I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged.
– Erica Jong
It hit me.
I was halfway done with my morning oatmeal when a text message popped up on my screen.
“I know you wrote about me in your book,” she says. I drop my spoon onto the ground, flip flop the phone between both of my hands and reply. Honestly, I reply. I have nothing to lose.
“You’re right,” I text back, quickly and then slowly take my time before pressing the send button. “I changed your name but yes, I did.”
It was after I pressed send, picked up the spoon, stared blankly into my morning feast, that it hit me. My book comes out in one week and while It may seem like a countdown to a celebration, at times it feels anything but.
Writing a book is hard work but ironically it is not the writing that is hard. The hardest part is parting ways with your memories, your stories, your secrets and sharing them with people who don’t know you, will judge you, and may never speak to you again.
The writing process is exhausting. It is like doing five Crossfit classes in one day. It is like trying to play connect the dots while you’re on an airplane with turbulence. It is, I suppose, a little bit like taking the SAT for the first time: very long, headache-inducing, with many trick questions along the way.
But the process of wondering what will happen when the people you desperately love, the people you used to love but are hardly in your life anymore, and the people who are complete strangers who never knew you existed as a human being, hold a copy of your book is terrifying.
I’ve been queasy all day thinking about this and haven’t had the courage to admit it to anybody else.
Except tonight, at dinner, sitting beside a new friend, I blurted out:
“I’m not doing so well.” I have a tendency to open up to people I hardly know over people who think they know me so well.
“I’m scared of the book coming out. I’m scared of what people will say. I’m scared that I will upset the people I wrote about.”
“Let me ask you this,” she says, leaning back on her chair, taking a sip of her drink. “Why did you want to write this book?”
Just like I typed the text message earlier in the day, my reply is quick, without thought, and thoroughly from the depths of my heart.
“Because I wanted to share the things I learned from the situations I lived through.” I began, fidgeting with my split ends. “I wanted to tell people about my journey of starting something from nothing in hopes of inspiring others to do the same.”
“That is all that matters,” she says, reminding me that our stories are always ours, even when we muster up the courage to share them with the world.
I still feel terrified.
I’ll probably wake up in cold sweats starting Sunday night and by Monday I will pace around my apartment as nervous as I used to be before first dates. By Tuesday, I’ll wait outside of Barnes and Noble for the doors to open, tapping my toes outside, and when the security guard lets me in, lets all of us in, I’ll run toward the book, grab it in my hands, and collapse on the floor, watching the comings and the goings of people who have no idea how much oomph I put in to writing those 320 pages, but more importantly, living them.