I Published A Goddamn Book

24 Nov

Sometimes I forget that I wrote and published a book, which is both a real truth about my life and also something I never imagined saying or thinking.

When I used to imagine what Life As A Writer would be like, I thought a lot about how writing would Change Me. I invested a laughable amount of time picturing how I would dress as a writer (casual but kind of wispy and with lots of floaty scarves), what my desk would look like (slightly messy but in a deeply creative way), and what my writing process would be like (sitting at my desk writing long-hand in a leather-bound journal while the early morning sun slanted in through the window). I also had some ideas about what it would be like to finally publish a book that were not very firmly rooted in reality – glowing reviews in big publications, an award or five, and maybe even a movie deal.

Of course, my actual writing process involves weeping frantically over a half-finished first draft an hour before my deadline, my “desk” is whatever surface has enough clear space for my laptop, and while typing this up I’m dressed in a soup-stained black tank top and a pair of pyjama shorts printed with tiny horses. And my book? The one that I thought was going to be made into a raw, heartfelt Sundance-screened film starring Ellen Page? It just sort of happened, and then it was over. It felt like such a non-event that when I put together a new writing bio last year I didn’t think to include it.

I guess I never really thought of it as a book-book – it was only ever available in a digital format, which is cool and all but also not very different from the time I got my roommate to record me singing a Tori Amos cover which I then proceeded to refer to as my “single.” It was real, but it didn’t feel real – I don’t even think most of my family knew that it had happened. I mostly didn’t feel like a person who ever wrote a book, which I’d thought was a feeling I’d know and recognize immediately. Instead, I felt like a person who had spent several months pouring her feelings into the black hole of a Word document and then walked away.

Anyway. I frankly thought the rest of the world had forgotten about my book even harder than I had, and then out of the blue a new dude working for my publisher emailed last summer and told me that he’d been revisiting some of their old publications and thought mine was pretty great (!!!!!). He said he thought it deserved another push wanted to do a re-launch of my book. He also said that they had an actual budget for cover art now, and they wanted to publish it not just as an e-book but also as a paperback.

All of this is to say that just over a month ago I got to hold my actual book in my hands for the first time and it was really fucking beautiful. I mean, the book was beautiful, and the moment was beautiful, and I couldn’t really breathe or see straight for a while.

I wrote a book and then I held it in my hands and holy shit sometimes really great things do happen.

I wrote a book and that is a real thing I did and you can read an excerpt here and you can read reviews here and you can buy it and own it and hold it in your hands.

I don’t know if I feel like a person who’s written a book yet, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that’s maybe not a thing that just happens  to you. There are some pretty clear dividing lines, of course – one day you’ve never published a book, and then the next day you have. But feelings are full of grey areas and what-ifs and yes-buts, which means that you can be staring at your own book on a screen and still talk yourself out of believing that you’re finally, truly a real writer. Impostor syndrome is a hell of a drug.

I often think about an essay that Betty Smith, the author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, wrote while she was attending college classes at the University of Michigan. It’s called “I Want to Write!” and sadly I can’t find it anywhere online, so I can’t link you to the full text. To give you an idea of what her situation was like, I should mention that she wasn’t actually enrolled at the university, but rather was auditing classes while her husband was a student in another department. In spite of the fact that Smith hadn’t finished high school and had two small children, she managed to convince several of the professors to let her sit in on their creative writing classes.

But as much as Betty Smith wanted to write, she struggled with it in a way that is probably deeply recognizable to anyone else who writes:

“[…] I have my doubtful periods. I am ashamed of the things that I have written in the past. I am ashamed of the things I wrote last month. But when I wrote them, I thought that I was inspired. The hardest thing to bear is the sneaking knowledge that in a year or two from now, I shall be heartily ashamed of the things I am writing now. Still —?

The cruelest thing about this desire to write, is the hopeless hope that it engenders. Deep down in my heart, I know that I shall never get anywhere in this writing business. But who can tell? Sometime, tomorrow even, someone may find something marvellous in the things that I write.

[…]

Some years ago, I decided to be sensible and to put all this writing foolishness aside. Other events crowded close; anther life opened for me. I married, had two babies, other interest, other ties. I wrote nothing for eight years.

Eight years? But I am lying. I have forgotten my friend. As a relaxation from the cares of the children and the house, I formed the habit of writing to a mythical friend. I wrote about everything, and wrote and wrote and wrote! Then I mailed the letters in the waste basket.

Now I have come back to my first love. I frankly admit that I am writing again. I hate it and I love it. It is labour. It is travail. But it is the most fascinating thing in the world.”

When I think of Betty Smith, I think of a writer who was gifted beyond anything I could ever imagine. I mean, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – have you ever read that shit? It is one of the most fucking heartbreaking and true books I’ve ever read.

