Waiting for Feedback Be Like....
Boy have I gotten a dose of my own medicine! I have done manuscript evaluations and provided story and substantive editing for writers for years, but it's been a long time since I have been hitting REFRESH on my email inbox as I wait for feedback for my book The True Adventures of Gidon Lev.
Let me tell you, all of this waiting is a great reminder of the importance of managing expectations and avoiding CATASTROPHE thinking. After working so hard on a book, it feels that you have put your entire self - your future, your hopes, your dreams, your possibilities - on the line. But if we take a deep breath and put things into perspective? Recently, I was talking with a writer friend about this very topic - our hopes, dreams, and fears about our writing. Laughingly, we arrived at a third possibility, beyond SUCCESS or FAILURE. What if the future of our writing just holds NORMALCY?
What if, two years after your book has been published, traditionally or otherwise, you find yourself simply making spaghetti sauce on an ordinary evening, in your slippers, and you feel good about the day that you've had - writing or otherwise? What if that is the outcome of having written a book? That you are still around, writing, living, doing your thing and that some people - however many - read and enjoyed your story?
Do we write books so that we can be a guest on some late night television show, talking about our experience in dramatic ways? Well, sure that sounds like it would be fun. But that's not why we write is it? We write because we have a story inside of us that we are dying to get on the page. We write because we have a gift with words and to not use it is crazy-making. We write because we have to, because we love it. Let us not be overly affected by the one-in-a-million "success" stories of fame and wealth. The fact is that most writers make very little money and aren't read that widely at all. The fact is that just as you don't like every book you read - for many, your book will simply not be up their alley. So what? For every person who doesn't vibe with your book, there will be some other person, somewhere, who will. There will be someone out there - maybe even years from now, who will chuckle, or underline a sentence, or tell a friend about your book. Or maybe they'll keep it to themselves. But you will have had an effect on someone, somewhere, who will feel a bit less alone. That sounds pretty darn great to me.
Recently, I started the audiobook of the epic Blackwater serial novel, by Michael McDowell, who passed away in 1999 and while he did enjoy success in his writing life, he's certainly not now. But - what a book! I am completely addicted to it. As I listen to it, I laugh, I cringe (it's scary!) and I knit little crown hats for my pretend grandchildren. It soothes me, this book, it entertains me, and though Michael McDowell will never know it, some thirty-seven years after its publication, there is a writer in Tel Aviv who is loving his writing, and appreciating being swept away into another world.
In the meantime, yes, I wait for feedback for my book and yes I am nervous. Not much to do about that, though I'm pretty sure that two years from now, as I make spaghetti sauce in my slippers, I'll look back and chuckle to myself at how much importance I put into the opinions of other people and whether or not my book was a "success".
Meanwhile, reader, here's a great recipe for bolognese sauce. Let's live in the present, shall we?