It is very early. Still dark outside. But I’m up, buzzing with my first few sips of coffee and worry and anticipation. Worry about Baby who spiked a moderate fever last night and is breathing hard. Per the pediatrician, I will take her in to be checked at 8 a.m. But it is only 5:29 a.m., so I must wait. Anticipation because I am also waiting for something else. Something less sinister than a potential Swine Flu diagnosis. That something? The release of my first novel LIFE AFTER YES.
I sit in my study, now dark, listening to Christmas music, willing myself to get into the holiday spirit. But try as I might, that spirit evades me, hovering affectionately, but at a detectable distance. I’m having a hard time thinking of Santa and stockings with this daunting stack of paper next to me. It rests there, shrouded in pre-dawn quiet, waiting for my fingers. And my eyes.
But I don’t want to look.
Enough of the mystery. The stack of papers = the first pass pages of my novel. And maybe you know what this means, but I don’t really. The cover letter from the publisher gives some clues, but I am a rookie, so I might get this one wrong. From what I can gather, this is it. This stack of paper is an unbound representation of every single page of my book. And each page looks exactly like it will look on May 18th when it humbly rides the pine at Barnes & Noble. This is it.
I have until Monday to sift through these pages, colored pencil cocked, looking for tiny changes I might want to or need to make. And then? In the next week or so, these pages will be duplicated with frenzy and circulated among other authors for blurbs, potential reviewers, and other kinds of people whom I should know about but don’t because I am such a novice.
Translation: this is happening.
But this post is not about pre-publication anxiety. Not this one. I have written about that before. And I will again because that anxiety is already playing louder than the Christmas music I listen to now but can’t hear. This post is more simple. (Or is it more complex?) This post is about pages.
Pages. Pages of a newborn novel (340). Pages of life (?).
Pages of life? Whoa. Existential detour much? Yup. Hang on.
If you were given the opportunity to see the pages of your life, would you take it? Would you rifle to the end to see how many pages there are? Would you welcome this opportunity to glimpse your future? Would you want to know if you are destined for heartbreak or illness or wild success? Would you want to know how it will all end?
Or would you sit in a dark room next to that tower of white and just stare at it, paralyzed by the enormity of knowing? Of seeing? Of seeing just how those pages look individually and collectively? Of seeing just how your life proceeds and extinguishes? Is there a little part of you that would rather not know, rather not see, even if that means losing the opportunity to make minor, but collectively meaningful changes?
Okay. The analogy is not perfect. I have written my novel. I know the story. The words on those pages are extensions of me, my heart, my quaking fingers. Nothing in there is a true surprise. Not exactly akin to seeing the future. But, hey, I expect about as much out of analogies as I do people; I want them to be good and well-meaning. They don’t need to be flawless. Flawless is boring.
These questions are blemished, mean, hard, unfair. I know that. But, in my estimation, the good life entails thinking about these impossible things from time to time. These cruel and compelling questions that stir more than they settle. (Like: What is the good life?)
But the good life, like the good book (no, not the Bible. Not going there today), also has more practical pages. Pages full of reality. Like publishing deadlines. Like sick and slumbering children. Like coffee refills. Like silent waits for that sun, that loyal sun, to rise.
Would you want see the first pass pages of your life if it meant that you could make minor tweaks? Or would you rather not know?