I was always fairly sure that, if and when had a book accepted for publication, I’d feel somehow different, just as, when my dude and I got married, we felt different even if there weren’t a remarkable number of substantive life changes for us. In the last four days since Burn This House was picked up, there have been some definite shifts–I’ve certainly established very high baseline of excitement, and seem to be walking around with a dopey grin on my face most of the time. And all the really kind emails and phone calls I’ve gotten from teachers, family, friends and writer buddies have been overwhelmingly cool.
But heading back into my writing office today to work on a book review of Fanny Howe’s The Winter Sun, under deadline for Women’s Review of Books, I became quite conscious of the fact that, whatever awesome things I’ve achieved/lucked out with lately, there is still some serious work to do. When I look at the bio credits for WRB’s other contributors, I feel very small indeed. PhDs, Senior Lecturers, Endowed Chairs, and other Scary Titles abound. Critics who know vastly more in their fields than I ever will get amazing work done in 1,500 words while I struggle to pack as much content as I can into my alloted count. As excited as I am by my recent good news, doing work that’s inherently scary is definitely grounding to me.
Even simply digging back into revisions of Jacob Wrestling has been bracing–reading through my first draft, I’ve identified some problems in the book that I’m at pains to solve. I’ve become very conscious of the fact that no matter what credentials, book credits or accolade’s any writer’s got, it still comes down to a person trying to get black on white, text on a blank page, something out of nothing. I feel, as always, like I’m bumbling around in the dark. And I think that’s good. I’m reminded of the phrase Kim Addonizio repeats like a mantra in her wonderful book Ordinary Genius: the work is more important. Publication is good. Recognition, also good. Success, good as well. But the work? More important.
Now back to work.