When Amy Tan received the bound galley of her latest book delivered to her in Paris, she described it as “anxiety contained between beautiful covers.”
I suppose she could have meant that her new novel tells a story of anxiety—the anxiety of characters caught up in cultural change, the anxiety of a family, the anxiety of generations.
But when I first saw her tweet, I immediately thought of the anxiety that can come with publishing any book. Not that Amy Tan should have any reason to be anxious—I’ve read just about everything she’s written, and I LOVE her work.
The only thing is, I’m not Amy Tan, and her comment made me think of all my anxieties related to publishing my book:
- What if someone I know/like/admire hates it?
- What if I hate it, after having worked on it for so long?
- What if I no longer agree with myself?
- What if no one reads it?
- What if it’s hugely misunderstood?
- What if there’s a typo on page 5 that no one noticed?
- What if . . . ? What if . . . ?
“Have you read your book again now that it’s out?” a friend asks.
“No, not yet.” (But silently I add, “anxiety contained between beautiful covers.”)
There are some practical tips for dealing with post-publication blues—like getting someone else to filter your reviews and not obsessively checking your stats. I find that some of the strategies for dealing with writer’s block also work for dealing with writer’s anxiety after the fact—writing through it, talking it out, listening to music, turning my attention to something else.
And so what if the things I fear come to pass after all? So what if I’m disappointed in the response or misunderstood, or if I re-read what I’ve written and wish I had done it differently?
I can write something new. I can try again.
And in the face of other concerns, the post-publication blues scarcely register at all. More deaths in Iraq. Massive tornado in Oklahoma.
Scripture also reminds me,
Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
– 1 Peter 5:7
That means whatever my anxieties—the seriously big ones and the almost embarrassingly trivial—I don’t need to carry them. They’re so much excess baggage.
So today I’m casting, Lord, throwing all my anxieties your way. I may not be Amy Tan, but I’m yours.
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