If you’re a regular reader of this newsletter, you may be as tired of hearing about my book as you are of the presidential campaign. I’ve been coming at you with it for longer than the election has dominated the news, starting in January, 2007, when I devoted this newsletter to presenting one chapter a month. But take heart—once more, and I am moving on.
I had no idea when I started down this path how much it would require of me. I actually thought that when I wrote the last word of the manuscript my part would be done, when in fact the actual creation of the book had just begun.
Thanks to the patience of my publisher and editor, I learned enough about the nuts and bolts of book design and production to make informed decisions about a host of things I’d never thought about—typefaces, headings, page layout, illustration placement, etc.
It was so amazing to me that, even though I’ve always been an avid reader, I never thought about how a book was put together. I knew of course when I didn’t feel welcomed by a book, but beyond a vague idea that maybe the type was too small or the page too crowded, I would not have been able to articulate why.
For those of us who are subject to the gravitational pull of negative voices from a childhood lived in dysfunction, achieving a major goal also stirs up self-doubt.
Among my many gains from this writing project has been a newfound respect for what goes into the building of a book. When I think about what it took to send to press my 184 page offering, I stand in total awe of what must be required to bring the 1000+ page histories I enjoy, such as Robert Caro’s Master of the Senate, to fruition.
I will never again open a book without pausing to respect the decision-making and labor involved in the construction of everything from the rag sheets (the two or three pages of praise before the title page) to the index.
What served me in the writing stage, and again in the production phase, of this project was exactly what I advocate to others who are trying to claim a more meaningful and rewarding professional life—keeping the focus on the process of moving forward and letting go of outcome.
There were certainly times when I thought I’d never actually be able to finish, but for the most part I was so engrossed in each next step—completing the manuscript, finding the cover image, making book design decisions, pre-press proofing—that when the time came that I was actually holding a book in my hand, it was a surprise!
The book didn’t become real to me until about a month ago when I was teaching a client how to write a letter to market herself effectively. “If only I had a copy,” I thought, “I could show her the diagram in Appendix B.”
In the quiet space between that moment and the book’s release today, I have had time to reflect on what becoming an author has meant to me, and I have come to the conclusion that the book would be a huge success even if I never sold a single copy.
It has enabled me to establish a writing discipline, to leave a written record of my professional views, to collaborate with gentleness, respect and laughter with my editor/spouse, to deepen my own capacity to work a creative process and be in transition.
Anything more would be icing on the cupcake.
A Taste of Icing
For those of us who are subject to the gravitational pull of negative voices from a childhood lived in dysfunction, achieving a major goal also stirs up self-doubt. Put simply, whenever I break out of the box (my terminology for doing something which negates the “not good enough” messages inherited from my family of origin), there is a backlash.
Anticipating this would come up, I decided to offer the book for the first time publicly in a setting I knew would be supportive. I secured a few dozen advanced copies to bring to the second week of a training program I was taking at the Gestalt International Study Center a few weeks ago.
It was an ideal place to make my debut, not only because these were trusted colleagues, but also because during our work together we had shared being vulnerable with one another.
As I walked into the building carrying an armload of books, the woman who I partnered with during the program cheered me on. Once inside, I found myself surrounded by classmates eager to have me sign a copy. The first went to a consultant (and great dancer) from Mexico. I teased him later that his was my first dollar, and I would hang a picture of him over the cash register, if I had one. The second went to a very kind man from Sweden who is beginning to think about retirement. Eighteen more went to consultants, therapists and coaches in the UK and US. It was wonderful to have my accomplishment so generously and graciously affirmed. They did much more than buy a book—they helped me believe that I had a place in the world as a author.