The book event season is winding down, and my heart is being laid to rest alongside it. This heart, that gets so excited at every opportunity to be seen and hopes for love.
Every time I launch a book, I do my best. I innovate a few steps and try to have enough faith in myself to ask for support. And it is such a mixed bag. It’s a good thing I’m in it for the writing and creating, rather than the glory…
Yesterday I was at one of my favorite book events in Portland: Holiday Cheer at the Oregon Historical Society. The organizers do an amazing job, cultivating a festive atmosphere and attracting book lovers and local holiday shoppers. The attendees are in the spirit, many dressing up in holiday kitsch to join in the fun. And meeting the other authors is a great opportunity.
This year I was between several authors I already knew, which was fun and less stressful than having to chat with strangers. Several people I had missed at the book launch showed up to cheer me on and buy a book, which felt wonderful. Side note: it’s not about the money and it’s not about the scorecard, it’s feeling someone’s belief in your work that gives this electrical boost of energy.
I came home after my third book event in three weeks to feel…torn. Several comments were dancing like sugarplums in my head and making me question how I approach publishing.
Steve affirmed my wardrobe decision: “You don’t always have to be in costume.” After all, it is me behind all those words. I didn’t need to be a doll.
Phyllis expressed her pleasure at seeing me ‘so successful,’ and I felt my face freeze up, as the synapses fired: <<does she know? no. Should I tell her? What’s she here for? Not the back story. How to be honest? Counter with job search appeal.>>
Again, I felt like a mover behind a screen, a great and powerful Oz carefully choosing how much of the curtain to move aside. But it’s me behind these words.
I had just been reading Jesse Browner’s book, How Did I Get Here?, the part where he talks about Elena Ferrante’s divorcing herself from publication in order not to stoop to selling herself.
What am I selling? What’s in front of the curtain? Or what might be behind it?
Toward the end of the event, my neighbor and another writer were doing that thing where you competitively complain, this time about how little they’d had to eat that day. My rebuttal: “I made myself French toast this morning.”
And there I was, showing myself behind the words, the me I’m proud to be. Because if I don’t take care of me, it’s nobody else’s job to do it. That’s one of the lessons of the past decade that has really sunk in. Self-care isn’t something for some corporate guru to make money off of; it’s me looking at the stale bread and egg and making the time to have a full breakfast before a long day of extroversion. I know my needs, I know the price, and I can take care of this.
Have I discovered the key to my author identity? I thought it might be integrating my multiple interests instead of compartmentalizing them, or at least infusing my writing more with my stand for social justice, but an even bigger picture is how I show up for the world. The words may be good, but how do I show up, behind them? How do I show up, without them?