While You Wait….

The book is out of my hands, being read (I hope) by family and friends…so I wait…

The waiting is the hardest part…

-Tom Petty

Waiting is nerve wracking and breeds paranoia. It means that something you care about is out of your hands and in someone else’s and that turns on the fear faucet.

The rheumatologist said my blood work is “perfect.” Nothing really showed up on the x-rays, either. I don’t have arthritis. There seems to be no explanation for why the ring finger on my left hand won’t bend. I’ve decided it must be Mike, hanging on, and peeved that I took my wedding ring off. Until he lets go, I’ve been prescribed an anti-inflammatory regime of tart cherry juice and turmeric. But the waiting to hear that it wasn’t something systemic and vaguely terrifying is over. So there’s that.

But I’m still waiting to hear what my brothers and my friends think of the book.

I’ve decided I’m going to use the time I’m waiting to to work on how I’ll react to whatever they say.
Plan A: listen attentively, ask questions, solicit suggestions and humbly make thoughtful decisions about which suggestions to accept and which to reject. Move forward with final revisions and a plan to submit to literary agents.
Plan B: listen attentively, ask questions, solicit suggestions and then curl up in a little fetal ball, whimpering and wondering how I will even come out from under the covers, ever again. Moan, sob, and wonder what to do next. Start applying for jobs for which I am wildly overqualified, because they involve standing for eight hours a day and lifting heavy things, where exhaustion replaces worry and, bonus! I lose weight. (I almost typed “wait.” Ha!)
Plan C: listen attentively, ask questions, solicit suggestions, and ignore them. It’s my damn book and I’ll write if I want to, write if I want to, write it I want to, you would write too if it happened to you. Ba-da-ba-DAT-DA.

But we’re trying to be classy here, a fine line with a story that could be perceived as the opposite: too confessional, too intimate, too much information, just too much.

Obviously, Plan A would be the classy plan in the face of this.

But as you know, I am the Ridiculouswoman, and I specialize in being “too much.”

Case in point: I never miss an opportunity to overdress, and I wore one of my 1950’s style dresses-with-a-crinoline, the one in a nice fall burgundy-rust color, to brunch with my friends yesterday, in an attempt to distract myself from my nerves about handing over the memory sticks with the book on them.

OK, so part of Plan A, the classy plan, would be to try to take good care of myself and look as fabulous as possible while waiting for the opinions to pour (ok, trickle) in.

I reread the book myself last night, and corrected a few typos, and only had one more moment of “oh, I should have put that in” but no more moments of “Jeez, I better take that out.” It’s as done as it can be without some outside perspectives to help me.

Displacement activity, then! Busy-bee stuff! My daughter and I took our first “fall excursion” Saturday morning, beating the crowds and catching the blue-sky fall weather before the clouds came back. We got the most expensive, touristy part of fall excursion month done right up front – breakfast, hayride (well, tractor-pulled-wagon-into-the-orchard-ride, anyway) and apple picking, followed by a visit to the pumpkin farm my daughter still wants to visit every fall because she visited it when she was in high school.

The apples we picked are really, really good, which (slightly) mitigates their being absurdly expensive.

And even though nothing says “Wisconsin” quite like “beer cake,” I resisted the temptation to buy any. Couldn’t resist the temptation to take a picture, though:

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The weather forecast for the next ten days stinks. Rain predicted every single day. Drat. Not much opportunity for fall excursion two.

OK, so now what? I know! Paint! I’ll paint the ceilings in her room, the upstairs hallway and my room – I’ll paint my bedrooms walls a gentle dove gray – more restful and calming than the sunny yellow they have been for the past nearly twenty years.

Then we’ll pick a color for the walls of her room, and new carpet for all of it, of course.

(This displacement activity thing gets expensive, fast).

Maybe I should dial back the caffeine a bit, head to the gym, start re-reading Patrick O’Brian again, go to chorus rehearsal, plan a the next fall excursion for when the good weather returns, and hope for the best.

Hoping for the best is about the best I can do right now.

I’ll keep you posted (about opinions on the book, if any, as they arrive).

Until then I remain,

Your loyal, devoted, nervous, twitchy, busy-bee-while-waiting-for-feedback,

Ridiculouswoman

Stage Fright – for Writers?

