Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Waiting for the echo

Writing a book is like standing at the edge of a cliff overlooking a giant abyss whose edges you can't even see. You stand there, take a deep breath, and then you yell. It takes a long time to get it all out. You begin with early notes on paper, which, for me, became a series of Scrivener files, then a giant Word file, then several thick print-outs, then PDFs, and finally a single bound copy that my publisher sent and that I'm still keeping hidden in its padded envelope.

All the while, the ideas and stories are still safely yours, shared with just a handful of trusted people. They haven't complained too much, so you keep loosening the line and letting the stories fly further and further away.

Then comes what they call "on-sale day," when the book goes from being listed as a pre-order to the day booksellers are actually allowed to sell it. Amazon times its shipments to arrive on people's doorsteps on this day. It's the day you take a big pair of scissors and cut that cord. Now, whatever happens is completely beyond your control. Terrifying, exhilarating, liberating.

From here, people begin to have their own opinions of your stories. And of your writing. And of you in general. And there isn't a goddamn thing you can do about it. I was trying to explain my angst to my friends Don and Robert (see the "Making Martha's Sandwich" essay), and everything I said made me sound more and more neurotic. 

"What's the worst thing that could happen?" asked Robert. 

As I pondered various doomsday scenarios, Don chimed in, "I think the worst thing for me would be if people said my life was dull." We agreed. I wondered if I hadn't added enough sex and drugs to the book. Then I remembered I hadn't added any.

In college I was tasked with writing my autobiography. It was for a women's studies class taught by Diana Russell, and the whole time I was writing I thought, "Boy, how much would it stink if my life got an F?" Thankfully, it didn't. 

Still, all day long I've been doing laps in the kitchen, driving both Casey and Clare crazy. Like a chicken that doesn't know where to lay its egg.

I'm at the edge of the cliff and I've finished my yell, and now comes that exquisite, awful, tentative, interminable wait before an echo comes back. Of course what comes back won't be my voice at all, rather the canyon's response to it. Which is, in itself, another exquisite sound.

In the afternoon my mother came. We had tea, and I made a Busy Day Cake (from Edna Lewis, adapted here). It's an easy, soothing, trustworthy recipe that does the trick every time. It's not a keeper. You don't make it for a rainy day, you make it on a rainy day, and for that day alone.


Erin J. said...

Your new book arrived today! I'm just sitting down to read it, and I just know it is going to be great! Congratulations!

janey said...

I am waiting for your new book to be delivered today (hopefully). I loved your other books, and your blog, and Knitter's Review. I am grateful that you share with us what you can share. I also watch and listen very carefully to what you say on Knit Every Day. Thanks, Clara.

Clara said...

Thank you Erin, thank you Janey! Bouncing that gratitude right back to you tenfold.

SunshineDreams said...

I am looking forward to the Blue Hill signing and picking up my copy of the book there! :)

Will we be able to use debit cards, or should we bring cash?


kmkat said...

Ordered (pre-ordered?) your book a couple days ago. Will take it on vacation next week -- sweet!

Christina@A Knitter's Life said...

I've soaked up and loved your reading of your book from your newsletter. I'm looking forward to getting my copy. I'm sure the echo back will be one of gratefulness that you wrote a "real" story!

janey said...

Your book arrived today. I read it today. Thank you, Clara. I am looking forward to all the other books you have within you.

Dilma Da Silva said...

Read your post, bought the book, have it on my tablet and I'm looking forward to reading it tonight. Thank you for writing it!

Thanh said...

There was a time when I could sit down and read a book cover to cover in one go. Your latest book is here and after having read 50 pages or so, I said to myself "this is the book that should be read cover to cover in one sitting". Alas, life has twists and turns that prevent me from doing so. Instead, I cherish a chapter here, a chapter there, and love every word of it. Well done, Clara.

Dana S. Whitney said...

I confess that I don't have your book (it's on my October Birthday wish-list)but this post made me realize that what you do (aside from knit, write, plan retreats, etc. etc, is exemplify self-care and lovingkindness... and then spread it around.
Thank you.