Since holding the first printed copies of my book, Indispensable, in my hand, the idea that it is published has become increasingly real. Surprisingly, it also became temporarily disconcerting.
My first reaction to receiving my book was amusement. It existed in so many electronic versions over time, and the publication process was so long. Suddenly, I thought, all that effort came down to this little book? That’s all? I mean, I liked the cover, but wasn’t it a little thin?
Nonetheless, it was fun to hold and even more enjoyable to see others turn it over in their hands, feel the cover, and casually flip through the pages (like one does with a real book). We chatted about the design, the paper stock, and all the other little superficialities of it.
But then, I saw for the first time in my life, someone actually sit down to read it. She sat across my office just out of shouting distance. This first witnessed reader started by flipping through casually, but then paused as something caught her eye. Oh dear God, I thought, someone is actually reading my book!Instead of feeling excited, I was suddenly horrified. Though I knew it all along, it was as if I didn’t realize until that point: People are actually going to read this thing.
I wanted to sit by her side. I wanted to answer her questions and clear up where things were ambiguous. I wanted to understand her feedback and make changes where things were insufficient. In short, I wanted to have a conversation about the ideas and their evolution.
But that’s not what books are meant to do.
Books put your thoughts out into the world through monologue, not dialogue. There is no back-and-forth. You can’t defend your thinking. You can’t learn from others’ experiences and evolve what you originally wrote.
For so long, the book was a singular manuscript in my hands. I had complete control over it. I could change words, phrases, or sentences. I could rearrange or rewrite entire concepts. The book was mine.
But now, there are hundreds of published copies owned by others instead of that one manuscript controlled by me. Beyond what I originally put on the page, I have no ability to inform the reader’s experience. Though in retrospect, the release of control happened incrementally through the course of copy edits, proofreads, and publication, it felt to me like it happened all at once.
And so, this is my chance to let go of the book. It’s not mine anymore; it’s yours. My writer friend, Jess, reminded me that this is common in the process of writing — and even explicit in the process of some writers’ groups: you are not allowed to speak about your own piece.
Like so many things in life, I love it and let it go. Thank you all for receiving it.
Indispensable: How to Succeed at Your First Job and Beyond is available for purchases here on Amazon.