Last week, I made a terrifying move.
I finished editing my book of essays, Tough Love: A Wyoming Childhood, and I sent the entire manuscript to my publisher.
Just like that, poof, it’s gone. My manuscript, this baby I’ve been cradling for three years, is now outside of my control. It is in someone else’s hands. Ready to be tweaked and formatted and shaped into something that resembles a book – a real life, concrete, sellable book.
The anxiety of this whole process took me by surprise, I have to admit. All along, I have been waiting for that “Ahhh” moment, that moment of total relief, the moment in which I can say to myself, “Job well done,” pat myself on the back, and celebrate with a good margarita (or, in my rather pregnant case now, a glass of cranberry juice and 7-Up).
My book is done. I have edited and edited some more. I have put the essays before the eyes of numerous writers – writers with incredible talent and fierce awareness of plot and detail. I have written and re-written. I have done my own shaping and sculpting. Sending the entire hulk of a thing to my publisher signaled that my work, for now, is done. I have worked hard, and it is time to let go.
Let go. I did – with about the grace of a dog trying to juggle. Where was that “Ahhh” moment? That intoxicating sense of relief?
It didn’t come. Instead, I sat at the computer willing myself not to shake, willing my heart not to pound. I wanted to call someone immediately – a best friend, maybe – and talk through the whole thing with her. I envisioned going out to a celebratory dinner with my husband. But it didn’t feel like quite the right time to celebrate. (Besides, we have a toddler, and eating out with him is, well, not exactly relaxing.)
I sat there in a fog, not really sure what to do with myself. Finally, I sent a text message to my mom and husband. It said, “Just sent mss to publisher. I feel like I have just kicked a well cushioned baby out of a nest, a baby I have been nurturing and protecting its whole life.”
At some point I have to let my baby go into the world, free of my control. I have to give it a chance to fly and see what happens.
This is the difficult but necessary realization. Giving this book a chance to fly is the best thing I can do for it – and the best thing I can do for myself as a writer. Letting go is the smart and indispensable choice. That “Ahhh” moment will come when I am holding a bound and beautiful copy of my book in my hands. It will come when I am able to give copies to others I love, when it is finally time to share these words and memories with the world.
And maybe then, too, a night out to dinner will happen (with a phone call to a babysitter, of course).
Giving up. What is something you have had to relinquish control of recently?