The work is not the vision itself, certainly. It is not the vision filled in, as if it had been a coloring book. It is not the vision reproduced in time; that were impossible. It is rather a simulacrum and a replacement. It is a golem. –Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
On July 29, 1981, my father woke me very early, as per my request. The sky was just beginning to get light, but I got up right away. I spent all morning–and, no doubt, some of the afternoon–perched on an ottoman in front of the television.
For years afterward, my dreams of my one-day wedding were informed by that of Charles and Diana: enormous gown with enormous sleeves, enormous bouquet, horse-drawn carriage. And I certainly would have considered a royal prince–had one offered himself.
The actual event–my own wedding in June of 1990–was different. This probably doesn’t surprise you. These were the days before Pinterest, making a Pinterested wedding no more available than a prince. For that reason–among others–my wedding had its share of design flaws.
But the royal marriage that began in 1981 only lasted fifteen years, and mine is going strong at 25+. So, there’s that.
Meanwhile down the years, I’ve had other visions of might-be’s, publishing my book among them. But truth be told, it wasn’t so much the publishing as it was the finishing that held my thoughts. The idea of actually–finally–completing the writing on this project that was, in itself, the realization of a vision. The ideas in my head on the paper.
It’s way harder than it sounds. Way, way.
I’ve talked recently about this elsewhere–but it’s still so strongly with me, because it was years and years of writing and thinking. I have what feels like reams of aborted efforts, and diagrams (in their way) sketching out the scope of my project. I have several copies of charts listing chapters and their events; I have hand-written outlines in various ink-colors meant to help me think through the conundrum that the novel presented. And I have torn half-sheets of paper and pages in my journal and cryptic abbreviations in the margins of church bulletins where I was, in effect, trying to figure out how it would go.
It’s funny to come across these things now, to recall the dual burdens of my ignorance and effort.
It was so hard to write. So hard.
And now it’s finished.
What has happened since then has been the largely unanticipated realization of publishing a book. I mean, I thought about it some, for sure. I’ve always known how the dedication would go–that isolated little phrase just before the table of contents (if one’s book has a table of contents, which mine does not). And I’ve known that the author bio wouldn’t be a big deal.
But the cover–design and font, even title and wording. These were things I hadn’t considered. These were not my job.
I had given some thought to the text font on the inside–the shapes of the words that I had so carefully knitted together. And I had imagined holding the finished book in my hands and setting it alongside the gathered pile of papers, church bulletins and all: the ball of yarn and rags that made up the whole.
Now that’s finished, too. And while I haven’t yet held the actual book in my hands, I have been sent an electronic copy of the first several pages in their book-styled form. And I have been given the cover. Front and back.
It’s funny how hope realized doesn’t necessarily change us. I had dreamed so long of my wedding day, but at it’s realization, my wedding was different from what I had imagined, and on top of that I wasn’t feeling well.
It wasn’t the day that changed me. But the marriage has.
And the design of the book–its layout, its cover, its essential framing details–hasn’t changed me, either. But the writing most certainly did.
It’s likely that reaction to the book upon its release, whether large or small, will change me yet again.
But for now (and here’s this metaphor again), like a mother who has just given birth, I can rest for awhile and gaze and gaze at the new little something in my arms.
Isn’t she beautiful?