Today, August 14, 2012, is a day I wasn’t sure would ever come. It is the publication of a book I’ve been working on, off and on, for close to two decades. I had so many drafts and so much research material (in its first incarnation it was set in the 1970′s) that after a while file drawers would not do–I had to put all those drafts and articles into a huge plastic box, the kind you get to hold the scores of legos or plastic dinosaurs that are overflowing the playroom shelves. I started the book when my sons were enamored of those little plastic toys, it is being published when those little boys are men with jobs, men who tower over me. One of them even wrote a song for the trailer we made for the book.
For a long time Intentions was called Kavanah, which is the Hebrew word for intention. If you read the book (which I hope you will, of course) you will learn what it means to pray with kavanah and, most importantly, to live with intention. We changed the title because too many people couldn’t pronounce it! But we also wanted a title that was universal. I think that the goal of living with intention is universal. And certainly the sad truth that so many of us make mistakes despite our good intentions–both of these things are universal.
I was scared of writing a novel. No, not of writing it, but of publishing it. I am not sure why. It is scary to put any book out into the world. It is terrifying to throw a book from your heart into the world. What will people think? Will they get it? Most importantly, will I be giving the world the book I meant to write? Even though I have written and published many books, the idea of a novel was just terrifying. So it stayed in that box for a long time before I took it back out and worked on it again.
An old friend once told me I was not scared of failure, I was scared of success. Smart as that person was, I’m not sure she was right. I am scared of failure! Success is really nice. I know that from my wonderful ride with Charles and Emma. It was the success of finishing C&E that made me go back to working on Intentions. Notice I didn’t say it was the success of C&E. It was the success of finishing it, making it into a book I was proud of. It was the hardest book I had ever written, and when I finished the final draft and the manuscript sat on my coffee table, I looked at it and I said to myself, “No matter what happens with this book, I am so proud to have written it.” And that was and is the truth. That’s the way it should be with every book we write: we should write the best book we can write, feel a deep sense of satisfaction for what we have done and then let it go into the world. If only it were that easy every time.
Of course part of the fear of publishing this book is that it is coming on the heels of Charles and Emma (with a sweet little picture book, Cool Dog, School Dog, in between). Intentions is so different from C & E. Yet each of these books is me, an essential part of who I am. Over the course of my career I have published many books I’ve enjoyed writing and that I’m proud of. But only a few of them do I feel have my DNA all over them. When one of those goes out into the world, it is just plain scary. If I had left my book in the box, today would not be a scary day. It would be a hot day in August. I would be thinking about walking the dog, and what I would make for dinner, and probably I would be working on some deadline or other. I would also have an awful nagging feeling that I was not living up to my potential. That I was not living my life with intention.
I’m here to say to all of those writers with a book in a box, on scraps of paper in your night table, in a computer file, tucked away neatly behind recipes or vacation pictures, or in your head, not even words on screen or on paper yet: write it. With intention. With all the kavanah you can summon. And then let it go into the world.
I’ve got to walk the dog now, and then work on my deadline book. But today I don’t have to think about making dinner. My husband is taking me out to celebrate. Because it’s not every day that you finally publish a novel.