Letting go of something big

From the outside, my life looks entirely the same as it did in January.  But inside, a lot has changed.  Assumptions I had about stability and the path forward have been jostled around, and the pieces are still settling into their new pattern, like the shards of sparkle inside a kaleidoscope in motion before they decide on their positions.

One thing I did is let go of something big in my writing life.  I let go of my commitment to and focus on publishing a book.  This was a long time coming.  You see, two years ago, I signed with a fabulous agent.  Then I parted ways with that agent because I realized I needed to write this book before I tried to sell it.  So I wrote a memoir.  The manuscript sits in a box on the floor of my office.  Three dear, brilliant, loyal friends read it (you know who you are, and thank you, again).  It is 350 pages long.  I queried a few agents.  I was rejected by all of them, mostly kindly and often using the excuse that memoir was an incredibly difficult category right now.  Whether that was the truth or a gentle way to let me down, I’ll never know. What I know is I didn’t sign an agent.

And you know what?  I let go.  In my querying I realized I didn’t truly believe in my memoir.  My story is quiet, and unremarkable, and while I think it has a universal message, I also very much doubt the validity of it to be published into a book.  So I put it away.

The relief was palpable.  Almost instant.  When I really sat still and thought about what kind of writing I want to do, I always come back to this place.  This is what I want to write.  I want to blog.  I have several essays I’m trying to place, so I like that kind of work, too.  I am working on a novel, and I enjoy that process, mostly because I am immensely fortunate to get to do it with Dani Shapiro‘s wise and excellent instruction.  But increasingly, I suspect that what I am is a blogger. I love this form, I love this community, and I am hugely enriched by the thoughtful input of those lovely spirits who read what I write here.

Once I let go of the goal I had attached myself to so ferociously, I felt both sorrow and liberation.  Commingled grief and relief, as I wrote to a friend.  It is hard to accept that I probably won’t publish a book.  But it is also a wonder to realize that this, right here, this, that I’ve been doing for almost five years, this is the writing my heart leans towards.

Two honest and lucid posts about this very topic inspired me to put this into words:  Nina Badzin’s post about how she’s not an aspiring novelist, at least for now and Erin Murray’s post that reminds me of Anne Lamott’s assertion that the writing itself is the reward.  Thank you to Nina and Erin for providing much-needed companionship on an often-lonely road, and for helping me articulate something that i realized several months ago but hadn’t yet put into words.

 

 


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30 Comments

  1. Kathryn
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    A brave and beautiful post!

  2. Posted May 15, 2012 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    It is interesting for me to read this post, to get more insights into your thoughts and decision-making, as I’ve been very tangentially with you on the journey since we “met” two years ago. On a (purely selfish) personal level, I’m disappointed that I’ll never get to read this book, because I have no doubt it is compelling and wonderful. However, as a wise person once told me: “Writing a book is one thing. Publishing a book is another thing altogether.”

    I really admire your bravery to walk away from this project that, for whatever reason, just wasn’t right. I know that relief you describe, instant and palpable. I have often felt it after quitting a job that was so clearly wrong for me. I know that double-edged feeling of grief and relief; I felt it in spades when I walked away from my profession as a career counselor, something I had worked tirelessly to achieve, only to discover it wasn’t where I needed to be.

    No matter who we are, our creative time is limited, and I think we would all be wise to figure out just, exactly, how we want to spend it. I know it’s something I’m still figuring out for myself. How wonderful that you’ve discovered that you belong exactly where you already are!

    And at the end of the day, you wrote a book. A BOOK! What a tremendous accomplishment. I get a lump in my throat just looking at that raft of papers above. Congratulations to you.

  3. philosophotarian
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    What a brave and wonderful post. If I ever taught a writing class, I’d make it (with your permission) required reading. I have been learning more than ever that the writing is the reward: I am currently writing a dissertation. I have had to throw away whole chapters. Other people gasp in horror, but I know I had to write those chapters to get to the ones my project needs.

    And it doesn’t need a dust jacket to be a really real memoir. Congratulations.

  4. Janet
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, I seek out your words almost daily. I think you are a brilliant writer, published memoir or no published memoir. Often I am so completely moved by your words that tears spring to my eyes as I nod my head in agreement. So, thank you, for sharing your writing and your gift with me.

  5. Posted May 15, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    i am on the verge of tears, sitting here at mcdonald’s drinking my diet coke (cheers). first of all, i am so proud of you. writing into a book and a memoir is a brave, powerful exercise. REGARDLESS OF THE OUTCOME. i recognize so much of my own current struggle in your words (notice the radio-silence on my blog lately??). sigh.

    do i write a book? do i focus on essays? do i try short stories? do i refocus on my blog? these questions chase the tails of each other around my head and heart all day long.

    i thank my lucky stars for you. xo

  6. Posted May 15, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I for one would still like to see the memoir. Perhaps you could release it on Amazon?

