Monday, February 22, 2010

Editor's Note

Back in December of 2008, I wrote this post, a kind of reflection on the year that had been--turning 30, for example. (It has turned out to be superb, not the hellish shift that some people swore it would be.) The post was also about how I felt about writing, about publishing, about work in general. I've been thinking a lot about that post, and whether it makes any sense to amend it, or maybe clarify it. I realize now that it was really about how I felt about what I thought publishing was. Everything I said back then was true. Or it was true then when I wrote it. And, for the most part, it still is true. But I think I've realized a few more things about myself, and about what it means to create things.

I wrote that "my interest in the 'book' world has waned." What I meant, I know now, was that my interest in who got what kind of advance, who the hot new writer was, who was being talked up in magazines--all that had waned. This, I know now, is not the "book world," but the "media world." I'm not sure what took me so long to understand the difference. I wrote that "the enchantment of publishing has worn off for me." What I didn't realize at the time was that actually publishing, actually being published, feels so completely different than what I thought it would feel like. (And the book isn't even in the universe I'm curious and scared and excited and worried about what happens then.) It is, at the most basic level, a feeling of being understood.

Oprah told a story once, on the DVDs of her show that you can get from Netflix, about how she got the role in The Color Purple. She had never wanted anything so badly. She was convinced that she was going to get the role, she was convinced that she wasn't. She found herself, finally, at a fat farm, trying to lose all the weight that she has struggled with for so long, and she's walking laps around the track, and feeling so overwhelmed by everything, that she bursts into tears. She realizes that she has allowed the want of this thing to control every aspect of her life. And in that moment, she says to herself, okay, I give it up to god. And then, and only then, does someone come out of the house and say "Ms. Winfrey, Stephen Spielberg is on the phone for you." He says to her, "Get off that track right now, because if you lose one pound you can't have this role." Sometimes I love Oprah's stories. It's as simple, and as complicated, as that.

I think at the end of 2008, I came to my own Color Purple moment--I had given it all up to the Goddesses of the Universe and, in turn, they gave me what I wanted. Or needed. "Be careful what you say that you 'need' around here," my brother said when I was in Orlando visiting my nephews, meaning toys and things. I understood what he was trying to say, but sometimes those things are the same. Sometimes what you want is what you need, and when you get it you feel elated and understood and grateful.

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