Do insights into the way you see yourself ever come to you after you’ve had a beer or a glass of wine? As if maybe some flimsy curtain suddenly flutters to the floor and a lightbulb pops bright. It’s most common for me when I’m reading or musing on the couch in the evenings, but not so common that I’m not curious when the poke comes. As it did the other evening while I was looking at myself in the mirror, brushing my teeth before bed. I like to talk to myself as I peer into my face peering back at me, and so I began.
Why was it I thought announcing myself as a first-time author, one who had read few books and had never seriously written anything, not even a diary or journal, would win the hearts of readers, media folks and publicists everywhere? Was that something to be celebrated? Was I patting myself on the back, impressed that my authorship came without my ever having dabbled in the arena of writing? Did I fashion myself some unrecognized genius whilst embracing my self-claimed naïveté?
The answer to all of the above is yes. I touted the first-time author story with the kind of arrogance that pops up when I’m afraid of failing. It’s a fuzzy undertone I detect at times when I’m feeling vulnerable and want to have reasons to fall back on if things don’t work out to the highest-of-the-high standards I set for myself. Curiously, both narratives, the arrogant and the naive, float around inside my consciousness and cellular fluid simultaneously, side-by-side – they even hug and commiserate. Yet, I can’t grasp and learn from the duality until the curtain falls.
Neither arrogance or naïveté is an end-of-the-world take on anything, and the difference in the two can be as subtle as an accent or a state of mind, never sensed by anyone but me. Is it even important to me, then? Does it matter if I notice and am curious about why (as if I could I ever definitively know?) I have such tendencies toward that edge of arrogance?
Yes, I think it matters. I love seeing deeper into myself and, in this case, I thought I was free of all concern about how the book would be received when published. I told myself it didn’t matter what people thought, though I reveled in positive face-to-face reviews and friends gushing about my accomplishment. Now, eight months out, I wish it would get more national press, I’m disappointed the local media hasn’t lavished more praise upon me, and I feel those pangs of jealousy when I see other similar books get what I consider more attention. All of which, I see now, would be pretty much expected human emotional responses to something as big as publishing a memoir.
It matters because I can see now that I did all it out of a sort of fear of seeing myself for who/what I really am: a perfectly smart, creative, successful, courageous human who worked diligently to write a book I wanted to write. I got professional and personal input along the way, had it professionally edited (for content, style and grammatical correctness), and proofread. I self-published it with the help of my editor with whom I designed the covers, lay-out, fonts and picture placement. I had a book launch and reached out to the local media for publicity. I created a webpage and began this blog. And still, I’m subject to all the whims of the publishing/marketing world, and to all I didn’t know before I naively dove head first into published authorship. I didn’t do enough homework, yet I’m not sure I had the wherewithal to know what I didn’t know back then, and am only slowly coming to know now.
It matters because just maybe my dose of arrogance, no matter how tiny or big, is a little bit of the why I didn’t know what I didn’t know. That self-protective edge that either says it doesn’t matter, just do and everything will fall into place; or says (secretly, of course) you’ve got the perfect situation here, they’re going love this book, you’ve done a fantastic job. In either case, it assures that nothing else needs to be done and allows me to step out of the hope/fear inner turmoil.
I’ve had endless AHAs about the whole writing/publishing/marketing world since that fateful day last fall when I held a copy of Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance in my hands. I’ve read more books in these eight months than I had in the previous ten years. I’ve marveled at how stories are crafted, and contemplated the creative thinking it takes to come up with a plot, characters, a thread, etc., even in books that follow a formula, like a detective series. All that plus the sting of rejections, even after much effort spent marketing, and still writers keep at it. WOW!
It’s more than humbling, and I salute all authors. I’m amused by how naive I was and still am. Maybe naïveté with that little hit of arrogance was the only way I would’ve made it into this wide-open world of authorship with all of it’s ups and downs. Had I known what I know now, I wonder if I would’ve so eagerly completed my project. Yet, knowing what I know now will not keep me from continuing my marketing journey and, who knows what else? Maybe another book, marketed at least partly before launch!
The journey beyond the journey continues…