Stay In The Water
As I wrote back in December, 2008, I learned an important lesson watching my wife publish her first book. Her focus on keeping the process of getting published small in her mind made the experience manageable, and reminded me that I had a habit of making things bigger and more difficult than they actually were. However, my brother once advised me not to think too small. In those days, he and I were performing a show we had written, and he worried I was keeping the waters we swam in too shallow. I had learned already to seek small ponds for that Big Fish feeling, and so the warning was just.
It is entirely possible to have written a book and very much want to see it published while secretly fearing what will happen to you if it does. Writing is solitary work, and the writer must, to some degree, desire this solitude. In your workshop you are exposed to the private storms of the mind, and while it is here where we are most likely to drown, you have swum in these waters all your life, and are at least more familiar with their currents and riptides.
But then you take your work out, and someone buys it, which means anyone, from a reviewer in New York to a teenager is Anchorage, can read it and think anything they want of it. It can be hard to remember sometimes but this was exactly the point.
It is pointless to place a limit on yourself, not because everyone should seek the highest mountain to climb, but because we are by our nature forever expanding. To try and limit this expansion artificially, intellectually, is to place limit not on your potential greatness but your ability to breathe. The vastness a writer may or may not perceive as her work reaches out from her desk to hundreds and then thousands and then millions of strangers across the planet can become an awakening to a connection that has always existed, whether a story had ever been written or not.
You may pretend you are alone at your desk, but you are not. You have only shuttered your eyes to see more clearly what is directly before you. But the world passes through you whether you believe you have joined it or not. You invite it to do so with every breath you take, and like a fish you would drown only if you pulled yourself entirely from the waters of the world.