My novel Slipper is out today, and I am a bundle of nerves. Will people read it? Will they like it? How will I even know?
It's a big thing, sending something out into the universe that's been your own personal, private fiefdom, gestating inside your head (or computer) for so long. Each word lovingly pondered over, each flimsy character laboriously sculpted into a real person of flesh, blood and tears; each plot point sweeping you along to a twist you hadn't seen coming.
It's easy to lose yourself inside a novel as you're writing it. Sometimes you get to a dead end, and tearing yourself out of it for a course correction can be painful and humbling. You can land in the doldrums, and become convinced the book is no good. Sometimes you have to take baby steps, or fortify yourself with a stiff drink and a stern talking-to. But when the going's good, it's pure joy. And then there's the galloping push to get to the end, the thundering urge to have every thread tied up and every issue resolve itself. It's that final letting go of the reins—allowing the story to take itself to its own inevitable resolution—that's so thrilling.
And also heartbreaking. Because now it's out of your hands, and out in the world. As I wrote in a poem a while ago, "A single pristine volume hung/ on the wall of some hushed museum/ suddenly seems a more sensible option. Look/ but don’t touch, it ought to read in red letters:/No yawning/ No snickering/ Not to be left out in the rain/ Not to be read in the john / And never/ ever to be remaindered/ for a dollar ninety-eight."