Almost 24 hours have elapsed since I…Myesha Danielle Jenkins…became a published author.
When I was neck deep in the process of getting to this milestone, it held a certain mystique. Intellectually, I knew there would be no outward difference. I touch my foot on the left of the finish line: unfinished. I touch my foot to the right: finished. “Unfinished, finished, unfinished, finished…” But still, now that I can’t go back and forth–I am at once, finished–the mystique of it all is gone. I am still Myesha, the woman who furiously bites the inside of her mouth and chews the minute pieces of skin between her teeth; who loves the idea of being a great cook–can cook–but would much rather be doing something else; who is really clumsy and awkward when excited; who loves to dance but doesn’t get to as much as she wants to except for at home while her family gives her the side eye; and I could go on. My life is essentially the same. But it is not the same. I have been stretched and pushed in ways that have changed my composition–much like the body of an athlete or dancer–into something different. I am on the other side of it. I have walked into the dark wood, down the well worn path, and into the company of so many others–those tortured by the words that were screaming to break forth. The mystique is gone because those words are gone.
I have more words, common as mud words, that I have to give. I know they are meant for someone out there.
The closer I get to my publication date the more I realize the tremendous confidence it takes to publish. I must qualify and personalize. It takes confidence (and support) to quit ones job and strike out to write for money. You harness words to create some reality and hope readers will enter your manufactured reality. No. You want readers to pay money to enter that manufactured reality.
I am either an ambitious person; or rather, I am an impulsive person who strikes out without weighing the pros and cons. Maybe I am a mixture of both–one part ambition and one part impulsivity. Mix. Let stand and serve chilled. I’m not having doubts, but I am anxious. In the face of my anxiety, I do have faith that I will achieve success. It’s just that in the crowded cocktail of my social media outlets it seems like everyone is doing it all. Where is the angst? I need to see the angst. Sometimes I have to disconnect because I begin to compare my beginning to someone else’s middle. I develop a big case of the “angstiety.” Can my anxiety faith get me through?
When I start to feel my confidence draining from my ear, I go inward in search of it. “Myesha,” I say, “Girl, you have stories to tell. Just write them and the readers will come–maybe not in droves but in trickles. If my book causes one person to stay up all night to get to the end, I will have achieved success (hopefully they bought it…tee hee).
Daily, I need to look within for that confidence and add it to my recipe. For all you writers out there like me, here is a dash of fellow feeling. I am pulling for you. Be confident. Be ambitious. Be impulsive.
My definition of angstiety: 1. persistent worry and recurring thoughts dread, usually unfounded and manufactured because you can’t control all the variables that affect a given outcome. 2. Fear or worry that you will be left behind in everyone else’s fabulousness.
Years ago, I worked as a hostess at a popular chain restaurant. I was Cora, the controller of the board. Perhaps you’ve noticed these boards during a visit to a restaurant. Sitting on top of the host’s stand, is an aerial view of the restaurant’s dining room. This board gives the hostess the information needed to seat guests in the appropriate server’s station. The Cora tells the Flora, the hostess watching the floor and seating customers, where to take the next party. There is also Dora, the hostess who stands at the door, greeting guests and sometimes handing out pagers. Cora is in a position to positively or negatively affect the way the restaurant runs. If Cora seats too many guests at one time, the servers get in the weeds–behind on their steps of service. The kitchen is hit with too many orders at once, stressing the back of the house staff. On popular holidays, this is inevitable, but a skilled Cora can ease the pain.
On one particularly busy Valentine’s Day, I was Cora. The foyer of the restaurant was neck deep in anxious couples who wanted a table. This restaurant did not take reservations. I had to use my handy formula for determining the wait time–usually 2-5 minutes per party. Using the conservative scale–2 minutes–the 5th party in line had a 10 minute wait. On this day, I was quoting wait times of 60-90 minutes. My guests were hungry and losing that loving feeling. In the chaos that ensued, I kept my cool. I dealt with each party cordially and professionally. I didn’t let the grumbles of guests get to me. I had reached a sort of Hostess Cora Zen state.
“How do you remain calm?” asked one guest who had been waiting for awhile. “Hmm, I don’t know,” I said. “The more chaotic it becomes, the more peaceful I become.” He gave me a strange but awe-filled look. I imagined him wondering, What manner of hostess is this? The general manager often remarked how skilled I was at this position: “When Myesha is Cora, the restaurant runs so smoothly,” “You take care of everyone, the back of the house and the front of the house,” “When I’m in the kitchen, I can tell when Myesha is Cora without laying an eye on her.” These comments gave me joy, of course. I tend to flourish in high pressure situations.
This experience as Cora came to my mind recently when I was contemplating the task at hand: editing my manuscript. Yes, I repeat, “I am editing my own manuscript.” I paraphrased a popular quote to sum up how I feel about this. “An author who edits her own book has a fool for a client.” This is my reality, and I will soldier on, fool that I am. I have one reader, my husband, whom I appreciate immensely. He finished reading my first draft even though reading isn’t at the top of his leisure to do list. I surreptiously put it on the top of his “honey do,” list. But who is more biased than your spouse?
I now realize that I can pull from this same reservoir of zen that helped me be a stellar Hostess Cora. After months of deliberating, I made the decision to play the fool. But I will have the last laugh if I garner my Hostess Cora prowess while editing. Who knew that a hostess and editor shared the same skill set? I have all the editing resources I need. I have the time and space to edit. Now I need the calmness and peace of mind it takes to be alert, diligent, and patient enough to edit my own work. Each day when I sit down to edit, I must meditate on it. Breathe deeply. Focus on the words. Root out grammatical and spelling errors. On the second pass, I must look for plot inconsistencies and disjointed places in the narrative. On the third pass, I must read the entire manuscript aloud. The task at hand is doable if I become Zen Cora and not give in to impatience.
Currently, I am one third of the way through my first pass. I can do this!
In the future, I will get an editor but for now, “Table for one?”
I’ve been working since 9:30 AM, almost 13 hours now. It’s a Saturday. I could justify this because my daughter was out of town, my husband was at work, and my dogs–well I didn’t walk them. I edited my appointed chapter. Editing one chapter thoroughly takes the full work day, and usually, on a week day, I stop when I am done. Today, after finishing, I worked on my website and my other social media sites. It was my plan to create a consistent visual brand identity.
I will admit that I wasn’t the best at self care, though I did soak in some rays on this beautiful spring day. This is not sustainable behavior, I know. When you are working for yourself, it becomes easy to blur the lines between personal and professional. I’ll do better tomorrow.