Tuesday, May 5, 2015
I’m celebrating a big anniversary this week. Two years ago, I self-published The Hole in the Middle. I didn’t really choose self-publishing. I did it because I couldn’t get anyone to take me seriously as a writer in the traditional publishing business.
This week, my publisher is shipping a brand-new edition to bookstores across the country, with a quote on the front from a famous writer who also happens to be a new friend (we met at a literary festival last summer). It’s so amazing and weird that Kobo asked me to write a blog about it.
But honestly, when I look back at everything that’s happened? The self-publishing, and the crazy internet sensation, and the Canadian book deal, and the U.S. book deal, and the marriage breakdown – all of it connected, all of it complicated and bittersweet – do you know what strikes me the most?
I can’t believe how f***ing brave I was. I’m so proud of that. I’m a fairly shy person, all evidence to the contrary. I used to have a phobia about public speaking. I used to have an almost crippling anxiety about what people thought of me. The biggest obstacle to my success with the book, from the beginning, was my own fear.
Courage is a relative quality. It is quite different from fearlessness. To be courageous is to do the things that haunt you. Only you know what they are. To self-publish my book, to put myself out on social media, to tell everyone I knew that I had written something, and ask them to buy it, all the while knowing for an absolute fact that no one in the book industry believed my book deserved publication: that took every bit of courage I had, which was significantly more than I knew I possessed. (I filmed a video about it.)
And now? I feel like the old rules don’t apply to me anymore. It is scary but also truly liberating.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned: Not everyone will like you. Not everyone will value the same things you do. Not every relationship will survive forever. People change. You will too.
These are terrifying realizations, but once you accept them as true, the rules shift. The most important questions change. What do you want to contribute? What are your greatest talents? Who deserves your loyalty and your time? Who doesn’t? What are you doing because you think you should? What are you doing because you genuinely love to do it?
On a micro-level, I’m exploring these questions while choosing furniture for my new house. My designer, who is accustomed to working with couples to identify the appropriate shade of greige, is thrilled. There is no compromise. There is no discussion. What do I like? It turns out that I like … what I like. Which is random and eclectic and colourful and creative. Who knew? Here is my new carpet, for example:
My point here, and I do have one, is that we spend a lot of energy trying to figure out how to fit in with other people – families, friends, and especially spouses. But maybe we ought to practice being ourselves a little now, as Jenny Joseph’s famous poem suggests? We – all of us – deserve that.
Really looking forward to our event on Friday!
Read Reva’s last letter here.
Find the Pen Pal archive here.