Saturday, June 20, 2015

Breathing and Unpublishing

I unpublished a book.

I had been avoiding this marketing move. It felt like to me defeat, but the book wasn't selling. Either no one knew about the book, or it was simply bad and there was something wrong with the writing. I am, of course, the best writer there ever was, so that last bit certainly can't be true.

The book was difficult to write. My hometown featured in the piece, and though I often find myself writing about Ohio, I write about the cities--Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland... I don't write about the movie theater I had my first date at. I don't write about the restaurant I met my wife at.[1] These are emotionally charged, highly personal spaces for me. They don’t belong in the public sphere, and that, of course, is the very reason light should be shed on those privacies.

The book was simply not ready for publication. I had not taken the time to write it. I rushed through the story so I could be done. I’ve had more than one industry pundit tell me to slow down, to not be in a hurry. My internal response has always been that they don’t know; the problem is that they do know. They’ve been at it longer than I have. They know more than I, and I need to listen to them.

Self-publishing is hard because it is indeed so easy. You write something and then you hit the publish button, and you are done. You have to watch the temptation to publish before you are ready.

Breathe a little bit once in a while. That’s kind of a life lesson over a writing lesson. Charge in, but charge in prepared. In my teens, I was enthralled with essayist Robert Fulghum of All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten fame. I owned all of his books. I imagined what it would be like to be Robert Fulghum.[2] In one untitled essay, I continue to remember, Fulghum says he is a professional breather. Unpublishing a book was like that: breathing on the exhale.

[1] Happy Humpty is now a parking lot. We met to discuss the local community college’s newsletter. She wore the reddest, thickest lipstick I had ever seen on a woman. She ordered coffee. I hated coffee but wanted to act grown-up and ordered coffee. Years later she tells me she doesn’t know why she ordered coffee—she hated coffee too. Now, of course, we slurp the stuff down by the gallons.
[2] I just recently learned Fulghum’s on Twitter, and I immediately stalked followed him.

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