just wrote a blog post. I must have superpowers. No, I don’t. I just wanted you to know I’m still here. I’m writing you a very good book. Yes, you. Because I love you, don’t you know? I hope you love me, too. Goodnight, beloveds. Wait for me, k? xo. EE.
I finished my book and emailed it to my editor. One minute later I freaked out. It was like giving birth and then mailing off your baby. I’ve been wandering around for a week in a daze. I have anxiety. I keep staring off into space. I feel…bereft.
While I was writing my book, I lost touch with everything real. I was in such intense emotional pain–the kind that saps your appetite, won’t let you sleep. But I didn’t seem to mind–at least, not while I was writing my book. I had purpose. I had a project.
Now I don’t have a project.
Except, well, I have a mess to clean up. While I was writing my book, my marriage suffered a direct hit. There it is. I wrote it. Look at me being all honest.
There’s really nothing like writing about life in a cult to unearth all the dysfunction in your relationship. The very foundation of our marriage was built in the cult. And the sad truth is that despite leaving the cult, the cult was inside us.
So, there it is. Our marriage crashed on the rocky shoals. But we’re not abandoning the ship, we’re trying to repair it.
I guess the good news is that writing this book forced me to take a hard, honest look at everything. I faced it head-on. Unflinching. I learned that I want to be real. And I want to be in a real relationship with real honesty.
We’re in therapy. Double sessions, sometimes. Because we won’t let the cult take everything. A friend said, “Well, at least being raised in a cult gives you an obvious source for your dysfunction.” Which insight was so true, I laughed. There’s a gift in that, I suppose. At least I didn’t have to spend years in therapy just trying to figure out why I’m screwed up. That part is fairly obvious, har-har.
The hard part is feeling my way out of it. (Yes, feeeeeeeling my way out. Over-thinking and rationalizing and “soldier-ing through” got me into this mess).
Still, I can see hope glinting. It is dark but I’m not despairing.
My shadow days are over.
I have been very quiet here. I am deeply ensconced in book-writing. Last night I completed Chapter 6 which means I am more than halfway done…this process has taken over my entire life. I had hoped I could keep up with everything AND write a book. Not so. It is all-consuming and I am SO in it. Book writing is the purest kind of agony I’ve ever experienced, second only to child birth. I think this will be a short labor, though. I am way ahead of deadline. My hope is that what I birth through this book will penetrate deeply into your soul and speak to those most hidden places. My hope is that this book frees you from fear. It is freeing me right now. And so I keep on writing, writing my way into realness, writing my way to you….much love, EE.
The twins saw me all dressed up and demanded to know if I was a princess. Also, Mommy, can I smelling you? Jude snapped a picture but not before one of the twins darted in. In the picture, she is asking: “Can you see me, too, Jude? Can you see ME?”
And isn’t that the question we’re all asking? Can you see me, too? Can you see ME? Beneath that question is the hidden fear that we are unseen, invisible. Sometimes we feel like our very existence depends on whether or not someone sees us, acknowledges us, validates us. We carve into trees, graffiti freeways, scribble on public bathroom stalls: I WAS HERE.
The paradox, though, is that sometimes we have to hide away in order to be seen. Some of us must retreat to safe little nests where we create something beautiful to show the world. Which is to say, I am willing to courageously show you my naked heart but first, I have to enter the silence and write it out. This is my little writing corner. This is where I’ll be bleeding out my words for the next three months:
This is my Inspiration Bookcase:
It’s filled with some of my favorite books, journals, pictures, artwork, ephemera. Each piece in this bookcase has a story behind it. I’m still piecing it together; need a few more pictures in a frame, I’m trying to track down a particular book of dearly loved poetry.
I’m working under deadline now (and, yikes, I have A LOT of work to do!). My entire manuscript is due November 5th. After that, I’ll be doing final edits and then the book will be officially delivered to Random House in early December. It will go into production and we’re expecting a Fall 2013 release date.
My book doesn’t have an official title yet but it’s something along the lines of: How I Left Church To Find God. It follows my journey out of oppressive fundamentalism and into freedom. It’s humorous, heart-breaking, sarcastic, witty, reflective.
I’m writing my heart out and someday soon, you’ll hold it in your hands…