I've painted more than my fair share of rooms in my life and by all accounts, I've done a very good job. The trim is always straight and the walls are evenly covered. I don't skimp on primer and I have decent eye for what colors work where. Even with all of my experience, I'd be nervous to walk outside with a ladder and paint the exterior of my home. A job like that seems too big for me to tackle and I wouldn't want to take on such a monumental challenge unless I was sure that I could deliver a great result.
That's what sitting down to write Life Is Short felt like. I had writing experience even though it wasn't in the form of book writing. I had the determination and I was confident that my story was a fresh look at an interesting, emerging social issue. As I wrote I felt good, the words felt good coming out and the text was taking the direction that I'd imagined. There were benchmarks along the way, my publisher looked at that the first 15,000 words and provided feedback. She made me feel like I was on the right track, her support gave me the confidence to believe in the direction I chose for my first book. I was sure that my intent for the book was materializing on the page, I couldn't ask for more.
When the day came that my manuscript was due, I handed it in with a lightness of heart. The book really did come out the way that I envisioned. I was more than pleased with what I had written but I struggled to hold on to that positive feeling in the days after I submitted the file.
Soon my stress level was through the roof. What if they didn't like it? What if my writing doesn't measure up? Doubt rushed in and clouded my every waking moment. I began to experience a stiff neck and it's grip intensified each hour that I didn't hear back. I couldn't think about anything other then my manuscript. A week later I stopped wishing for someone to tell me that they liked the book, opting to hope for any response, good or bad. I needed relief and decided that it would be better to hear that people hated my book rather than hear nothing at all. I was quickly lost in the mindset of a sixteen year old boy who had just passed a note to a girl he liked. I wasn't able to wait patiently for her reply. Did I make a mistake trying to take on such a big project? Was my house now the laughing stock of the town? I should have stuck to painting rooms.
It is incredibly difficult to put yourself out into the world in a way that invites critique. In this case I wasn't prepared for how crippling it would feel to lay my heart out for all to see. I put so much of myself into my book, told so many deeply personal stories. I needed someone to either circle yes on the note that I passed or send it back so we could get the pointing and laughing over with.
I did not expect to feel so exposed by the process.
Some early reviews have been good and I've received a few wonderful personal messages from folks that are reading advance copies. Responses have been very positive and heart-warming... I am happy to report that I can once again turn my head completely to the left.
I expect that there will be people that won't enjoy my book and that some of them may well take to the Internet to voice their feelings, but I'm okay with that possibility now. This process has given me the confidence to say, and mean, "I wrote a book that I am proud of, some will love it, some will like it, a few may not - but I know it is good. Felt good coming out and I should have trusted that feeling".
Looking back I see that I couldn't help the doubt, but it didn't emanate from insecurity the way that I initially imagined. My fear was rooted in a desire to please the reader, to please you. I can see now that I care deeply if you enjoy the experience when you read. My fondest desire is for you to leave the text richer then when you arrived... nothing else matters. Today I'm confident that can happen. I'm no longer nervous, that terrible feeling has been replaced by excited anticipation. Look for my next entry, Life Is Short: Amazon sometime soon.
Life Is Short, Laundry Is Eternal will be in stores on April 2nd but you can Pre-Order today.