I had tried NaNoWriMo the year before (let us never speak of that manuscript again), but there was something missing in my writing. I didn't know what it was (in many ways I'm still learning). But on the nineteenth day of June I began to discern what it was. I had lost the way from my head to my heart. I wasn't reading for pleasure. My thoughts weren't connected to my passions. Something was broken, I realized, and needed to be mended.
|Reading for pleasure after a day of farming in Ireland, kept company by Nala the dog.|
In many ways that's where the story that became The Exiled Monk was born. I still had far to go before it would become the story it is today, because I had far to go to become the writer I am today. Stories are, to be sure, a plot with characters. They are sentences and paragraphs and chapters arranged together in a particular way. They are all of that, but they are also more. Stories are the resonance of experience and empathy shared in such a way that they connect people together. I had to relearn this truth by relearning my own story as both a series of events with characters, and also a connection to myself--a reconnection of my head and my heart--shared in a way that connects with others.
For me faith had become an intellectual exercise. I had studied and exegeted and researched and understood the history and logic of my faith, but I had lost the feeling of my faith. But it was in that losing, that disorientation, that I began to understand my own story. The faith I grew up with had been a steadfast support for me. When I didn't have a place to belong in school I always knew I belonged at church. When the expression of emotion felt dangerous, I could always emote through religious practices. But when those were all analyzed, systematized, and circumscribed by intellect I lost the way to belonging, support, and vulnerability. It would take me years to begin to find the way through, the way to reconnect my head and my heart, and this story helped me to navigate that wilderness.
I'll share more about the creation of The Exiled Monk in the coming days.