And yet while she was writing it, Smith never felt like a writer. She felt like someone who was waisting her time; someone whose first drafts stunk; someone whose time would have been better employed playing with her children or cleaning her house. But, bull-headed marvel that she was, she ploughed through it hoping that someday she would write something that she could be proud of. And in the end she didn’t just write a book – she wrote the kind of book you sleep with under your pillow because you want it to be the last thing you read when you fall asleep and the first thing you read when you wake up.

So, in the fine tradition of Betty Smith and her fictional doppelgänger Francie Nolan, I will doggedly push through all these insubstantial feelings until I come out the other side feeling like a a real writing writer who writes. And then I’ll know that I’ve always been this thing, like how on some level a sculpture already exists somehow inside the solid block of granite.

Writing is just work. Talent is great, but painful truth is that talent can only get you so far. The rest is work – and usually not even particularly interesting work. Mostly it’s the kind of work where you’re stuck dragging a fine-toothed comb over and over through the same sentence, trying to unsnarl those harebrained nouns and verbs and adjectives into something that makes some kind of sense.

And I did that work. And I wrote a book. And it’s very real and you should buy it if you want to and tell your friends if you think they might like it and leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads if you’re so inclined.

You guys?

I wrote a book.

autumn garage

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43 Responses to “I Published A Goddamn Book”

  1. Heather November 24, 2015 at 4:27 am #

    yay, I bought it!

  2. Sahara November 24, 2015 at 4:33 am #

    What an author’s name you have!

  3. samatwitch November 24, 2015 at 4:43 am #

    Congratulations! I’m going to share this with some of my other writer friends.

  4. Peace.Love.Veggies November 24, 2015 at 4:56 am #

    Congratulations! It’s a wonderful feeling!

  5. MarinaSofia November 24, 2015 at 5:31 am #

    Nothing beats the feel of a real book in your hands. I’ve just ordered it as well – especially as it’s very, very timely for me right now. I wasn’t even aware you had published this, even though I read your blog. You need to do a better job of trumpeting it!

  6. Tara Greene www.taratarot.com November 24, 2015 at 5:45 am #

    inspiring

  7. Andrew Hughes November 24, 2015 at 6:01 am #

    Congratulations!

  8. samatwitch November 24, 2015 at 6:06 am #

    Also, I have just bought it on Kindle but it sounds like something I can give for Christmas presents.

  9. bensbitterblog November 24, 2015 at 6:13 am #

    I’m so jealous. I have been working on mine for 6 years and counting. I hope to someday hold mine in my hand.

  10. Ocean Bream November 24, 2015 at 7:38 am #

    Congratulations on this accomplishment! I wish you many many more 😀

  11. Gonçalo Julião November 24, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    I know the feeling, it’s unreal but it’s familiar…

  12. Liz November 24, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

    This is my life-long dream. I am so proud and envious of you! Buying it immediately.

  13. ksbeth November 24, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    what an amazing feat – congrats )

  14. Miggie November 24, 2015 at 1:40 pm #

    congratulations. I love the in your post; I also had the same ideas on what being a writer was like.

  15. Damita M-S November 24, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

    Congratulations! Writing a book is on my bucket list but I always admire writers who actually do it.

  16. Jmlawton November 24, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

    Beautifully inspiring, thank you for sharing your story.

  17. anndanehower21 November 24, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

    Your essay here really gave me hope because I am half way through graduate studies online and I am having to face the fact that right now my writing sucks. You made my day and when I get the money I will buy your book.

  18. norruh November 24, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

    amazing. Congratulations!

  19. Susan November 24, 2015 at 7:30 pm #

    Your article about what we go through as writers is right on. Congratulations. 🙂

  20. Paul Hunter Jones November 24, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    Getting anything published is a significant accomplishment. For many reasons gifted writers never have any of their works published. It’s possible that they do not understand the business side of publishing. You seem to have mixed feelings about being a writer. Do you consider yourself to be one?

  21. Clare Bear November 24, 2015 at 9:51 pm #

    Congratulations! 🙂

  22. 1weaver November 25, 2015 at 5:28 am #

    i think you are brilliant!

  23. Charme Haut® November 25, 2015 at 6:29 pm #

    Nice! ❤

  24. bloggeretterized November 26, 2015 at 12:26 am #

    You not only wrote a book, you are a published author! You rock! Congratulations!

  25. drkrisg November 26, 2015 at 1:51 am #

    I wrote a book — two, in fact — and I still don’t feel like a writer. Even with the tangible evidence. Maybe because it was such a long time ago (the first one in 2003). Maybe some other reason. I really hope that you believe yourself to be an author and a writer. It’s not automatic. Believe.

