Exhaustion, Exhilaration and Enlightenment

Well. It is done.

Late last night, just hours from my deadline I sent off 53,576 words and 60 some photos, charts, forms and drawings to my publishers at Skyhorse.

I feel as though I’ve been in some trance for the last month. The world has kept spinning without me but I’ve been incapable of even noticing.

For over 40 years I’ve been an avid reader – from novels to self help, business manuals to software applications – so much so that I am certain my eyes should have worn out by now. And, practically everything I read is critiqued.

“Lacking.” “Poor ending.” “Disjointed.” “Too abstract to be of any use.” “Fluff written to make a book sale…”

And on it goes.

Not once have I thought of the author and the hours behind every paragraph, every page, all with their reader in mind. “Will they understand?” “Are connections to the whole obvious on this topic?” “Should this go here, there, or be edited out entirely?”

Now I know.

In the writing of “The Joy of Keeping Farm Animals” I crafted pages and pages last month, that never even made it to the publisher’s desk. Cut and snipped as irrelevant, too advanced, far too verbose – whatever the reason. Hours of work writing, editing and then just cutting away without mercy.

After years of thinking – in response of other authors claims of “I just wrote a book…” – “So what?” — it is time to rethink my brain’s quippy response.

Even fluff books take effort. (One comes to mind but I won’t name it.) I was sadly disappointed when I paid full price for it, waited for Amazon to deliver it, blocked off time to absorb the content, and considered adding it to the campfire half way through…)

So now I understand authors a little more. Have a little more compassion for them.

If they care about the content they’ve been commissioned to write, they’ll spend hours in research, days in mentally mapping out the flow, outline, theories presented. And even longer writing, editing and rewriting.

If they value their name as an author, they’ll work right up to the deadline, at all costs – even losing friends, family, weight, sleep, in the process.

And when they send off their work to the publisher, they will celebrate in some odd way perhaps that only makes sense to them. Celebrate because they have just given birth to something – perhaps beautiful, but maybe ugly and of little value.

As for me – I wrote the book I wish I’d found years ago.

I celebrated by eating my favorite foods – Cowboy steaks, caesar salad and a snack of fresh fish from Fraser Lake (thanks to Bradley Foster).

This morning I awoke to self-doubt. “What if my publisher hates it?” “What if she says I missed the mark and have to rewrite 20,000 words of it?” “What if I suck?” “What if they publish tens of thousands of copies and people buy it but it contains a mistake that needlessly costs people time or money?”

Argh. Oof.

I remember seeing movies where an author finally finishes his manuscript and engages someone to sit and read it, in their presence, before sending it off to the publisher. Authors do this so they don’t have to experience this feeling of waiting with baited breath for the publisher’s comments.

I didn’t do that. No one saw a word of what I wrote. Veronica and Eric heard my “Dedication and Thanks” but that was all.

So now I wait with my good friend named “Doubt” while I tip my hat to all the authors who have written before me. May I recognize your hard work a little gentler next time – even if it was “Lacking.” or “Disjointed.”

I’m now convinced that no one can understand an author unless they have written a book themselves.

2 Comments

  1. Jen Belt March 20, 2010
  2. Ziggy July 6, 2011