Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Publishing Grief

The launch for my first poetry collection is only a week away. I thought I would be overcome with joy; and yet, I have conflicted feelings, in no small part due to the fact that I’ve lived with this manuscript for over a decade. Started in 2000, this book has been a long process with numerous edits and versions. With the pub date imminent, I thought I’d feel relief, but instead I’ve oscillated between panic and anxiety. It got me thinking about the publishing process and how emotionally invested authors become. As a publisher, I have always been on the other side, bolstering newbie poets. But despite my inside knowledge of publishing, I still feel… vulnerable. I know that the majority of people could care less that I wrote a poetry book, and that the people who do attend my book launch are probably friends and relatives that support me—and yet the rational part of my brain has been overwritten by panic. I’ve always done my own thing and never much worried about what others thought, and I’ve walked into enough glass doors, rolled down stairs, and in my clumsy way made a fool out of myself—that if I ever was easily embarrassed, I quickly got over it. So if I am not worried about judgment and looking like an idiot—then why am I so apprehensive? It is true that I don’t want to publicly read, but that has more to do with my anxiety over public places—the crowds and noise. But I am fairly confident about the work, right? But that is just it. And then I realize what the feeling is that I can’t quite place—loss. I don’t want it to be over. A printed book is final. No changing it now. Done as done can be. For thirteen years I wrote, edited, loved, fought with, and re-wrote this book. And now that creative endeavor has come to an end. With that in mind I have written the (mostly tongue in cheek) five stages of publishing grief:

DENIAL: This first stage allows authors to survive the loss of a “working” manuscript. The fact that we can no longer edit the manuscript is almost unbearable. We feel that it isn’t finished yet, although there will probably never be a time when it does feel ready. But we tell ourselves that we must let go—usually this happens when the publisher rips it from our hands.

ANGER: … but I still need to do more research… but if I had just a little more time I could read that book on 19th century portraiture.

BARGAINING: … if you give me another month, I’ll trim it by eight pages.

DEPRESSION: … Oh, why bother, no one cares about a woman who lived a century ago… no one really cares about poetry anyway.

ACCEPTANCE: Boxes arrives on the author’s doorstep and inside are books. Excitement re-energizes. In this final stage authors begin to re-asses their goals and begin anew. The thought of a new project seems distantly appealing.