An Author's Best Support

I always find the acknowledgment and dedication pages to be tender beginnings to a book. Here the author takes a moment to mention those people who stuck by her when she doubted herself and who believed in her story when no one else did. Without their love and support, the author often suggests, the book you hold in your hand simply wouldn’t exist. The solitary business of writing a book invites a kind of self-doubt to which few writers are immune. How nice to have the support of someone when your own confidence is lacking. How nice to say, “I think I suck,” and have that someone say, “No, you don’t.” How necessary to ask your wife, “What if this is a waste of time?” and have her ask in reply, “What if it’s not?”

Though once, at a particularly low point in my writing life, I went for a long walk to clear my head. I had turned to my wife too often already that day, and nothing she offered could undo the knot into which I had accidentally tied my mind. I was on my own. So off I went, fists jammed into my pockets, turning and turning the puzzle of my life and career like a Rubik’s Cube.

I crossed a small bridge that spanned a creek too shallow to drown oneself. I should just quit, I thought. Chuck the whole business. As I thought this, I imagined all those kind people who had supported me over the years – my wife and my parents, my brother and sister and my old friends – imagined them learning after all their support that I had given it up. “They wouldn’t even care that I quit,” I thought bitterly. “All they want is for me to be happy.”

I stopped walking and unclenched my fists. It was the first true thing I’d thought that day. It really did seem to me sometimes that my happiness required that certain specific conditions be met, and the least people who loved me could do is agree with that, since they claimed to be interested in my wellbeing. Except I would never apply this formula to anyone I loved. If I did, it wouldn’t be love I felt for them.

By the time I was home, I was ready to write again. The Rubik’s Cube hadn’t been solved, however; I’d just lost interest in playing with it. I was more interested in this story I was telling. I didn’t know how it would end, or if it would be published, or who would read it. I just knew I was interested in telling it, which at that moment was enough to call me back to my desk. It was also enough to open the door in my mind from which stories flow. I really don’t understand stories until that door is open. If that door is closed, stories are as unknowable to me as my Rubik’s Cube is unsolvable.

Fortified by a good day’s work, I returned to my family ready to support them. My wife and children had their own doubts, after all. Doubt doesn’t need a book; it can fill any little space between where you are and where you think you might be headed. How similar love is to that door I open to the stories I want to tell. I only know love when I’m with it, and I will always have its support when I choose to share it.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion.

"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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