Monday, November 18, 2013

Perfectionism, Self-Worth, and Why We Write

Is it okay to take a moment to say that perfectionism is killing me? There are a lot of checks a writer must make before a book is finalized, and in my case--because us Ovenbird authors retain more control than usual over the interior--there are a lot of checks. But honestly, everything's looking pretty good right now. It's just that the anxiety of there being some sort of unseen problem with the book is almost overwhelming--it's almost enough to keep me from ever stamping my approval. Sometimes, I have to tell my OCD-self that my editor-self made an editorial decision that is just, simply, out of my hands. Tough luck. Deal with it. This is a collaborative effort, after all, between editor-, artist-, and OCD-me.

That aside, I've had a few readers purchase the Kindle version (thank you!) and I've already heard back from some of you (mostly friends and extended family). You are reminding me that I opened wide a window to my life that doesn't normally get cracked in the day to day. Obvious, yes. But when you spend so much time objectively and robotically proofreading a manuscript, you might forget that it's about something; you might forget that what it's about has to do with things that move people, things that make people feel connected with you in a way you weren't even thinking about when you wrote those things.

Now, in truth, there is a corner in my mind rooting for this book to make some sort of impact, some kind of (splash is entirely. the wrong. word.)...maybe what I mean is that I am hoping it will color the world in some way, if only by hue or tint--some shade (nuanced is fine) that reveals its having been here. I'm rooting for a plop into the pond that will send ripples (minute ripples are fine!) to the farthest reaches of the water. And, let me be perfectly and shamefully honest, if those ripples did happen to shimmy all the way over to Oprah's living room, I'd be ecstatic.

But forget about books and writing for a moment: don't we all feel that we want our very existence to make ripples that reach the far side of the pond? To find out, at the end of the day, that we made a difference, that we made some contribution that shifted the landscape of a soul or altered the dialogue of a community or a world? That Oprah would find us interesting and meaningful enough to sit us down in her living room and ask, ask, comment, ask, offer her two cents, mention Nate Berkus, and, when it's all said and done, give us a car? 

I remember Anne Lamott describing the faulty expectations of insecure writers that, once they were published, self esteem would arrive by phone, fax, and mail. Thank God I didn't publish in my twenties because I'd be an absolute basket case after having found out that a book in print wouldn't do anything to soothe my raging need to BE OKAY. So, if it's not self-esteem we slightly less neurotic versions of ourselves are after--what drives us? What do we want? Conversation? Dialogue? The catharsis that comes by storytelling? Or, to be so dramatic: the healing of the world?

I don't know. I really don't. But, like any author, I hope this book is widely read. I hope it matters to strangers.

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