A Lion You Cage in Your Study


“I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend. During visiting hours, I enter its room with dread and sympathy for its many disorders. I hold its hand and hope it will get better. This tender relationship can change in a twinkling. If you skip a visit or two, a work in progress will turn on you…It is a lion you cage in your study. As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it.” -Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

These are the words that have been top of mind for days now. I feel them strongly, and especially so each time I enter my bedroom, close the door, turn on the window A/C unit for a noise buffer as much as for the coolness, and sit down at the folding table with my laptop. I have been repeating these steps more and more the past few weeks, and I almost have a book proposal to show for it.

I don’t know if it’s a good book proposal. I worry that it’s a sick and dying friend with many disorders. But I take Annie's advice to “hold its hand and hope it will get better.” I am trying not to skip visits, even though I would really rather read my new Alexander McCall Smith book or copy down quotes from Lauren Winner’s Wearing God when I hole up in my room like this.

If I knew there was a lion prowling around my area, I would not be as bold as Daniel, to go spend the night with it. But I’m believing the lion will stay small and tame as long as I keep going in to pet it, to caress my words just so, to feed the work with patience and showing up, to pray for God to keep the danger (of quitting) at bay.

A Lion You Cage In Your Study
A Lion You Cage In Your Study

I make myself stay in my seat, except for the few minutes when I find a new position to stretch my legs and think. I lay across my bed, I sit on the floor and touch my toes, I go brush my teeth, I sometimes bring my rebounder upstairs and jump out the tendency to be downcast over the difficulty. I am attempting with all my heart to lean in to the process, as Michael Hyatt encouraged in his book writing course I took.

He didn’t tell me I’d be leaning into a lion most days.

But here I am, pushing through the middle (thought it’s really only the beginning-middle), learning to sit still and hush, to respect the visiting hours, and then to leave as urgently as I came, because life waits for me outside too.

That is the rub. The lion inside my room needs me, the book that is dependent on me for sustenance and growth. But the four little lion cubs and the daddy lion need me too. That is my family, my pride, and I must learn to sit up with them too. Not to reassert any sort of mastery, but to forge strong bonds, to make safe places for us to overcome our disorders, and just to enjoy being in this zoo together in the first place.

Aslan-God, teach me how to feed all the lions in my life. Since through Your mercy I have this ministry, I do not lose heart. You have called me to this work. It is a privilege to be a wife, a mom, and a writer. Despair and discouragement make my lions seem too many and too strong for me, but You calm me for the care-taking at hand. The time that You have allocated is time that You will bless. I need wisdom to know what’s allocated where. May I listen and learn and lean in, and love You more for being the Great Lion of Judah that you are.