I recently saw a question posted on a social media author group page, of which I am a member, asking if any writer has earned out the amount she has put into the (hybrid) publication of her book. I read the fifty plus affirmed comments and their details. Sure, every author hopes to cash in on an investment that has been years in the making, a reward for hours of isolation, fingers tapping letters into a symphony of words. Any earnings are well-deserved and admirable.
I wondered if earning out was an author’s goal. I never expected a sizeable cash reward for my book anyway because that was not my goal. My goal was to just get the thing published.
Authors’ goals vary as do their intentions for writing a book. A first-time book author may want to just finish the darn thing, another may intend to be a best seller and to make a lot of money. Perhaps one author wants to break even. When one author faced the diligent, difficult, and time-consuming task of finding a publisher, self-doubt made her question what the goal was anyway before she slammed it into a drawer.
Goal attainment is like reaching a mountain’s summit. Once arrived, I can reflect on what it took to get to the top. But then eventually it would be time to work my way down. And it is on the downside where it really wasn’t just about my intention to publish or even attaining the goal.
When working my manuscript, I contemplated themes that hovered like a dark cloud. I often searched for complicated significance as I couldn’t see perhaps any obvious simplicity. I was focused too far ahead, thinking about publication and finishing and closure. I didn’t give much thought about the book itself, its value and meaning of the story I had written.
I had stopped writing this post here because I didn’t know where, or even if there was a connection between thoughts about my publishing goal and the social media post I had read.
Maybe there was more?
In moments as if illustrated in a comic strip bubble above my head, I searched my workspace amid slush piles of papers and dog-eared book pages, my eyes gliding along book spines lined tightly on a shelf next to me hoping for inspirational quotes of my favorite authors to jump out. And then I looked on a wall in front of me where black wood frames outlined prints of Chagall and F. Leger, once on white backgrounds, now tinged with gray from their advanced years. Their beginnings, were once accompanied by two other pictures, part of a quartet in a family room in the house on Carlisle Avenue where I grew up in the mid-sixties. The pictures beamed like two headlights, projecting memories of Christmas time and family time, of couch gathering and talking—layers of history of sixty years in four different houses.
I reflected on the meanings of the pictures. They weren’t just old prints of early modernist and pop French artists, but looking glasses into the past, connections to my place on a couch, identity markers of where I had been, in a house I grew up, with the family I had lived, and a mother who once adorned her house with nothing but style and verve.
Our lives are a circuitous thread of links that wind and twist, up and down hills, as we navigate our places in life.
For me, it wasn’t about earning out my investment or necessarily getting a book published, but a reflection of my connections to my place to be in a published memoir and in framed artwork.