I haven't really slept for the past week and when I do I have the same recurring dream: I'm reading my book without my glasses, squinting and straining and trying to make out the words, to an audience of no one. And I'm trying to smile and speak as I would if I had an actual audience. When I've finished reading my passage I close my book and ask the empty chairs if anyone has any questions.
As it turns out, I am more insecure than previously realized. Which is annoying. I want my confidence back, please.
I've been sick all week and not because I'm pregnant. I've been paralyzed with a kind of fear that's unfamiliar. The kind of fear that makes me want to turn away from everything and sleep. I can't put my finger what most scares me about tomorrow, about the book coming out and in the hands of strangers. I have this blog, which exposes all kinds of in-grown hairs to many people I don't know... never will. But there is something safe about publishing online. Perhaps because when I catch a typo I can easily correct it. If a post is poorly-wrought, I can delete it. Erase it from the record. No one will ever know I thought such things. Wrote so poorly... Make bad jokes.
When the books arrived on my doorstep on Friday, I was supposed to be excited. When I sat down to read the book for the first time since I sent in my completed manuscript last summer, I was supposed to be happy. Instead, I had a panic attack. Asthmatic and gasping for breath, I put the book down and spent the next hour staring at the ceiling, hoping it might fall on my face. Then I passed out.
The Internet has spoiled me with its code-of-armor. It's "disable comments," and "delete" and "create a new post" buttons... Every day I can post about something new. I can mature as a writer, be a better mother, a more interesting person. I can grow up. Change my settings. Contradict my own waterfall of consciousness. (Because lordy knows, there's no stream here.) That isn't the way with a published manuscript. There are no such things as red pens and new drafts. There is no way to disable comments. The end.
Frankly, it's insane to be doubting myself now. And stupid. I should be excited. True, I'm not publishing the Great American Novel. But there's plenty of time for that, yes? Life is long. This is a good start. A hopeful beginning with many more books to come after a decade of pushing and straining and creative breathing techniques. Keep pushing. There you go. Push harder! That's it! One more big push and...
...All bloody and covered in guts and shit except it's not really mine. It belongs to everyone now. Out of my body and my hands and my control. Goodbye book. Take good care. I hope you make a lot of nice friends out there. Just remember there's a lot of bad and beware...
Maybe then I just pinpointed what is most scary. Why I feel so sick. So vulnerable and weird and self-conscious. Because contrary to my recurring dream, there are people listening in the audience. People who paid the price of the book to listen. You and you and you. And you in the back with the purple scarf. You're all here in the audience even if I can't see your faces.
You're here and I so badly want you to be glad you came.
cross-posted @ Straight From the Bottle