I don’t know what I’m doing.
July 8, 2017
Anybody who has been around me for more than five minutes knows that I am a bossy know-it-all. I know (see?) that I’m annoying but I can’t seem to stop forcefully giving advice on any topic of which I am the world’s leading authority. I apologize to you if you have been the unwilling recipient of my advice. I mean well. You know I do it because I’m insecure and wounded, always just a little girl in a world that isn’t kind to to sensitive souls. I’m trying to be helpful but I know it comes across as obnoxious.
I learned early on that knowledge was solid and comforting. I might have been younger than everyone in my class, and smaller, and more immature in all the ways it is possible to be immature, but I could read. So read I did: cereal boxes, home permanent kit instructions, entire SRA work boxes, cookbooks, National Geographic, Cricket. And books, glorious books. Maybe I’ll write another day about everything books have meant to me. But today, I just want to say that my conceit has always been in reading and learning and researching. I’m good at libraries, as they say. And I may be oversensitive and immature but I can Google with the best of them. Knowledge gives me that small comfort that I’m not completely lost.
But there comes a point where even the most accomplished Googler crashes up against lack of experience.
I’m here to tell you: I don’t know what I’m doing.
I’m a 50-year old woman on a plane heading off to a foreign country (okay, just Ireland, so at least I speak the language). But I’m floundering around, no one to hold my hand and guide me, no one to plan with and bounce ideas off of and kvetch with when I’m only in Dallas and the plane is ALREADY delayed. No one on the other end to pick me up in Dublin and help me figure out out how to get some Euros and find the bus to Galway. I’m not complaining. And I’m not exactly lonely. I’m just…adrift.
Knowledge is a beautiful thing, safe and solid, but it rarely flies across the Atlantic by itself.
There’s a lot more to this traveling thing than staying hydrated and having warm socks. It’s like, well, it’s like writing a book when you know what a book looks like and how the weight of it feels against your belly as you lie in bed with a large cat next to your hip and a small cat next to your head. You know how the pages smell and how it makes you feel when you’ve got a good book waiting for you at home after a harsh day out in the world. You know what a book is.
But then comes that day when you want to make one of those book things. You have an idea and you put that idea down in words, one grueling and splendid sentence after another. Then you have a chapter, and then a bunch of chapters, and then you have a beginning, middle and end. A book. And you do it again. And again. For years, you play with this idea, these characters, these settings. You shift them around and change their voices and their tattoos and their backstories. You decide to give up and then decide to start again. It feels like prayer. Maybe it is.
Then you finally have something you love like a child, a flawed but gorgeous and brilliant child, and you want to help it out into the world. You want people to pick it up and appreciate the heft of it and look forward to coming home to it where they can hold it against their bellies and read it and forget about that unkind world and maybe love it like you loved all those books all these years.
How, though? How do you get past all the insecurity and self-doubt? How to take this bundle of words and love and prayer and hand it over to the world without crashing and burning into the ocean of despair and regret?
The writing workshop I am attending in Galway is taught by two New York Times-bestselling authors. They figured it out, this publishing thing, and I’m hoping they can help me. I am not going to be deterred by the fact that when I got their critique of my first 20 pages, one of them said, “To be honest, I couldn’t figure out what was going on in this first part” and the other one crossed out the entire section about the cats. I have a week with these experienced authors, these could-be mentors. Maybe we’ll get past the confusion and the cats. Maybe.
I have no idea what I am doing, though. I just know I want to go to Ireland. I just know I want to publish my book.
I don’t know what I’m doing.
I’m doing it anyway.