Without a 9-to-5 job or any exciting events in my life, I’ve been forced to fall back on sharing emotional intimacies with near-strangers in order to get conversations going. As a result, I was talking to an acquaintance a few days ago about life, and I was saying, “Everything is great. But I just have this persistent feeling like I’m waiting for something to happen…”
And they, in true California fashion, were like, “Yeah…isn’t life just like that, though? You’re always waiting for the next big thing. People are never satisfied to live in the moment.”
“Yeah,” I said. “But it feels like it’s more than that, somehow. It feels like something really big is about to happen.”
And then I realized, oh, of course. I’m waiting for my book to come out. Duh. I mean, there actually is this major event that is looming on the horizon. And, for the first time in my writing career, it feels like I’m waiting for something that’s about more than just ego. Truth be told, I’m not sure that I benefit much, in terms of social status, from having a book that’s actually out. Once the book is out, then it becomes the past. And the past is fixed and, hence, much less glorious-seeming than an idealized future. Right now, I have all the social status of the debut author, but without the possible downside of being a failed debut author. So in terms of position, there’s not much to be gained from the actual release.
But there’s something else. This is the first time that someone’s actually going to read and pay attention to something that I wrote. And by ‘someone’ I don’t just mean the anonymous and, to me, unvisualizable audience of about 5,000 people who read science fiction short stories. No. This book will be read by actual people. People I might meet. People who will spend an afternoon or an evening with it. Teens who’ll read it at 10 PM when they ought to be finishing up their math homework. College students who’ll read it, as I once read books, when they’re drunk and it’s 2 AM and everyone else has gone asleep and they can feel all the loneliness of the world bearing down upon them. Twentysomethings who work all day at jobs that they don’t enjoy and then come home and watch four episodes of Law and Order on Netflix just because they don’t want to bear the burden of thinking and then, for a few minutes before they fall asleep, try to read something, just so they can still feel like they’re people who actually read. Thirtysomething women with young children who are stuck at home all day and trying to figure out some way to stretch their minds and maintain their sanity during the few moments that their babies are asleep.
I’m sure that I’m coming off like a megalomaniac here. That’s not my intention. I’m not saying that my book will change their lives. Or that it’ll be a bestseller. But it’ll get read. Somebody will read it. At least a few thousand people. I know that from the few anthologies I’ve been a part of. Books, physical books–even really minor ones from small presses–get way more readers than short story magazines do. So yes, it’s not unreasonable for me to think that more people will read this book than have ever read anything I’ve ever written in my life. And, what’s more, that they’ll spend more time with it and it’ll matter more to them than any work of mine has ever mattered to anyone.
And that’s a really new thought for me. Somewhere in my journey as an unpublished writer, I developed a double-consciousness. I learned to respect my own abilities and to see them as something that might someday receive some respect…but at the same time I never really believed that my current work in progress, whatever it might be, would even sell…much less actually be read.
Now there’s a decent chance that that will happen. And that, to me, is much more exciting than anything that’s likely to happen today or tomorrow or next week or next month. Which is why it’s no surprise that it feels like my whole life is being held in abeyance.