I had been looking forward to my book launch day for years. I fantasized about it, actually. In one of my fantasies of life after publishing, I am sitting in a white leather chair across from an interviewer on TV when she asks, “How does it feel to be a published author?” Before responding, I lean back with all the relaxed confidence in the world. I take a sip of my mimosa and say, “It feels amazing. I finally feel complete. Worthy. Free.” And the interviewer smiles a proud smile and the live studio audience jumps to their feet, applauding wildly.
The reality is that I woke up the morning of my book launch and took our daughter to the orthodontist. Then the drywall guy arrived because the ceiling in our kitchen was falling in chunks onto our stove. I had coffee with a dear friend, and that was nice. But a nurse called and interrupted us to let me know that my mammogram results were in, and they needed me to come back in for a biopsy. I walked home in the rain and sat down at my computer, writing a little and paying bills, before going to get groceries and making dinner. (By the way, the biopsy revealed benign little calcium nothings.)
I assumed that the day my book launched, the world would feel different. Sunnier. More loving. All that hard work would feel worth it. But like Mother’s Day, anniversaries, and birthdays, a book launch is just a day. And because of all the expectations and build-up, I found it hard to access gratitude. I began to feel resentful, like maybe my husband should have bought me flowers. Then I felt guilty for wanting the attention, and for the environmental impact of the cut-flower industry. Then I remembered that the book exposed my husband, and our family in a way that he never asked for, and that if anyone should receive flowers, maybe it should be him.
I also thought something would change in me on the inside; not only would the world feel different, but I would feel different. At peace. Happy. And it would be the kind of happy that stuck around forever. But I woke up feeling exactly the same as I did the day before the book launch. What I am learning is that I am just me. I am not some fantasy version of me. And this is my life. It is not flashy. I accept that those visions of leather chairs, TV audiences, and mimosas are just fantasies. There is no magic wand that turns my third cup of drip coffee into a mimosa. But I am also learning that that’s OK. I don’t even like mimosas.
I feel the truth in what the writer Anne Lamott says about publishing, “Publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”
What does it mean to have written this book? It means I understand myself and the world better. It means I made something with my own hands. It means I finished something I started. And it means that maybe others won’t need to go through several craniotomies to gain some of the wisdom I found.
The fantasies of accolades, TV interviews, and flowers are all great. But would I give everything for those? Would I give up my time with my children and friends? All my money? My walks in the mountains? No. Not likely.
Would I give up a lot in order to write? Yes. Absolutely.
In acceptance of the real is the true reward. In my real life, I get to write. I get to discover what I really think and feel by the simple act of putting pen to paper. I get to string words together on a page until they reveal a truth that is not just mine, but ours. I get to try to make sense of a world that often feels like it is in disarray, unfair, even chaotic. I get to face what I fear and work through it, one word at a time. I get to scribble and scratch and scribble again until my words create a summer landscape that anyone can step into, even when it’s winter. If you ask me, that is magic. And that is a fantasy worth living.
Please order a copy of Fierce Joy for yourself, a friend, a doctor’s office, or hospital waiting room.