All the Feelings

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When I stepped out my front door yesterday afternoon, in a hurry to squeeze in a quick trip to the grocery store before dropping Teddy off at preschool, I almost stumbled over several large boxes.

Inside the boxes were several copies of The Book.

Holy smokes, y’all!

I can’t even begin to tell you the feelings that are swirling around right now. You name it, I’m feeling it.

Excited. Grateful. Hopeful.

Overwhelmed. Teary. Stunned.

Anxious. Scared. Exhausted.

All the feelings.

As I make my way into this new phase of the process, the selling-a-book phase, I can’t help but feel a bit lost and confused and terrified. Who knew that the easiest part of writing a book would be the writing part?

Because even after the writing was done, then there was the editing. The long, painstaking, emotional process of cutting and revising and digging deeper. And then more cutting, more revising, more digging. And even now, with the book complete and in my hands, I find myself inadvertently editing and questioning.

Then there was settling on a title and working with the graphics people on the cover design. There was the printing and the proofing and then more printing and more proofing and more printing and more proofing. And all the while I was pretty sure that even though about a million people have looked at it about a million times, the final printed copy will have a typo on page 102. And maybe another one on page 189. Oh, and I probably spelled someone’s name wrong in the acknowledgements.

There have been many highs. But there have also been lows. And delays. And disappointments.

And now moving into this phase of the process there is the marketing. Always more marketing. There is seriously no end to the marketing. There are book launches to plan and speaking engagements to seek and book signings to request all for the purpose of promoting this book, this baby. But all the marketing, all this “platform building” so to speak, seems so unnatural for the insecure and vulnerable writer in me; it seems at odds with the creative process as a whole. And really, all of this LOOK-AT-ME-AND-BUY-MY-BOOK marketing just feels kind of icky.

But as hard as the writing, editing, proposal-drafting, publisher-finding, printing, proofing, marketing, and more marketing has been, none of that even comes close to the gut-wrenching fear and anxiety. What if no one buys it? What if everyone hates it? What if everyone finds that unfound typo lurking on page 102 or 189? What if this book is a failure? Which is really just another way of saying, What if I am a failure? And isn’t that where all of our deepest fears and anxieties come from anyway, the what ifs?

This whole book-writing thing has been one of the biggest learning experiences of my life. There have been lots of tears. Lots and lots and lots of tears. Just ask my poor husband. There have been disappointments and lots of things that didn’t go as planned. Of course, there has been jumping-up-and-down excitement and leaping-off-a-cliff exhilaration, but when you’re over on the fretting and restless side, these moments seem rather fleeting. And despite all the things that I write about embracing the imperfect and saying good enough now and then, that attitude isn’t necessarily my default; it takes practice and pep talks and more practice.

My natural instinct when the shit hits the fan is to grumble, cry, complain, pound my fists, demand answers and wish that things were different, that they were perfect. Or at least a little less not-perfect. My natural instinct is to turn up the volume on all the noise and take quick, short breaths and busy myself with all of the Very Important Things that absolutely must get done RIGHT NOW.

It’s exhausting. Really.

Amidst all of the grumbling and the crying and the complaining and the fist-pounding, my husband usually suggests that I read some of my old posts on perfectionism and comparison (touché, honey, touché). And after narrowing my eyes and tossing him a sideways glance, I realize that in spite of all the pep-talking and the writing, I still have a long way to go. I’m still trying and falling, stumbling forward and stumbling backward. I am still a work-in-progress.

Sometimes, after all of the fretting and worrying, grumbling and crying, when the dust seems to settle a bit, I can see a tiny open space leading to the other side – an opening that I can almost squeeze myself into if I suck in my stomach and hold my breath for a second.

Sometimes if I turn this way and wiggle that way, half my body fits through that narrow opening, and I can breathe the clean air on the other side. The noise isn’t quite so loud over there. I can hear all of the kind and loving and supportive people who have been cheering me on the entire way. Time unravels from the spool a little more smoothly on that side.

I might still have one foot on the fretting and restless side (okay, so I’ve still got a whole leg and most of my torso and half an arm on the that side), but I’m squeezing my way through. I’m inching my way through. I’m working on it. And isn’t that all we can do – show up, work hard and be kind, and remember to be gentle with ourselves along the way?

So as I hold a printed copy of my book – my first book! – I’m doing my damnedest to squeeze my way through the open space. I’m trying my best to ignore all the what ifs and the imperfections and the detours. I’m sifting through the firestorm of feelings that are swirling around in my head, trying to weed out the anxiety and fear and exhaustion, so that I can feel the only thing that should matter right now: happy.

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