On Monday evening about 8:30pm, I almost gave up. I almost decided I couldn’t do this – I couldn’t get this book into the world.
It wasn’t the marketing or the publicity.
Nope, it was the headers that almost did me in.
I was trying to format the page with my name as a running head on the even pages and the title of the book on the odd pages so that, well, it would look like Barbara Kingsolver’s books.
But to do this requires a Macgyver-like ability to predict when Word will decide to put a header that you’ve just deleted back into the page before the one you’re one because you forgot to separate the sections. Or you need the skills of Serena Williams to anticipate the lob of an errant page break as you try to format every header probably.
Well, I had neither a tennis racket nor a Swiss army knife. So I took the wisdom of Shawn Smucker and went simple. The book title as the header on every page.
It will not look as fancy as the copy of The Lovely Bones that I have been consulting as a guide, but then, I’m not Alice Sebold and no one is paying a formatter.
I sent the back-cover copy off for my dear advisors to read. A savvy friend – Laraine Herring – called me out. She pushed me to write myself into that small sliver of copy, to remember that these stories only come through me, the storyteller. She said I was holding myself back.
And I was – out of fear. I don’t want to be accused of appropriating a story that isn’t my own, even though I know – without a doubt – that those accusations will come. But I also know – without a doubt – that I am the one to tell these particular stories, that in some ways I am the only person who can.
Laraine called my fear and eased me up to it. She reminded me that I am the gate, the path to these people and these stories. That I need to show myself fully on that back cover because I am the one on the journey here. The one readers will follow.
It was a profound moment for me. One that forced me to be true to myself and to these people. It gave me strength, and I revised that back cover.
So I take this lesson from my trouble – focus on the writing. In my almost 14 hours of formatting trouble, in my desire to avoid personal scrutiny, I lost sight of the stories in these pages. I lost sight of the people I wrote about. I lost sight of myself as a part of this story.
Without these people, without me in the pages, there is no book. There is not story to tell. There is no writing that matters.
And it’s the writing that matters. Always.
What small thing in your writing may keep you from getting it into the world? A desire for perfection? The words of one person? The fear of judgment? How can you battle these things??