The other day, I opened up a box of textbooks that arrived on our front door. The box held 10 copies of a book that took several years to write and revise: Theological English: An Advanced ESL Text for Students of Theology. As I unwrapped one of the books and held it in my hands for a few moments, it occurred to me that publishing a book is a lot like growing a flower.
Take the peonies that have long since bloomed and faded in our front garden. We planted them months ago and covered up their roots with soil, gently tamping the earth around them. We watered them for many weeks, watching the beads of water soak into the mulch beneath. Then the heavy heads began swelling with pink potential, bowing to the ground in a sort of silent worship. And then, after much anticipation: a blooming crown of petals. But as anyone who has grown peonies can tell you, they fade far quickly than you wish they would. Their glory is fleeting, like all flowers of the field (Isa. 40:6).
Publishing a book is very similar. Authors find joy in seeing a thought become a thing, in seeing a series of interrelated ideas manifest themselves physically. The published book is the flower head. It may not fade like the flower, but the glory seems just as fleeting. There is a sort of sadness I felt in seeing the book printed, knowing that the process had come to an end. It was finished. And now there would be new flowers to plant, new books to write. And the gardening process would begin all over again.
I say all this because I can easily get wrapped up in production, in putting something out there in the world. But the satisfaction you might get from that will always disappear. The glory of the flower will fade. It is far better to find satisfaction in the process, in the craft of writing, for that is what we spend most of our time doing as writers!
So, I say to you what I say to myself all the time: enjoy the craft. Or, as the title of this website has it, revel in the written word. Publication is a great blessing for authors, but it can all too easily become an end in itself when the greatest glory is being gathered up in the process of writing: the thinking and the typing and the revising and the editing. Revel in the writing, my friends. Revel in it. And publication will come when the flower is nearing the end of its life.