Last August, having written, re-written, edited, re-edited, re-re-edited, and generally fretted over my first official manuscript, I was swiftly approaching the inevitable spectre of Publication. I had been working on this project for roughly a year, pouring everything I had into it, with hours of research on top of the hours of writing and using every ounce of creative energy I had to perfect this story that wouldn't let my mind go, and I was incredibly eager to share this story with more than my select group of beta readers and my mother. In the back of my mind, though, were many nagging, uncomfortable thoughts that swirled when I thought about The Big Day.
What if no one likes it?
Sure, I'd received plenty of positive feedback, but it was from trusted family and friends, who are all incredibly biased anyway. What if they were lying to spare my feelings? What if they hated it? What if everyone hated it, and I went down in writing infamy as one of the worst writers to ever put digits to keyboards? What if, what if, what if?
Generally, there was nothing I can do about these thoughts other than trust that they are unfounded, and though I know full well that they are in my rational mind, in those few days as I was frantically adjusting formatting and approving cover art, I couldn't help but feel afraid. I'd given everything I had...what if it wasn't enough?
This isn't a unique feeling to book publishing. I feel the same way when I perform onstage, terrified that I, in my small part of the larger production, have ruined the entire show. I even feel it slightly when I post a new entry to this blog, though I know it isn't widely read. This is my legacy, my life, my passions and art and expression. This is what people see of me and how they form opinions, so what if everything I am is not anything to be proud of?
Considering all of this, hitting that final button, the big yellow-orange "Publish" button at the bottom of the page on Amazon, felt like the curtain going up on opening night. Here we go, no more rehearsal. I took a deep breath...and clicked.
And the world didn't end. Nothing really changes, except that now I occasionally get comments from family and friends who say that they've just finished my book, and they thought it was "really quite good". Sometimes they just say that they liked it, and nothing more. Perhaps they're lying, perhaps not, but really, it doesn't bother me one way or another, because what they say next puts it in perspective.
"I'm so proud of you."
This is my legacy. These are the things that I give all of myself to willingly, because I love creating, I love stories, and I love to share them and make other people laugh, cry, and generally feel more than they did before they interacted with my work. I love the sudden rush of energy I get when I'm inspired by something, the kind of energy that means that I'll be so engaged in whatever I'm doing that until it's over, I completely forget that anything else exists, and for a little while, I am part of another world, and another person's experiences. It's these moments when I feel like I am doing what I was made to do. I don't know that there is a single meaning to life as a whole, but I know that that feeling, of pure creation and expression, is a part of the meaning of mine.
I love the idea that I can share that feeling with other people, and see them react and interact because of it, engaging in a conversation about this thing that I love, and honestly, good or bad, that conversation furthers not only my skill, craft, and passion, but something of theirs as well. In the end, we all come up better for having shared it than not having shared anything at all.
This isn't to say that art must be shared to mean something. You can certainly create for yourself; I know there are hundreds of tidbits of my writing and performance that will never see anyone else. Sometimes the creative process itself is enough. But the conversation of creation is part of what makes it so integral to our lives. It's part of what makes humanity great! We have this gift, and it is the ability to see into each others minds via interpretations and expressions, and therefor understand each other a little better every day.
So perhaps Publication Day will always be one of the scariest days in an author's life, but if nothing were ever published, I think the world would be a much darker place, and certainly, far too quiet.