Friday, September 17, 2010
Doing It Alone
Sometimes blogging is downright difficult. You'd think that someone with my verbal acuity would never be at a loss for words or for ideas. But lately, I've been mentally preoccupied with my new book. Shamelessly, I mention again: Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer.
When I began to write my book about turning 60 and all that it entailed, it seemed a way to keep my creative juices going. During the day, I grabbed and hour here and there to write something, and at night, I was a maniac writing way past my bedtime. My computer was my friend; my words were comforting and cathartic. Writing became my pacifier - a way to self-sooth my wounds and losses and to use my humor for good and not for evil.
The process of writing reminds me of rehearsing a play. I loved rehearsals because it was the creative engine that drove the creation of a character that was someone else, not like me, but possessed bits and pieces of me. Everything had to be real on stage, had to be believable. The rehearsal process was the most truthful way of creating a character. The subsequent performances on stage were pre-determined and set and they weren't as much fun as rehearsals.
Writing is like that but more so because writing is solitary. There is no community of writers or actors around. The "aloneness" factor creeps in to the process and quite literally engulfs the writer. I love it. I love that the silence is only broken by the sound of my fingers on the computer keys.
Writing my book encompassed about two years in my life. After the first year, Sixty, Sex, & Tango was at an literary agency. I signed with the agent for six months, but she was unable to find a publisher. I had no illusions that a publisher was going to snap up my book. I was an unknown entity; I was writing a memoir. I had no national or local platform. I spent another two months deciding what I was going to do with the book after my contract expired.
Those two months were a revelation. I stood outside myself and took a long look into my soul. Why did I write the book? What did I want from the book? What would happen if I just put the manuscript in the closet with all my other screenplays that were getting moldy? What would happen to me if I did publish the book? Scared of success? Scared of failure? Those are fairly universal fears.
I sat with the situation and didn't do anything. I didn't judge the situation. It was what it was at the time: I had a manuscript that maybe or maybe not wanted to be a book. It needed editing, more organizing, more honesty, less anger. How deeply did I want to explore? From today's vantage point, those two months of isolating thoughts seem a dream. As December ended and the second month turned into the beginning of a third month, I got more detached from the book and wouldn't even pick it up.
Then right after Hanukkah, without any thought or reasoning, I found myself looking for self-publishing houses. I remembered that a friend of mind used a particular self- publisher for her book and I liked the way her book was produced. So out of the blue one day, without thought or emotion, I went rummaging for her book to find the publisher and I called iUniverse. I spoke to a wonderful, honest man who was so kind he disarmed me. He was supposed to be a salesman and he was more like a shrink. We had a long conversation about my book and what I wanted to do with it. He didn't try to sell me on any package or push me. He just listened as I talked. And when I was finished, he said, "So what do you want to do?"
It felt so right to finally say, "I want to publish the book." It was a relief because I realized that I had finally allowed myself to take responsibility for publishing the book. I was hiding from making a decision because I was refusing to draw inside myself to engage my feelings. During that time of contemplation, I had spoken to no one about what I was feeling or how deeply I resented having to make a decision regarding the final outcome of the book.
My decision to publish happened just before the Christmas holiday. The new year was ahead and it felt good to have made a new year's decision prematurely. On new year's eve day, I got into my car and drove to San Diego to a tango festival and felt gratitude to be able to think with a clear head for the first time in months. Life was good and I was going to dance tango for the next three days. The new year started splendidly.