  7. Haile
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    You have more than most authors start out with, you have an audience. Right here. You don’t need an agent, or a publisher. You can publish your memoir in a way that bucks industry norms. Watch out, it might just work out even better!

    But there is one consideration – I get to deign the cover! 🙂

    More info here: http://www.thedominoproject.com/

  8. Posted May 15, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Congratulations to you for letting go. It is amazing how turning something off, or on, internally is the magic medicine we need to find peace. I have had to do this very thing, let go, this week. But instead of it being a dream, it’s people. Not just one but several. And I feel so empowered through the hurt to no longer feel that attachment and reliance upon them. Writing is the reward, for sure!!! I have also let go of my dream of publishing the book that sits in my drawer. If another comes, so let it.

  9. Posted May 15, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Letting go has been on my mind recently as well – and I LOVE that “palpable” and “instant” relief that you wrote of!!

    Thanks for sharing this decision with us – and thanks, as always, for your beautiful and heart-opening writing (in whatever form).

  10. Posted May 15, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    I would be willing to bet that if you continue along the blogging path you will come into all many unexpected ways to connect with an audience. And, oh, correct me if I’m wrong, but methinks that if we stacked all your blog posts end-to-end, we’d have a sort of memoir already. Am I wrong? Keep up the beautiful work. Oh, and who am I? I’m just a mom of two, lawyer and blogger in central Ontario, Canada. Some of us out here just read along your tweets and blog posts without saying too much, so I thought I’d let you know that there are more of us out here paying attention to your writing than you may realize. Cheers!

  11. Posted May 15, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I feel honored to have inspired this post in any capacity. I look up to you as a confident writer who knows her voice and her message even as she continues to explore both (as do I). Maybe you and I are examples of a new kind of writing . . . at least at this point in our lives. Doesn’t mean we won’t evolve, change our minds, and move forward and back, but for now as I said in my post the blogging feels like enough.

  12. Posted May 15, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I love reading your blog, even though I only just started. This is something I really needed to read today. There are so many things that I continue to do that exhaust myself. Publishing a cookbook is one thing I have been wanting to do, but I am still on the fence about it. It is very hard to find time to work when the kids are so little and I find I have so much on my plate all the time that I am torn and left empty. Thank you for this post and for being you. 🙂

  13. ari
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Please know that there are many people like me who love reading your writing. I think you are an AMAZING person.
    The best thing is that Grace and Whit will have your memoir forever.

  14. Posted May 15, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I may be the only one reading this and thinking, “GIRL you are CRAZY!!!!” I too admire you for letting go of a goal and embracing the process but I am willing to bet my right arm you are going to be a published author. I have no doubts.

  15. Posted May 15, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    This is a good post. Thank you for taking the time to write this. I’m in the process of being published, but it’s not what I thought it would be and I am having to let go of a lot of expectations … for what it’s worth, I appreciate the honesty.

  16. Posted May 15, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Lindsey, thank you for sharing with us, every day, your total and vulnerable truth. I am both mournful and joyous in response to your post today. I learn from you and your process here about what is working for you and what isn’t, and how to honor that and yourself. Much love. xoxo

  17. Posted May 15, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Oh Lindsey. My heart sank while I read this post. You are so gracious and stunning in your artistry of words. You are a writing hero for me. Your sensitivity to words and living so close to the surface pushes me in my own writing and to pay attention to the sky, my daughter and the whispers around me.

    I know you are letting go, but for some reason, I know it is in your destiny to be a published author. I know so many would benefit by your observations and awareness of the world around you.

  18. Posted May 15, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Dear Lindsey –
    Whenever I see your blog pop up in my inbox, I pause and smile. Then I click through to your latest post, knowing that whatever you’ve written will move me, resonating deeply with what I know to be true in my own life.
    I commend you for taking such a huge step, for letting go of something so huge. I share the sentiments of others here, wishing that I could read your memoir someday. But then I remind myself of your unerring ability to know what’s right for you to share. You have so much integrity. I know you will do the right thing for yourself and all of your faithful readers. We’re here waiting for you, honoring all that you do, and supporting you wholeheartedly.
    Much love,
    Priscilla

  19. Posted May 15, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing honestly. It’s a real question: does our art mean something if it’s a practice, not a product? Does it mean something if people aren’t paying us for it?
    I wonder this too. Except I know that I _must_ write, whether or not I get paid. And the work is valuable, even if I never get any applause.
    YOUR work is valuable. I’m learning from it–all of us are–even right now.

  20. Posted May 16, 2012 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    There are no boring subjects, just bad writers… and you, my dear, are anything, but! I’m sure your memoir is lovely as is, but maybe it needs time to steep and/or… it’s not finished yet? Selfishly, I am glad you are refocusing on your blog because I enjoy it so much. You are supremely talented, woman, and I know your words will appear between the covers of something, somewhere… not just in the ether… although that’s good too.

