It seems like a bad twist of fate that I'd be fighting off an awful cold this week. In a couple of days, Eleanor will be officially released. I've been busier for the past two months than I think I've ever been, at least when it comes to promoting a book. I've done fifteen or twenty interviews, and there are a few more ahead. I've given away a thousand or more copies of the book, and watched readers leave wonderful reviews on Amazon. I've done a couple of podcasts. In three days, the book comes out, after nearly four thousand seven hundred days of slow progress.
These last three days feel like they're taking ten times that long to pass.
I don't have any idea what's really ahead for Eleanor. I am not expecting an explosive launch day; rather a sustained, slow burn that will hopefully become a tidy, warm fire that persists for years and years. I am hopeful that this book will capture the hearts of readers I've never even met yet, and that they'll tell other readers, and that this book will slowly creep up on people who love a good story.
That is, I am not expecting the book to turn me overnight into a star. The odds of that are worse than the odds of winning every state lottery, all at the same time, and frankly, I don't really have a lot of interest in literary stardom. I'm sure I'd choke if faced with that sort of thing. I'm happy knowing that a few people will read it, and will be happier if a few more people than that do so.
But I am exceptionally proud of this book and how it's turned out, I must say. It's been a long time coming, and I've written over the years, many, many times, about the frustrations of trying to finish it. I've never officially given up, though I skated close to that line a few times now and then. On my now-defunct old blog, Deeplyshallow, I once wrote this:
I made myself a stupid promise when I was eighteen: that I would make a living off my writing by twenty-five. Well, that day came and went a couple years ago, and is farther behind me with each passing day. There was no shot clock in the sky, its buzzer signaling my failure. There was just me, recognizing that the world was a little harder than I'd given it credit for.
I wrote that in September of 2006. I wonder: if I had known then that Eleanor still needed another seven-and-a-half years, would I have pressed on?
In that same post, I wrote this:
I am still learning about defeat, still making dumbass mistakes, but writing is the one place in my life where, with a little polish, I think I can really shine. This is the one thing to refuse to believe I'm not capable of. This is the most important thing that I will ever do. It's time to stop fucking around.
I was twenty-eight then. I'm thirty-five now. Reading my old blogs from those days is a bit of a hoot, and I shake my head at how little I knew. In another decade, I'm sure I'll shake my head at the things I thought I believed now. But these years later, I look back at 2006 me and I have a few important things to tell him:
- You did it, man! You finally finished writing that novel. It's about to be published, and with a little luck, people will even like it some. A lot of people already do. So hang in there, the end is coming, even if it isn't visible on the horizon, or the next horizon, or the next one.
- You were wrong about this being the most important thing you'll ever do. Dead, dead wrong. But I can forgive you for not seeing it. After all, it's September of 2006. You've yet to meet and start dating Felicia, but in a few years, you'll get married, and that's more important than Eleanor. And then a year after that? Squish will enter your world, and she's a lot more important than any fifty thousand books you might write. You can't see it yet, but you're going to hit the jackpot where it really matters most.
- Get out of your own way. The only thing stopping you from finishing Eleanor is you, man. Now, it's a good thing that it takes you another seven or eight years to finish – the book is a hundred million times better for it – but this advice applies to everything. Get out of your own way. Remember that line you liked from The Big Chill? The one where Jeff Goldblum's character waxes rhapsodic about rationalizations? Yeah, that's the one. Stop rationalizing. Apply everything you learn from writing to the rest of your life.
Actually, that last bit is advice for the me of 2014, not the me of 2006.
In any case: Eleanor may have already observed thirteen birthdays, but in a couple of days she's finally going to be born, and we'll get to see if she's adorable or if she has three heads.
And then it's time to write the next thing.