I'm here again -- that time in - between a book being finished and read. The book is done, has a release date (three weeks, or June 2nd to be exact), a cover and even a couple great reviews, BUT it hasn't been released from it's box and into the bookstore....yet.
This is when we plan book tour, send out letters, wait for reviews -- this is an unsettling time of in=between. So, like I do for anything that is on my mind, anything I need to unravel in my own gut -- I wrote about this in=between. This right-now time....
I’ve been thinking a lot about the BEFORE and AFTER. You know, those stories or pictures of the before and the after. About the HERE and then the THERE.
There is the quarterback who was a bag boy BEFORE and is a Superbowl star AFTER.
The pictures at the Dermatologist office of BEFORE the facial procedure and then the beautiful pictures of AFTER.
The story of the writer who wrote in a café and was on welfare BEFORE he/she became a bestseller with a movie deal and ten million copies in print AFTER.
The weight loss plan with the BEFORE picture and the AFTER svelte photo.
And best of all: the love story – the BEFORE they met, and then AFTER when she is in her wedding dress.
We love these stories, don’t we? But what about what is in-between the before and after? What is between the ‘here’ and then the ‘there’? The in-between, that’s what.
There’s the hours of practice, sweat, sacrifice and sprained muscles of the quarterback; the pain of the surgical recovery to look just like the picture in the dermatologist’s office. What about the writer who overcame her fear and wrote and wrote and wrote for ten years before she was willing to show her words to a single person, who then shot it down like a cheap clay bird in a shooting range?
And then there’s the woman who lost the weight because she actually didn’t eat the Easter Peeps (Can you tell what I’m fighting not to have for lunch?). And what about the story of the couple who overcame the fear and hardship to make it to the wedding altar? I think that sometimes we tend to ignore all the stuff in-between the before and after. We focus so much on result, on the after, on the there.
There is something a bit restless, maybe even scary, about the in-between places when we aren’t ‘here’ and we aren’t ‘there’. Sometimes we are forced into this place and sometimes we step willingly into this space. Either way there are gifts there; lessons and joy, I believe.
Maybe I’ve become too accustomed to the drive-thru window – I talk into the depersonalized speaker-thing and then get my hot food and move on with my life. This is so much easier than going to the grocery store, picking out the food, pushing my cart through the aisles while my ten year old throws in a box of Lucky Charms. Then I must unpack the groceries and cook the dinner – all that takes longer than the actual eating of the dinner itself. And don’t forget the clean up.
As in life, in writing: there is an in-between. I don’t get this glorious idea (aren’t all our books at their absolute best in the beginning? When they are a brilliant idea – the best idea we’ve had yet), and then wake up during a book signing for said book.
There are years of in-between: The writing part. The butt-in-chair part. The angst and fear and stuck part. The wonderful and terrible sentences part. The editing and the discussions with the editor, the PR and marketing and book tour and numbers-game part. There is just so, so much in-between.
But like the quarterback or the weight loss woman or the author, I’ve come to if not love, then respect the in-between. If we jumped right to the AFTER or the THERE every time, what would we learn, who would we be?
Yes, there are many days when I’d like to fast forward to the published novel, but it is in the writing that I learn – about myself, about life, about hard work, about what the story (and therefore my life) is REALLY about. The in-between part is where I find friends and allies, where I discover the just right word and the lost hours of immersing myself in the gift of words and writing.
How many things have passed me by during the in-between moments because I was focused on the after, on the there? So I vow -- or maybe that’s too strong a word -- I promise I’ll try and think about, notice and enjoy the in-between of everything. I won’t jump from the before to the after, from the here to the there of anything. Even when I must endure the harder and scarier parts of it all, I’ll stay right inside this space.
Maybe that’s why I love to read, why I love to write – the good stuff – the in-between stuff – is what the good stories are made of. Our stories.