Initially and characteristically I poo-poo-ed my work as soon as it was accepted. (Such a negative pose is ransferrable to fiction, nonfiction, music, photography - pretty much any project in which the sleeve reveals an at least faint outline of the heart's presence.) All of a sudden, I was "over it." So over it, as if every poem I'd written up to that point was no more than a warm-up exercise for the poet I was meant to be.
Knowing me as I do (and don't), my attitude was a device of my little devils of self-doubt, a way to keep me small and disallow great feelings of pride and joy which are warranted by the publication of a book. God forbid I be happy. Ya know?
A friend, not the same friend who warned against publishing a "precious" book, came to the rescue. She wrote, "There was a point when I was embarrassed by my first book because the later work was so obviously better to me."
She urged me to forego the questionable pleasure of feeling superior to oneself, a kinky way of thinking indeed. I stopped myself from telling excited friends I was feeling disconnected from the manuscript. That feeling sure hasn't lasted. I am connected to my book. Very. I like it. I am proud it. Hello, world? Read my damn book!
I could have done a fair amount of damage to myself and my book by putting it out there that I was really better than that! Whew! The silly and true fact is that I love the poems (The Future Is Happy). Whatever self-doubt I felt in October 2008, I am not feeling it now and am so happy I quickly learned to exhibit restraint.
My friend also emailed, "Let yourself enjoy its strengths. Most important of all--don't deprecate the work in any way--even if you feel that way yourself, others won't, and if you suggest to them that it's not your best work, that's how they'll look at it, and that's hurtful."
The impulse is universal. A compliment to your outfit is met with, "This old thing?" and so on.
I love my book and everything in it. I didn't italicize some (about three) words in the final draft which I meant to. I see a mistake on the previously-published-in page. I wouldn't mind flawless, but I have a strong and, as I wrote in yesterday's blog, all-of-one-piece book.
Feedback has been fabulous. Let me tell you; my sweet mother, wherever she is, well, hanging out in the cloud over there, is so proud, as is Pop, rattling ice cubes in his heavenly Scotch.
I hope some of you will take the time to read my book and appreciate its heart, quality, spirit, tenderness, humor and wild imperfection.
And as you assemble your work of art, be thoughtful. And when your work of art is out there, be proud.
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Mary Martin, Peter Pan, "I Gotta Crow"