Erica Jong, celebrated novelist and essayist, was flying high in the late sixties and early seventies when I was chasing toddlers. Toddlers with runny noses or skinned knees or both most often.
We, Erica and me, are now both firmly ensconced in our eighties. At a time of mammoth indecision for me, a quote of hers surfaced: “I went for years not finishing anything, because, of course, when you finish something, you can be judged.”
This would be the first of a collection of influences from women helping me get my second book out in the world.
Fear of being judged is so unlike me. And also, very much like me. You’d think by this time I’d have enough confidence and experience to manage just about anything, but instead of growing, confidence wanes as we age.
Or at least in my case.
New territory. Scary territory.
Safer to withhold.
I was procrastinating; the manuscript of my second book had been completed for several months — make that eight — and I didn’t move it forward. Forward to publishing.
My first book — The Orangewoods: Seasons in the Country Artfully Lived, and its journey to publishing was a dream. Each step along the way, like April’s orange blossoms floating from the tree to a soft landing on the ground below. This book, I’ve over analyzed, overhauled, and over evaluated to the point of ad nauseam as I moved along the path to publication.
Why did I resist this time?
Different story. Different chapter in my life. Different voice.
Not first person. Not me. But really me. Sometimes. In disguise as an aging princess.
Not memoir. Not a fairy tale. Not romance.
In reality, however, a combination of all three.
I recently read award-winning author, Elizabeth Gilbert’s, book, Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear. A particular passage got my attention: “Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”
I read this over again and smiled remembering a certain curator’s advice at the The San Diego Museum of Art where I work. “When guests say something like ‘My kid could do that’ in front of a work of modern or contemporary art, a tactful reply might be, “Nice. Why don’t you tell our group where your child’s work is exhibited so we can all enjoy it?”
At a writing retreat in Colorado just a short while ago, the twenty women and two leaders of the five-day event provided profound inspiration and confidence for me. My manifesto became: “Just put the damn thing out there. Don’t fear the judgement and get on with the next phase of your writing life!”
And finally I read an interview with Sophia Coppola, in an New York Times interview about her new film, Priscilla. “When you finish a project, you’re like, oh,” she said, as a Mona Lisa smile appeared on her face. “You have to do it, because it bugs you until you do.”
After Goya, left unpublished, bugged me long enough. So, I made the move.
It's official, my second book, After Goya - a Mature-ish Fairy Tale, has a release date of January 3, 2024.
Book number three is brewing!