Package left on the porch yesterday and I suspected mischief. Two advance copies of NOT YET were lurking inside. Took me an hour to open the box, waited for my girlfriend to come home because I was too scared to open it by myself. And my reaction at holding the first copy? Laughter!  

Maybe that’s why the Publisher placed the novel under the dual genre of “Mental Health/Humor”.

My laughter was less comical and more the relief of despair. A laugh conveying, “That’s it? And this took me how long?” But the writing is done, the editing complete. Not more cuts or tinkering. Time to promote.

“Promotion requires proof,” and my publisher Harvard Square Editions (https://harvardsquareeditions.org/) obliged my request. Obviously, I require a hard copy so when I walk into a room to talk about the novel, I’m holding more than my swinging cod.   

And now I only feel the weight of the book, the gravity of a long journey. I wish there were twice as many pages to prove the hardship. The two years of writing (the forty +plus years of learning how and what to write about), the one year of necessary yet brutal edits, and the anguish of countless rejections. Failure I can deal with but success is difficult, it hurts to even look at the book. Not from shame but rather because I know every line intimately. Like one of those standing-naked-in-public dreams, but suddenly real and translucent. And I can’t change the text, it’s fixed. Permanent. I now understand writers who burn their own books.  

So, why publisher a novel when you don’t want people to read it? Maybe I want to protect them from the struggle, the terrible suicidal inclinations, the dark depressive mood. I’m like the author’s version of a garage band. Let me just play without an audience, and maybe only people out late walking their dogs will hear the music. Maybe that’s the best part of publishing—you don’t know or care who is reading your book because it’s not yours anymore.

Perhaps my response of laughter was more, “Ok, this wasn’t a scam, they actually printed the book and didn’t cancel at the last minute.” So many doubts. But isn't the mind of every artist filled with indecision and self-loathing doubt? And occasionally, as an artist, you mange to lay it down—a page filled with typed words, watercolors upon an empty canvass, a ceramic bowl centered on a potter's wheel, an upright bronze sculpture. Maybe it gets easier, but I'm not sure I want the process to be easy.    

Now I can move on and say goodbye to the characters in the book, to my grief. Maybe that’s the point of letting go. If it’s not mine, then I can’t self-sabotage. It’s up to other people whether they want to open the cover, glance at the first page and keep reading. Maybe I’m just feeling ashamed about putting out such a personal account of my life-long experience with depression, but honesty seemed to be the only way through.  

After finally opening the package, I walked over to celebrate at my aunt’s house and when my cousin read the first page, he sobbed like a spanked baby.  “Guess it works,” I said and couldn’t stop laughing because there is such joy in the relief of tears.

 

 Author's page at HSE: https://harvardsquareeditions.org/portfolio-items/not-yet/