The final physical proof of my book just arrived and, now that I’ve clicked approval online, it is officially complete, ready for production, publication, or whatever you name it. In five to seven business days, it will appear on Amazon. This moment comes after six months laboring alone on my laptop, conceiving, composing, revising, arranging, editing, rearranging, proofing, drawing, scanning, and generally working. You might expect me to be proud or at least relieved, but mostly I feel odd.
With some tasks, reaching the end seems the least of your ambitions. Once you’ve put in the training and know you can complete a marathon, you wait to do it. The race date is out there already and, if you’re lucky with health and weather and rest, you will do it. At the appointed place and time, it happens. Then instantly you become a former marathoner or begin training again. Either way, the chapter closes—sometimes the whole book closes—and the event is indelibly written, unalterable, and consigned to memory.
Many milestones I’m happy to put in my past, but this book is different. As long as I was working, it was becoming. As long as I was in the book, it remained a vital place. What will happen now?
Maybe the next chapter won’t be as fun. Perhaps no one will read the book or, worse, no one will say a word beyond “That’s nice” or “Great doodles,” or “What an accomplishment!” Though it seems silly to write a book to talk about it, I’d love to play a real author and discuss what I’ve done, but, just as with a marathon, no one may care to say much beyond “Congratulations!”
Capote is right to compare a book to a child. Compulsion comes with writing and revising. You give hardly a thought to anything outside making something beautiful. You watch your child and play. You invest hope in the child’s development and growth. But Capote is also right that, once a book is complete, hope is moot. I’d prefer not to shoot my child, thank you very much, but children eventually make their own ways in the world. You have your chance, and chances pass.
I had so much fun writing this book that I’m strangely embarrassed when I talk about it, as if I’d like to say, “Oops, I’ve written a book.” Of course, I feel proud of my labor, but, as Victor Hugo said, “There is visible labor and invisible labor.” The visible labor—the object—represents so much invisible labor, the idle thoughts and daydreams and play with imagery and language now integrated into the thing. Things are made precious by our attention. I worry no result from this point forward will assuage my loss. I worry I’ll miss the child, prefer it to whatever happens next.
Next comes pitching my book, trying to get people to buy it and read it so I can recover the cost of making it. I’m supposed to believe in it—and I do. I’m grateful to all the people who have expressed support. I’m anxious to share my work and am happy with how it’s turned out. Maybe the fear I feel now is absurd, and that the best of part of writing The Lost Work of Wasps hasn’t happened yet.
Yet I’m surprised to learn finishing was never a true goal. This whole process has been about process. To make a process real you must complete it, and now I want to begin again.
Update: When I originally wrote this post, I hadn’t received the physical proof or approved it, but I’ve edited the post to reflect the completion of both those steps. If you want to order a copy, you can do so on CreateSpace now or on Amazon starting October 5th.