I read the letters of C. S. Lewis daily. Just two to three letters, no more. I enjoy the process quite a bit. Many times my life and what Lewis wrote overlap and I find counsel, encouragement, perspective, and sometimes a good laugh.
The most recent convergence between my life and his letters was the answer to a question that he so graciously provided. I am reading, “On the Incarnation” with a friend and he received a different translation than mine (Mine is John Behr’s–and yes I have the Greek/English copy). No translator was given only the letters CSMV for his copy. We didn’t know who the translator was. The next day I read Lewis’ letter to a Sister Penelope thanking her for her kind dedication to him in her translation of “On the Incarnation” by Athanasius. Next to her name–CSMV. Question answered! But I have diverted from my original purpose of this post. I’ve gone from feeling a connection between myself and another inkling into an apology (think defense) for why I like reading the letters. I, as I so often do, digress….
Lewis was writing to a man by the name of Charles A. Brady on Oct 29th, 1944, and set forth a brief description of J. R. R. Tolkien’s willingness to publish his works. He writes:
His published works (both imaginative & scholarly) ought to fill a shelf by now: but he’s one of those people who is never satisfied with a MS. The mere suggestion of publication provokes the reply, ‘Yes, I’ll just look through it and give it a few finishing touches.’–wh. means that he really begins the whole thing over again.
Now, the great difference between Tolkien and this dolt is that he has a lot of works already written. I do not. I have trashed all of my works for the most part–or my attempts. The similarity is not the amassing of finished work, but rather in our feelings towards them. We never really like them well enough to think they should be published. There is always something we can do better. Ah, the plight of the perfectionist. Die vile scoundrel!
It is nice to know that we are on the same plane somewhere. I am sure it is the only thing we have in common with our writing.