I never suffered from stage fright – but is there such a thing as “writer’s fright?”

I never suffered from stage fright – not the debilitating, get-me-the-hell-out-of-here-you’ll-have-to-shove-me-out-there kind. Sure, I was excited and nervous before I went onstage, but once I was out there in front of an audience, I was fine.

I was home.

It was fun.

It was real.

I’ve been writing for as long as I had been dancing (from pink tutus to pink toe shoes, days long over) and have been singing (may my singing days end only with my last breath), but yesterday, for the first time, I experienced a kind of “writer’s fright.”

Because yesterday, I gave thumb drives containing the draft of my book to my brothers. I’m not seeking comments from them. I just thought family mentioned peripherally in the book should be among the first to read it.

I’m not sure they will, but at least I can say I gave them the chance. No surprises.

I offered the same opportunity to the Bulgarian. He demurred. But I tried. Then I promised him I would never contact him again.

Sunday, I’ll be giving the book-on-a-memory-stick my two best-friend-former-work-colleagues, and I am seeking their comments.

Which I know will be brutally honest.

Ranging, I imagine, from “are you out of your mind? Destroy all copies of this, now!” to “well, a really great editor might be able to make it tolerable.”

(Of course, I’m secretly hoping for, “this is a work of genius! It’s poignant, funny, gripping, heartrending – I couldn’t put it down! It made me laugh and cry – simultaneously!” or, “this must be published – I’m contacting every literary agent I know and telling them they have to read this immediately!” I can dream, can’t I?)

These friends have never hesitated to be straight with me, and even when we disagreed vehemently, we’d get over it.

So why the “writer’s fright?”

I’m not worried about criticism of the writing itself. I’m happy for constructive criticism that helps me fix that.

I am worried that the book will change the way my brothers and my friends see me. They will read things they didn’t know about before, that might shock them or make them cringe, or see me as weak (even though they already know that I’m ridiculous).

As I watched my book churn its way out of my aging printer (to have a hard copy, in case every other form of backup fails), and clipped into into a (quaint, retro?) three-ring binder,  I felt a kind of resignation.

My truest self is in that book. I don’t know why it is easier for me to reveal myself in a blog, and now a book, intended for large audiences of strangers, than it is for me to share my deepest self with the very limited audience of family and friends.

Is it a tabula rasa thing? Strangers haven’t known me before, so they’ll judge me only on what I put before them? Whereas family and friends know more?

I don’t think so. I think that writers have essentially the same deal with their audiences as actors and improvisers do.
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In the theater, we “suspend disbelief.” We “look through the fourth wall.” We make a deal: “for the duration of this show, we agree that the emotions, thoughts and reactions  elicited in us are not real, and as soon as the lights come back up, we may pretend they never existed.”

Whereas every actor and improviser worthy of being in front of a live audience knows damn well that what happens on stage is much more true and real than what we, outside the theater, agree is reality.

Because real reality is just too much for most of us, most of the time.

So we bury it in stories. Including true ones.

Humanities 101 teaches that artists (actors, dancers, musicians, composers, writers, poets, visual artists etc.) unearth reality for us – often embedded in metaphor, or draped in mystery, or flowing in a melodic line that will get you every time – but that one way or another unmasks something that we ordinarily need to keep veiled. They give us a “safe” way to experience the fullness of our humanity for the duration of the show, or the length of the book. Then we are allowed to go on about our everyday stuff, feeling somehow edified, unburdened or relieved.

(If unmasking reality that most humans would prefer to keep hidden most of the time is your job, is it any wonder so many artists are kind of nuts?)

But hey, all I’ve done is write a memoir (like everyone else in every coffee shop on the planet has done, or is doing right now.) I’m not claiming any great artistic mantle for myself. I just have a true story to tell that I hope has some universality to it, that will help anyone who reads it feel a bit of “real” reality, the reality we don’t talk about, but that we allow ourselves to safely visit in the pages of the books we love.

Wishing you the comfort and catharsis of a good story, a great show, or some beautiful music, I remain,

Your humble, devoted, nervous, wary, and waiting for reactions,

Ridiculouswoman