“You must be so excited about your book coming out,” people say, and of course I say yes. Because yes. Because it’s amazing. Here’s this book I wrote, and it’s being published, and then there’s me getting to say hello, I’m an author, for I have written a book and these nice people have put it into covers. You guys, it’s the dream I’ve had the longest, it’s the biggest dream I’ve ever had, and look at this, look at how it’s coming true. My faith that I’ll see my name lasered into the side of the moon one day has been renewed.
But here’s me feeling like an ungrateful ass because sometimes—often—frequently—I want to take it back. I want to say no, never mind, I just realized what it is I’ve done and how completely nuts it is. I dislike—very, very strongly dislike—this oily rolling feeling in my stomach when I think about how I have gone and written a book entirely about myself, and I am asking people to read it. I am asking people to like it. Because a memoir is like a book-length persuasive argument. I am, essentially, presenting a case for myself: This is who I am, and I hope you understand it. And I hope you like it. And I hope you like me.
Dear god what have I done.
Obviously, clearly, I thought the book was worth writing. Clearly I thought I had something to say and something I wanted other people to read, since I wrote the damn thing. No one twisted my arm up behind my back and hauled me up on my tiptoes, hissing write the book. I am sorry to report that not a single villain held a tiny spear gun to my goldfish’s head and snarled “Find an agent or Bishop Desmond Tutu gets it.” In the middle of the night a masked individual did not hang suspended from the ceiling over my bed, holding the very tip of a taser only centimeters from my eye, and whisper, “You better be signing that book contract.”
I charged gleefully toward every single step and every single goal and milestone. I said Yes and yes and yes and I knew what I was agreeing to, in theory. A book, right? Woo! Books! My name on the cover! I am totally going to my high school reunion or something! But oh I am so good at pushing actual facts and consequences aside. I am terribly gifted at pretending the future doesn’t exist because now is just so goddamn awesome. I do know I never sat down and seriously considered the reality of what I was agreeing to.
It’s harder to forget when I’m looking at the book all laid out—it’s a real thing. It will be held. It will be opened. Maybe someone will even read it! Jesus Christ.
And if I am lucky enough to get reviews, I will not read a single thing anyone writes about it. Me. My choices. Or my prose, my narrative structure, my pacing, my characterization, my clear and painful cluelessness, my persistent silliness. “We’ll read you the good ones,” friends say, and I don’t want the good ones. I mean, I kind of do. But I think the safest thing is just to have it exist in the world and have people thinking all things about it, all they want, and me just figuring it’s all going to be okay in the end, the way I do, and hope people understand what I tried to make.
It’s how anyone manages to do anything in this world, I think. You believe (or fool yourself into believing) that what you say is worth saying, and what you do is worthwhile, and who you are could change someone’s life.