So, this past Thursday was kind of a big day for me: I finished the edits on my first novel. Which means I’m finished with it. Done. The project is no longer in my hands.
Crazy how years of thinking and writing became months and weeks of editing became the ten-second, quotidian task of attaching a file to an email and hitting “Send.”
There was something anti-climactic in it, truth be told.
Friends on Facebook and elsewhere offered hearty congratulations. This was very kind of them, and it helped remind me that this is, indeed, a big moment. Er, rather, a Big Moment.
But looking back over the process–and guessing ahead at what I understand is to come–the “Send” moment felt small. It was crowded into a day of delayed housework and winter storm preparations and companycomingfordinner. So I hit “send” and posted a little something to Facebook and went on my busy way.
And yet I had thought about it for a long time, many times. How many times, I wonder? Countless library mornings, my head bent over my laptop. Uncounted late nights of stolen writing time, wedged between the necessaries of my life. And likely millions of idle minutes at traffic lights or at the kitchen sink washing dishes, simultaneously trying to make sense of the plot and the characters, trying to figure out problems I had made for myself.
How I had longed to be past it all, for the meager paragraphs or small if necessary solutions to mean– at last!– that the book was finished.
And now here we are.
Often I had compared the writing process to a pregnancy, the completed book to a child. And there is something of a labored wait in it, a troubled if subdued endurance. Sometimes it manifests in a dull ache: the burden of Having Something to Say. Sometimes it is downright painful, when, try as I might, I am unable to say it, or to figure out how. And sometimes it is the incandescence of revelation, when I know–I absolutely know–that this is how it is meant to go, or this is the right way to say it.
But a child? Is this completion, this fulfillment, this hitting “Send” at all similar to releasing a live person into independence?
I hardly think so. That were absurd.
I mean, the thoughts I’ve had in the 48+ hours since releasing my book to my editor are Nothing Like those of a mother of an adult child suddenly at large and in the world. Nothing Like.
I’m merely wondering if she’ll be okay.
Will people like her? Maybe they won’t.
I’d like her to have friends. Friends are so important. Will she have friends? Will people understand her? Or be unduly critical?
Did I teach her well? Give her everything she needed? Lying awake at night, some of her specific qualities come to mind, potential weaknesses that, in the hands of thoughtful understanding, could be strengths. But is there thoughtful understanding out there? And I think of her astounding strengths. Her true beauty–in the right eyes, of course.
Are the right eyes out there?
And did I provide her with the support she’ll need to sustain the hard knocks, the criticism, the pain or neglect that could (so easily) come her way?
Maybe she should just come home.
Except that she won’t. Never again. Not even for Christmas.
I’ve signed a contract. And the pdf file, cleansed of the ongoing side-bar conversations between my editor and me, expunged of all traces of edits and corrections, has likely already made its way into the hands of some advanced readers who will, sooner or later, Tell Us What They Think.
My editor, I am sure, has already sent them.
I, too, have some pdf files to send out–to a small, talented, intelligent, and very kind handful of Influential People who have said they’d be happy to take a look.
It’s just a matter of seconds, really. The brief email, the heartfelt gratitude, the “attach” button. Then “Send.”
The novel has to stand on her own two feet. That’s what this was about, from the very beginning. Kind of like parenting that way, when you think about it.
Funny how the very thing we so look forward to can be, at its realization, sometimes difficult.
Hitting “Send.” Letting go. In this instance, anyway, it’s the same thing.