This is a column on why I am not writing a column this month. Well, I did write one, but it was rather forced—which is a nice way of saying that it sucked—so I tossed it. The best writing, and most interesting, comes from a place of vital presence, what’s truly alive in any given moment. (The same is true of people, by the way.)
So there’s the disclaimer, and if you’d like to stop reading right now, I completely understand, no hard feelings, and I’ll see you in August. Stalwart supporters, read on.
Four years ago, I began writing a book. I had something close to a first draft when I took it to a writer’s group. That first day, one of the members arrived late; she looked as if she had just been spit out of a terrible tornado and plopped, disheveled and wide-eyed, into a corn field. The cause of her distress? She had just published her first book.
Now, at that time, I was flush with the excitement of beginnings. I felt pretty good about myself and the writing was coming easily. I was the literary equivalent of a recent religious convert: high on possibility and conviction and painfully lacking in hard-earned experience and wisdom. So I looked at this woman and thought, really? How hard can this be? I mean, you wrote the darned book—that’s the hard part, right?
You know now where this is going, yes?
Fast forward four years and four, full drafts. I’ve been through readers, proofers, and editors. I’ve learned more than I ever truly wanted to know about the world of publishing (Conclusion? It’s ugly). I’ve been reminded about lost grammar skills and syntax and how to trust my own voice as a writer. I’ve developed tight muscles from long hours in ridiculous postures. And now I am in the middle of self-publishing, something that many bloggers report is really quite simple, something they tossed off in an hour and voilá!—their little book was up on Amazon and going viral with absolutely no writer’s platform, SEO, website, book trailer or anything. Just look at Fifty Shades of Grey: that woman wrote her blockbuster on her phone, while commuting to work on the train! (And it shows. The book is a literary mess, but hey, hats off to tapping into unsexed housewife passions and becoming a multi-millionaire. But I digress.)
The process of publishing is, to quote George Bush, hard work. I don’t personally know these people who are tossing it off in an hour, but it ain’t me. The publishing part is a bit like building a house: one decision leads to four more, and then eight more, and so on. Not being technically endowed, every step leads to a question, and often the answers don’t make sense. And then I have to make a phone call, or I complain bitterly about this dreadful work and why I should be forced to do this. Damn it Jim! I’m a writer, not a publisher!
So this is why I’m not writing this: I’m in the dark cave of pre-publication with a bottle of bourbon and a small candle. (A girl can dream.) I’m completely consumed by my little project while juggling offspring interruptus and clients and birthday parties and there’s no food in the fridge and…well, you know, LIFE.
I’ll be back next month and, with any luck, this book baby will be born and all my hard labor will be fading into memory and the royalties will be rolling in. That is how it works, right?
KATE INGRAM, M.A., is a writer, therapist, and soon-to-be publisher of Washing the Bones: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Transformation, due to be published in August. For more about anything you’d care to know about such things, please visit her website, www.katherineingram.com.