Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Open letter to someone whose first book has been accepted for publication.

This is what Dave would say if you were here at our house, having celebratory drinks -- and he'd say it quietly and without anyone else around, "It's not going to change your life."

And you'll think he's crazy. The news alone has shifted the cells around in your body. You've waited for it for so long -- come close so many times before -- that the end of the waiting alone feels like a rock's been lifted from your back. Everything is different. One day you were someone who had to confess that you only wanted to be a writer, but didn't yet have a book, and the next day you were a writer with a book.

You're right, but Dave's right too. He means that nothing important will change. The people who really loved you before will love you still. The people who didn't respect you before -- even if they must congratulate you on this success -- will find ample reasons not to respect you in the very near future. If you're prone to finding insults (and you're a writer after all, it's our job to seek criticism), those insults will be there to greet you. If you're prone to joy, you'll find that too.

I'd pull you aside at some other point and I'll be kind of nervous because I'm the anxious type and I'll be all big-eyed (but that's just because I have buggy eyes -- it's surprising how many writers have buggy eyes) ... and I'll say, "It's socially awkward to publish a book."

And you'll be like, "What the hell? No, failing to publish a book was socially awkward."

And I'll remind you that your failures were your own. This is public. It's the public part that will be socially awkward. People will read it and feel they have to comment or not or they will, badly, or they will nicely or they'll start to cry because the book meant so much to them or they'll be snide or they'll tell you your cover blows chunks or they'll ask if you can get them a job being an editor or or or ... Multiply that by family, friends, in-laws, in-laws' friends, neighbors ... strangers.

I'll say this, "Don't judge anyone you've known a long time based on whether or not they like your book or say the right thing or even read it. You won't have enough people left."

I'll tell you you're going to feel like a fraud, but the truth is that we all feel that way. If you figure out how to live authentically in the world amid all of these other human beings, tell me.

What I'm saying is that going public with this thing you've made so artfully so purposefully so lovingly is hard. It might make you a little crazy for a bit. But that will pass. And it will be you and the page again. And I'll tell you that you're lucky if, after your book is on its own path, that you want it to be just you and the page again. Very lucky.

I'll ask you what you're working on that's new. If you're not working on something new, I'll suggest you start. It'll help keep you steady or, at least, it's helped me. Write into the future, meet it.