By Jay Keefe
Well, here it was, finally, in my hands, and I still couldn’t wrap my head around it.
I looked at the cover. I looked at my name above the title. I turned it over and looked at the little picture and the bio at the bottom.
Yup. That’s me. That’s my info.
I opened it and my name was there again, just above the title. Again.
I flipped to the foreword and began reading the first few words of a book I had spent the better part of the last year writing (and the last 42 years living).
As I continued to read my eyes began to well up so I put the book down.
I didn’t need to read it. I knew it by heart. I could recite the entire thing almost verbatim because I had thrown every bit of energy I had into it.
I wrote the first draft in a little over a month and then, like most authors, I walked away from it to let it “rest.”
Then, when I revisited it a few weeks later, I hated it.
It was too short. It didn’t flow from one chapter to the next smoothly enough. Parts of it were cheesy and parts of it overlapped each other, causing me to sound like I stuttered entire sections.
And, like almost every book I had read (and every story I had written) I didn’t like the ending. It was weak. It was easy. It was lazy.
I walked away from it again.
But the itch kept coming back and no matter what I did to ignore it, it was still there, scratch, scratch, scratching at my chamber door.
I sat back down in front of my Mac and began again, getting rid of the trash and developing a much clearer sense of where and how the book should flow.
When I couldn’t stand to look at it any more and when I knew it was decent, I emailed the final manuscript to the publishing company, almost regretting it as soon as I hit Send.
Does any author look at their work and say, “Hey, this is perfect! Not a damn thing needs to be done to this.” Probably not. Maybe Capote after he wrote In Cold Blood. But I can’t think of anyone else.
I was relieved to be done with it, relieved to be rid of it. It wasn’t beautiful and it wasn’t eloquent or riveting or life-changing. It was an okay book about my struggle with and recovery from alcoholism. But I had wasted so much energy living that life that I started to wonder why I’d ever want to write about it in the first place.
But I did write it and I did send it and now it was just a matter of time to see if the publisher thought it was good enough to be put into print.
He did and it was.
The definition of surreal is “a bizarre mix of fact and fantasy.”
It was odd, writing a memoir, where all the thoughts and actions I had lived were now on paper.
The rest of the world could now see who I was, how I thought, and at least have some semblance as to what made me tick. They’d be able to open the book and take a glimpse at the person I was and at the person I am.
What the fuck was I thinking?
Did I really want to do that?
I guess, on some level, that’s what all writers want-to be understood. We want our audience to be able to relate on some level (almost any level for a new writer) and to kind of “get” where we are coming from.
Sure, we want the adulation and the praise (and who wouldn’t want the royalties from a Stephen King novel) but more than anything, we just want to feel accepted. We don’t want to feel so alone. Because writing is a terribly lonely place to be. It can be wonderful and mad and chaotic and touching and funny and therapeutic, but it is lonely.
It’s only when we share what we have written with someone else that it becomes less lonely.
And no matter how long we walk away from it, writing always creeps back in, back into our soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor.