Things to worry about, and having faith
When my son was one minute old, he taught me something about life. The nurse handed him to me and in those first few seconds, I felt relief. The months of anxiety were over. My naïve thought was: I can stop worrying now. I held onto that belief for as long as it took to exhale and draw in one breath. Then I realized my worries weren’t over. They were just beginning.
So I guess what I learned was: It never ends.
Zane’s eighteen now. Things have more or less worked out. Still, last night my wife woke up around midnight, worried that he didn’t have enough gas to get to school in the morning. I could hear rain hitting the window. I almost asked if she wanted me to go out and check the gauge. But I didn’t. Never ask a question you don’t want to know the answer to.
A manuscript is like a kid that way, at least for me. The day Tin House said they’d take my book, I thought I’d reached the finish line. Instead, there’s a whole new universe of things to obsess over. Should I be promoting it more? Am I tweeting too much? What if Tin House has changed their mind about publishing it? I haven’t heard from them in a while. Should I call them just to be sure? What about reviews? Should I even read them?
Last Sunday I finished Tom Grimes’ brilliant memoir, Mentor. It’s the story of Grimes’ life as a writer and his time at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Grimes’ mentor is Frank Conroy; their relationship is at the heart of the story. It’s an amazing book. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review.
Initially, I thought the appeal of reading Mentor would be in seeing the path I didn’t take. At about the same time Grimes went to Iowa, I quit my day job, started freelancing and tried to teach myself to write fiction. I thought it would take five years. It took much longer.
But although those two paths are different, they have something in common. A writer’s life is irrational, as Grimes says Conroy says. And you inflict all sorts of crap on yourself along the way. Irrational worries. Twice I put the book down and said, that’s enough. It’s too close to the bone. The problem is, it’s not the kind of book you can stop reading.
When I finished Mentor on Sunday night, one gift it gave me was a sense of resolve. I promised myself not to let the world define Wire to Wire for me. Reviews don’t matter.
The world, being a kind and gentle place, let me hold onto that belief for almost 12 hours before outing me as a hypocrite. The next morning Publishers Weekly gave Wire to Wire a starred review and made it Pick of the Week.
So hold that thought. It turns out reviews do matter. As long as they’re good. As for my resolve not to read them…hey, revision is everything in writing. That includes revising my beliefs.
Somebody tell me if I’m tweeting too much, though.
Sometimes you gotta lose it, just to lose it, just to find it again: Alejandro Escovedo says you gotta have “Faith.”