On letting go: growing pains and book publishing

I’m getting to the point with my book where I need to submit the final draft of my manuscript to the publishers. Because then, copyeditors and proofreaders can do their work and try to make some logical sense of the random places where I chose to put commas. Then, it will go off to the designers and on to the presses and off the presses and into cardboard boxes to go off to bookstores.

It’s entirely exciting.

And incredibly painful.

Because for the last several years, I’ve been watching this book grow from a crazy idea, into the 275 page manuscript that sits before me. I’ve been getting up in the middle of the night with this book. I’ve been startled awake by the persistent, restless whimpering of a thought or a memory or a funnier word choice – I get out of bed and rush to this computer. I sit in the glow and nurse my book to better health.

And that time is almost over. That part of my job is done.

Now, I have to send this book out into the world.

To be adored or criticized or ignored.

Not to be too dramatic or anthropomorphize too much (who am I kidding, I’m a writer/former actor and my car is named Gwen) but I feel like I’m sending my book off to college to live her own life and I’m not sure if I’ve done enough to prepare her. I’m not sure if she’s strong enough to make it in the real world. I’m worried about where she’s going to sit in the cafeteria.

Why is it that humans have such a hard time letting go? We live in a transient world, full of constant change. Births and deaths and seasons and uncontrollable events. And yet, we always assume that some things, if we hang on tight enough, will last forever.

But let’s face it, that desperate clinging never feels good.

There is such beauty in change. In growth. We see that all around us right now. It’s fall and the trees are turning magenta in preparation to let go of their leaves. It’s the essential nature of life.

One of my favorite Buddhist stories is about a monk and a glass of water. He says, “I love this glass. It holds the water admirably. When the sun shines on it, it reflects the light beautifully. When I tap it, it has a lovely ring. Yet for me, this glass is already broken. When the wind knocks it over or my elbow knocks it off the shelf and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ But when I understand that this glass is already broken, every minute with it is precious.” *

I love this idea. This understanding that everything is impermanent, so why not embrace the present moment, with all its joy and discomfort and transformation — right now? Why not surrender to the realities of this world and just choose to be happy in the face of it? It’s all temporary. Even you. So have a blast and love wholeheartedly, before it’s gone.

And then let it go with grace.

I want this book to go out in the world. Because I want you to read it. And because I want to sit up at 4 AM in the glow of my computer screen, and nurture another book into existence.

So, now you know where I’m going be the next few nights, until I have to turn my manuscript into an email attachment and push Send. I’ll be sitting right here, enjoying my little baby…while she’s still just mine.

And then I’ll let it all go, and get ready for whatever comes next.


* This version of the quote is from a wonderful PBS documentary called The Buddha. It’s a great introduction to the concepts of Buddhism and it has “Keep Until I Delete” status on my TiVo. Even though “Keep Until I Delete” reflects an amount of permanence and control that is clearly not very Buddhist…

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34 Replies to “On letting go: growing pains and book publishing”

  1. If you haven’t seen it yet, you might get some inspiration/courage on my blog home page about my journey and recently publishing my books, if you like 🙂

  2. A great post Lisa. Writing and especially publishing a book is very much like bringing a child into the world. All the hard work, energy and best years of your life put into something and then you have to watch it take on a life of its own for good or for bad.

    Some of the changes and suggestion people will make on your book will be easy to accept and others will be less so. You just have to try and accept that as good a writer as you that they are just as good at their job and they are only trying to do their best for you… or at least the book sales which may or may not be the same thing!

    Anyway, don’t give up 🙂

    1. Thanks, Stephan! Thankfully, we’re done with the major editing that requires collaboration, and now we’re just on to the technical typo stuff – and I’m more than happy to hand that over! I really appreciate the encouragement!

  3. I think the difficulty in letting go is even stronger because you’re writing a memoir. This is not just your baby, it’s you in 275 pages. That’s gotta make it more difficult to let go than a piece of fiction.

  4. I was going to say, it’s just like writing a song. Billy Joel said the same thing about songwriting, You write it, put it out for the world to hear and let it do what it is going to do. I can’t wait to get your book, and read it and share the insights and inspirations with my friends and family. hope you don’t lose too much sleep over it, it will all be worth it in the end! Blessings

  5. Totally love “I’m worried about where she’s going to sit in the cafeteria”–can scarcely stop laughing!

  6. What you said about sending your book out into the world really does compare to parenting. My advice for parents is always to do the best you can with the info and ability you have at the time and don’t look back. Regret or what-ifs will wear you out if you dwell on them.
    However, I confess to not always following my own advice in this regard. That is what keeps me and insomnia on a first name basis.

  7. Best of Luck. I sat next to your dad on a flight from Sault Ste. Marie several years ago. We didn’t chat until the last 1/2 hour perhaps. He was the most handsome – elegant man…. I’m sure I was blushing the entire time. I did a lot of theatre and he told me that his daughter was an actress “oh – would I know anything she’d be in”? “did you see Mrs. Doubtfire” “well yeeeess – my favourite movie…. and that is as close as I have ever come to a star – sitting next to your very handsome Dad! I will buy your book! Best wishes! Susan

    1. Awww, you sat with my handsome dad! How nice! Well, I’m totally grateful for the support, even if it’s mostly about my dad being cute. 🙂 (I should give him a cut….)

  8. I read quite a bit, many call me a deep reader. I see, quite easily what might be behind the words, hidden meanings, phrases. I don’t say this to brag, only to point out. After reading your email, I believe your book will be wonderful

  9. Good luck letting go, good luck waving your book off.
    I can imagine the squeal of joy when you finally get your book in your hands, let alone when you see one in a bookshop or being read somewhere.
    But to get to that, you have to wish it bon voyage. Take a deep breath and send your baby out into the world.

  10. I can’t wait to read your book, Lisa! And seriously, that analogy about the book being like a baby is pretty dead on. I’m like that with any writing I do (and so am probably the most over-protective mother ever to the writing babies:)) Can’t wait to read your memoir (also, sent you an email) 🙂

  11. It’s just the same for scientists, when we send off our carefully nurtured and often pruned manuscripts to the editors and the sometimes scathing peer review process. Best wishes and congratulations!

  12. Hi Lisa, this is inspiring. I hope I could also have the courage to let go and choose. I wanted so much to write too about anything, but I think I am not good enough. Thank you. 😉

  13. You are truly a writer and it shows that you have a passion for it. I recently got back into writing as a form of expression. I think it’s awesome that you’ve had the success of publishing. I will be looking forward to reading your books. I just started back up here on WordPress. I aspire to eventually publish when the time is right (much like you did). Thanks for being someone I can look up to.

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