  26. Aaron O'Brien November 26, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    I am imppressed I have also wanted to right a book about my Intense life, as a boy i was taken on an affair by my mother with another man , why father was at work , on the way after the fun fun factory with this guy and his kids, mum asks did i like them i said yes not thinking much, she then asked like him to be your new dad, Shocked i aswered okay, and thought dads at work I wanted him not someone else, when he gets hom at 9 pm from myer central to frankston 1 hour trip, he asked me about my day told him what mum asked me and told him where we went, i was only 11, dad flipped , but said he would give her a chance , 6 months later he was gone, moved in with another woman, which i i only saw him 3 or 4 tiimes a year for many years after that, which i carried as guilt to i saw a phsycoligist for a year in my twentys , while full guardian for my 13 yaer old brother that i had looked affter from 12 to 21 he lived with me , with little help from anyone, these are just two of many unfair but intresting, crazy and painful life, I was also born disabled, with chronic scoliosis, and most of my spine has been fused since 16 years old, Pidgin chest as well Highly unlucky, the only luck is luck i make for my self. https://aaronartssite.wordpress.com/ this my new artist web site. I will be putting over 80 art works on there, over the next 2 weeks. i think there is 20 – 30 there now.

  27. stefanmanojlovic08 November 26, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

    It looks very very nice!!!

  28. wheremabelgo November 26, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    So relatable! Like Betty Smith, I am also someone who has decided to come back to writing just a few months back. I might check out Smith’s and your books if I have the time.

  29. lorieb November 27, 2015 at 1:42 am #

    congratulations, i wrote one too, so know how good it feels

  30. Ann K. November 27, 2015 at 8:50 pm #

    Congratulations!
    My husband and I have written two books so far and are working on a third. It is indeed a wonderful feeling to hold your book in your hands, to look it up on Amazon and see it listed, even to see used copies resold on eBay.
    However, writing a book is only the start. You also have to work at promoting and marketing your book. Your blog ought to give you a great advantage there.

  31. Anthony November 28, 2015 at 4:38 am #

    What an awesome story (maybe that is where the movie deal will come from) of redemption out of nowhere. I hope you felt good when you completed the book the first time, and I hope that getting to hold the book in your hand has been awesome. I guess the next best moment will be when you see someone buying it in a bookstore or overhear people talking about it.
    Thanks for the story. It brightened what has been a less than stellar day.

  32. binucherian November 28, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

    It is great in many ways. It encourage every other failed writers to continue to struggle.

  33. memopip November 29, 2015 at 9:16 pm #

    Congratulations, make sure you update your author bio! 😉

  34. Robert Keaney December 2, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    I don’t have allot of spending money right now. But this one is definitely going on the christmas list. Congratulations on your success. Keep up the great work and I’m sure more people will notice your mad literary skills. Good luck!

  35. yangjia0022 December 6, 2015 at 11:54 pm #

    Looking forward to publish my book one day too. I want to experience this euphoric of “I held it in my hands and holy shit sometimes really great things do happen.” too!

  36. Brenda Beach McIntosh December 9, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

    The intro to my second book….. I so identify with Sylvia Plath.
    “The mailman came and left me a package. I read the return address and gently turned the envelope over and over, running my fingers across the sender’s name. I had been expecting this and I was overjoyed. I could taste the salty tears running down my cheeks that come with success. This was the first copy of my first book! ”
    Unfortunately, I did nothing to promote or try to sell the book but I fulfilled a life long dream and it was so worth it!

  37. Shani December 11, 2015 at 5:57 am #

    Congratulations! That’s an amazing accomplishment. Will you write more?

  38. Dana December 11, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    I bought your goddamn book! 🙂 Waiting for it to be delivered.

  39. jennabrownson December 12, 2015 at 11:32 am #

    Just purchased your book. I can’t wait to read it.

    • jennabrownson January 5, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

      I finished it in two sittings. It was terrific. I am so pleased I found it. I have passed it on to my spouse who is a mental health counselor — though not in an in-patient setting. When he’s done, I’ve got someone else in mind. Gorgeous and raw. Loved it!

  40. misfitsandheroes December 13, 2015 at 12:48 am #

    So lovely to hear your comments – I’m still struggling through the wannabe bog.

  41. Kavita Rawat January 3, 2016 at 5:42 pm #

    I too feel the urge to write though I am not so good at english language and I like to write in english, it is so true like you said , the worst fear is the fear of being ashamed of something you wrote.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Round-Up: Dec. 1, 2015 | Gender Focus - December 1, 2015

    […] amazing Anne Theriault has published a goddamn book, and you should read about her writing it, and then read it […]

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