  21. Posted May 16, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Not much I can add to the love and encouragement and admiration expressed in all these comments, except to say I deeply admire and understand your process. You show rare depth and wisdom in both the discipline and determination of writing that book, and in your intuitive sense that your own health and joy reside right now in letting go rather than holding on. You ARE an amazing writer, and you have both a form and an audience; a place in which to connect and break new ground. Trust your path, girl. It’s already taking you somewhere good. And trust your process. There’s more going on right here than meets the eye! xo

  22. Margaret
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    I too can not add much. I’m so glad you feel relief about letting go of your memoir…for now. I say for now. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s a timing thing and nothing else. There will be a better time down the road, for unknown reasons, to pick it up and try again. I absolutely loved Dani Shapiro’s Devotion, and have devoutly read her blog ever since, which is how I came to stumble upon yours. Reading your blog is one of the highlights of each day, and absolutely my required reading. You obviously know from the plethora of comments that I am far from alone in feeling touched by the magic and sensitivity of your words, day in and day out. I am certain that your memoir is magical too, and if not, it will be by the time you publish it – or get it out there in whatever form it takes…Good luck with letting it hibernate. The whole project will reawaken some spring and be filled with new energy and vitality, I am certain! Until then, I’m so glad you are at peace about having written what you wrote, and now leaving it alone. And nothing, certainly no book, is better than your incredible blog!! Namaste!

  23. Posted May 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Wow. I feel a knot of sadness just reading this. Even as I know that your deciding not to aim at being published does not mean that someday you will not write a manuscript that is indeed published (still very much a possibility for your talent), I still ache a little knowing what it’s like to let go. But in letting go you also open your hand, and as it has made you more aware of how important your writing is here (And it is. You are an amazing writer with the ability to draw emotion from places we didn’t even know were raw.)I hope that you will continue to reach for whatever direction your writer self takes you.

    xoxo

  24. Posted May 16, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think I could possibly love you anymore than I do right now, reading this.
    xox

  25. Kennedy
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Linds: brave post. My guess is that this is all part of your journey as a writer. And in general I find that Life gives you stuff when you let go of your need for it.

  26. Posted May 18, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    So obviously I’ve been missing-in-action this week, but finally I’m at my computer and get to comment! And oh I have so much to say!!! Mostly I look forward to being fortunate enough to continue on this road with you and see where it takes us. Who knows? For me, this realization has been important not in ruling out other kinds of writing somewhere down the line, but it validating blog writing for myself. I have to admit, when I’m around other (published) writers, I feel uncomfortable, less-than, saying out loud, “I write a blog”. But it is what I do! And I enjoy it more than I wanted to acknowledge. I continue to be surprised by the feedback I get out in the world, which to me, validates blogging as its own form because it REACHES AN AUDIENCE (no matter how small it may be, in my case). I admire your commitment, consistency, discipline in posting so regularly. Seems like a writing practice to me!

  27. Posted May 18, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Like Erin, I’m late getting here, but am deeply moved by what I’ve read. There is such wisdom here about finding out and embracing who you really are – or, at least, who you really are right now. Thank you for the inspiration and the reminder that there are many ways to call oneself a writer. xo

  28. Jennifer
    Posted May 21, 2012 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    This must have been a difficult decision for you. I admire your decision to actually make a decision since that act brings you freedom.

    I love your blog and find this medium so much more powerful than a book because it’s utterly dynamic – it’s a live memoir! Thank you for sharing yourself with us through this blog.

  29. Posted May 24, 2012 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Lindsey,

    This post has been sitting with me for a few days now. It’s been on my heart. I have been thinking of the feeling – beyond the “emotion” — that accompanies that moment when we let go…of whatever. When we are no longer attached. What mattered for years, maybe even decades, just doesn’t anymore (or at least it doesn’t ache as much). And you find you are breathing a new sense of liberation, freedom, and even inspiration. It’s all ok. And you softly smile. A sense of peace rests in us.

    And then I have also noticed how when grace has enabled me to “let it go”, that dream becomes manifest in ways I never dreamed of! AND without the sense of attachment to it. Then it is just sheer delight.

    I am in that process! Not there with a lot of things! But a few!

    Love to you, Lisa

  30. Posted July 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    I love this post. Partly, because I so relate to the journey, to the yielding of desired outcomes, to the discovery that writing is the gift – just as it is. However, as Ived pondered your words for a few weeks now, I can’t help but struggle with your current conclusion. I think you’re a gifted writer and you shouldn’t stop at only one medium for your writing to be read.

    Do you like Medeleine L’engle? Sometimes when I read your posts I think of her. I have to say… Just for the record – have you considered children’s lit? I’ve thoguht a few times after reading one of your posts that you might write beautiful children’s books. I’m thinking of things in the same family as Kate DiCamillo and The Tiger Rising, Sharon Creech – Walk two Moon, Madeleine L’engle, Polly Horvath – My One Hundred Adventures, Shannon Hale – The Book Of a Thousand Days, and so many more. I wonder if you might like to write children’s novels that speak truth, show and reveal pain, heartache, and the human determination to hope… Just a thought! One I’ve been mulling over.