I remember one thing about the night we brought home my oldest son, Jesse, from the hospital – the moment our people left. The people who knew anything about babies. I’m sure they did it out of consideration – you know, to give us a moment – but it was a risky maneuver because Matt and I didn’t know a thing. Not one thing. This is why I didn’t sleep that first night. I didn’t know whether babies breathed without you staring at them, and until my people returned to answer that question, I was on watch.
I had a baby! And I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was scared.
My book is my fourth child, and when I share its arrival with people, it begets similar excitement. It’s the quintessential bucket list item, right? Writing a book is one of those cool things to have done with your life, and unlike my many (many, many, many) past jobs, people actually want to hear about this one … or at least more than they wanted to hear about my Master’s thesis on women’s legal status in the ancient Near East or the online help files I edited for account receivables software. Did any of you even read the rest of that last sentence before your eyes bugged out?
My jobs have killed many conversations, but writing a book?!?!?!? It’s exciting!
I wrote a book! And I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m scared.
Here’s the list of all I don’t know from this past week:
- How to format my book for Kindle
- How to write my summary for the book jacket
- How to write my author bio for the book jacket
- How to speed up the editing process so I can publish my book in June like I really, really, really, really want to
- How to get more than 50 people to read my book if I ever do get around to publishing it
- How to divvy up my days between figuring all of this out and blogging and writing Book 2 … and living the rest of my life
I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m scared. And it’s been this way since the first chapter. Sometimes I plow through the fear to get my work done, but this week was like that first night home with Jesse – me staring and not getting much done at all.
Jesse turned 9 yesterday. 9! 9? 9. We made it through that first night and all the rest I didn’t know to make it here. But my list of dunno hasn’t decreased so much as changed. I know Jesse doesn’t need me to watch him breathe, but what should he do about that girl he has crush on? Dunno. Do I need to be put him in organized sports – just in case he wants to play for the school team when he’s older – or is it okay if he keeps running around with the neighborhood kids after school? Should I give him allowance for household chores? When do I introduce deodorant into this situation? Is it okay for him to stay at home by himself while I run to the grocery? Dunno, dunno, dunno …
I have a 9-year-old boy! And I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m scared. And yet, my knowledge and comfort level aren’t prerequisites for my boys to grow up just fine, which reminds me of my only mothering goal I ever set. It wasn’t to win awards. It wasn’t for others to consider me great. It wasn’t perfection. If I’d served these ends, I’d never have moved past the staring stage. I mother from the basest of levels – to do my best by my kids given my day.
I didn’t just stare at Jesse that first night. I also picked him up, even though I didn’t know how to hold him. And when he cried, I sang him a song I didn’t know I remembered. You are my sunshine. I didn’t know how my voice would calm him, calm me. I didn’t know that I would go on to sing that song to him every night, right up until the night he asked me not to because it embarrassed him. And I didn’t know that the censorship would end this past Sunday after we sang together in church. You have a beautiful voice, Mom. You can sing to me anytime you want.
That boy. This book. Last week was a bust. I wish I could say this week will be different, but girls, I don’t know. I know I need to get over myself – that’s pretty obvious – but how? When? I don’t know. But I do know that however and whenever it happens, it will come from the basest of levels – to do my best by my writing given my day. I’ll figure out some of the things I don’t know, new dunnos will take their place, and eventually, a book will emerge. Mostly likely, it won’t win awards, and I’ll remain as anonymous as I ever was. Hard as I try, it won’t be perfect, but it was never about that anymore than it was about me. It’s about the work. And that – to have done that – is worthy of an exclamation point, every time.