“The worst time in any writer’s life is the two months before publication,” Anne Lamott posted on Facebook yesterday. You like to think you know how you’ll react during a new life-experience (losing your virginity, having your first child, publishing your first book), but I decided to heed Lamott’s words with not a little trepidation, even though I am theoretically eight months away from publication.
Only a few hours later I stumbled upon a link to my as yet unpublished book on a site called East Coast Music. WTF? As my stomach dropped and my palms grew clammy, my first thought was “If this is how I’m going to react to some company listing my book for sale, how am I going to manage when the book is actually printed?” The fear thumped me; maybe I felt a bit of dread, of which I’ve never been aware (except the few times I’ve been on the stage, ironically).
After I identified the fear, my next emotion was proprietorial. (I just had to check the spelling of that word because MS Word redlined it as if it were incorrect. No, as if I didn’t have the right to even write it!) I began searching the web like a stalker for more listings of my book. Who else thought they could just put up a page about my book with its title (which hasn’t been confirmed) and page count? I felt violated.
Then I found my publisher’s listing, and indignantly thought: “Who are they to write about my book and choose these blurbs about my book and give this cover price for my book! I wasn’t this territorial about my newborn. Never about a lover, but here I am having a canine reaction to a book?
So here’s the long and short of it. I worked on Stella! on and off over the last 13 years because one day I knew it would be published. But maybe it wouldn’t. I never thought that consciously, but of course I was afraid it might never be published. I suppose that way it could be my book, literally. That thought goes against the reason for writing it. The biography is supposed to be for Stella, to ensure her legacy. But, the moment the fear and paranoia hit, it was all about me. Why else would I be so appalled at some company, some stranger, listing my book for sale as if it were, my god, as if it were a commodity?
Reality check: As of today I have 25 days before my deadline to turn in the manuscript. The publisher could say it’s not fit for publication. Or I could start working with an editor and move forward. That’s about as far ahead as I can imagine right now. I wonder how my hero Kafka would have reacted if the Internet were around in his time? It’s a double-edged sword. I doubt he would have written another word.
What do you think? Am I overreacting?