My good friend’s advice on publishing a book:
Celebrate each tiny, barely-there milestone. Often.
That sounds like a lot of work.
I’ve never been really great at celebrations. What if I’ve left someone off the guest list? What if their feelings are hurt? What if no one talks to each other? What if I have to strike up a conversation, to mix and mingle, but I don’t realize the chicken has begun to burn and then what? What if everyone’s hungry but the food has burned, or worse, the food runs out? Or tastes terrible? Or what if I manage to not cook the chicken all the way through and everyone gets food poisoning?
Order pizza, my friend says. Problem solved.
But of course, these aren’t the real fears. The real fears cannot be solved with pizza, because the real fears are these:
What if everyone hates it?
What if the book isn’t worth celebrating?
What if I’m not worth celebrating?
I will tell you this: the book is deeply personal, and was deeply difficult to write. (When is a book not?) And I’m a lot excited for you to read it, but I’m also a little scared for you to read it.
Whew, there. The truth.
As a kid, when I was scared, I’d look for an afghan to hide under, not a blanket. An afghan has holes, you know. You can see everything while remaining unseen.
And so, the dinner party. I suppose this dinner party is the great lifting-up-of-the-afghan. I suppose this dinner party is the final realization that, all this time, the afghan is doing me no good.
No one remains truly unseen, after all.
Last week, I gathered with a few supportive, encouraging voices in my life. The design revisions are finished, the book is headed to press, and there’s a bit of a lull before it all flies into the world. And so, we paused.
(The chicken didn’t burn. I made shrimp.)
We ditched the afghan for a tablecloth, and we peered around the table to see ourselves in the eyes of another.
Shutterfly printed custom wine glasses with the book’s release date (mark your calendars: 1-10-17!), and we chatted over candles that held favored quotes from the pages. I passed around glass trays with the book’s main themes, and it’s just that it all felt so custom, so special, so real.
Last weekend, as we talked marriage and families and work and art and projects, as the orange sun lowered and the blue jazz swelled, I realized something new:
The goal isn’t to write a book worth celebrating.
The goal is to celebrate a book worth writing.
They’re different things, aren’t they?
I’ll never be entirely comfortable in the spotlight, but I’m starting to understand what my friend was getting at when she pushed me to celebrate each tiny, barely-there milestone.
It’s not about surrounding yourself with cheerleaders.
It’s about learning to become your own.
This is an essay for my friends at Shutterfly, the greatest celebrators and cheerleaders I know. Thank you, friends!