Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007)

Madeleine L’Engle, 1918 - 2007

Why does it seem like a lot of my favorite YA authors seem to be leaving Earth this year? I just found out that Madeleine L’Engle died last September 6, at the age of 88. Of the books she wrote, the ones I read and loved were her Kairos books, principally the ones with the Murrys. (Of the O’Keefes, I’ve only been able to read An Acceptable Time).

Lenneth posted a wonderful interview with her: Allegorical Fantasy: Mortal Dealings with Cosmic Questions. I practically couldn’t tear my eyes away from the interview — I felt it had great meaning to me personally, both as a writer and a Catholic.

I’d like to highlight some lines that I felt were very meaningful for me:

[Writing and praying is] not a matter of feeling like it, or waiting when I feel inspired, because both in work and in prayer, inspiration comes during rather than before.

…Freedom comes on the other side of work. If I want to play a Bach fugue, I must practice scales. If I hope for any transcendent experience in prayer, I have to have just done my ordinary, everyday prayers, which is the same thing as practicing my scales. I have to write every day. Freedom and discipline, rather than being antithetical, are complementary. Permissiveness, either from others toward you or toward yourself, ends up being restricting and crippling. If you choose to be a writer and a mother, you have to be incredibly disciplined. Otherwise you won’t manage. Discipline does not imprison you.

This is truly something that I personally have to work on, even though I’ve read this same thing from various places and books, and they all say the same thing. And yet I still don’t get to write on a daily basis — creative writing, that is.

We’ve got to be free to fail. … We live in a world that insists we be successes. If you’re not free to fail, you’ll never be anything but mediocre. You must try to do more than you can really do. Sometimes, you do do more than you can really do. That’s the marvel of it.

I feel there is a lot of truth in this statement, and frankly I feel this is where my biggest difficulty lies, especially in writing. I might go into this in depth at this blog some other time, but basically I’ve been coming to the conclusion for some time now that my biggest barrier in terms of writing is my fear of failure at what I most want to do.

I remember seeing, once back in the Philippines a month or so before I moved to Singapore, these beautiful new editions of her Kairos books. I wanted to buy them, as I didn’t have my own copies (the ones we have are really technically my sister’s) but I didn’t as I was moving. I really should have bought them.