Something that I don’t see written or spoken about very much is how it feels to release your story into the wild.
Or at least, how authors feel at this crucial stage other than deliriously happy.
Whether you’re seeking a large audience, a niche audience on a specific subject, or have written mainly for friends and family, the point where you let your book go can be very emotional. All the experiences you’ve had and your feelings about them, and sometimes your secrets, are going from being inside your head to on paper, where people can see them.
I’m writing about this today because in the last week I’ve been helping two authors who are about to go to print and feeling very anxious. One is young and the other is significantly older.
They have worries about the book being perfect. That’s a tough one because no book is ever perfect. We can all open a book a few months or years after we’ve written it and immediately see things we wish we’d done differently. All we can do is our very best.
As Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
Then they have worries about the reaction from family, usually, and sometimes friends. Even those with family and friends that are super encouraging.
They worry no one will read it. Or that people will read it and that readers known to them might challenge their memory of certain events, or their feelings about them, and opinions.
It’s a very exposing thing to do, and very brave because of that.
And I’m not going to lie, both of these lovely people who really wanted to write a memoir and who have been disciplined and dedicated in making it happen, are pretty stressed out.
It’s pointless telling people not to worry when they are anxious, so I listen and reassure as best I can. But the most important piece of advice I can give is to remind people that there is no law that says what they have written must be published.
I have encouraged the younger author to press pause. I have told him he should be extremely proud of what he has done and that he can take his time. Nothing needs to be done now. He’s done the hard part, having written and edited his story, and now he can take some time to bask in his brilliance while he gathers his thoughts.
With the older author, I am in contact with her family so that we can encourage her together. She worked on this book for many years – before I began working with her. Her family and I know it will be great if we can get her to go for it and make some changes that will reassure her. But we won’t push her, of course.
So, if this is ever you, with a book ready to go but not wanting to take the final step – take heart. You are not alone. You have undertaken a level of retrospection that few people even consider and that alone is to be applauded. Not to mention your hard work, time, emotional excavation and possibly your financial investment. Press pause. Take some time and a breather. You’ll get there and if you don’t, you’ll still have done what you set out to do. You’ll have written your memoir.
And that is always special.