Sunday Scribblings: Goodbyes

This afternoon, I sat at my local Starbucks and started the process of saying goodbye to the poems in my manuscript. As you may know, I’m working on my first collection—it hasn’t been picked up for publication yet. But as I deciphered the comments that I’ve received thus far, here’s what I realized: sending these poems out in the world for publication scares me.

You’d think that posting individual poems online would be more terrifying, but only a few people in my immediate circle of friends know that I blog. Like most poems, they’re deeply personal, so the thought of neighbors, coworkers, and family members reading my work makes me anxious just typing the words.

I’ve had people come up to me and ask questions about things I’ve said on the blog—“so tell me, how did you feel when you wrote that poem about blacking out in a bar?” Yikes! Can’t imagine someone I see every day asking me about this stuff, holding a copy of the book in their hands like evidence from a crime scene. "Hey Jan, read your book. How did you feel about blacking out in a bar?" If I don’t put those thoughts out of my mind I’ll never get the collection finished.

Thumbing through the pages, I also realized that some of these pieces are more than 10 years old, while have been around less than three months. Patterns are revealing themselves, creating theme and giving me the tools to shape an arc in my work. The flip side of patterns is that I’m relying on the same phrases and themes, which makes me feel somewhat unoriginal. So it just feels like it’s time to let go of the whole thing and move forward.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to end this post, but I just saw a commercial in the background that sums up how I feel. It was a Cadillac ad with Andy Garcia driving a big, ol’ SUV down a beautiful stretch of highway, and in voiceover he said something to the effect of: “It’s okay to take a fall; you just want to make sure you fall forward." And that’s how I feel about this manuscript. I’m putting it out there with all of my anxieties in hopes I get more than I give.

Visit Sunday Scribblings for more goodbyes and fond farewells.


Thought provoking. It made me think of my own writings which I do not want to be read by my immediate friends or family.

bb said…
a lot of nodding in agreement from me as i read through...

~good luck~ as you cut the umbilical cord and ~bon voyage~ to your manuscript.

with love x
GreenishLady said…
When I find myself wondering how to deal with those questions,I am comforted by a comment of Natalie Goldberg's - "You are not your poem". It was written at another time in your life, or out of a persona that is not all of you, or out of an exaggerated persona, perhaps. And you don't have to explain anything.

Go for it! Enjoy! Apart from the birth of my son, the day I finally got to hold my book in my hands was the day I felt the most HERE on planet earth.
Paris Parfait said…
I think you just have to look at submitting things as a process. And I really believe if one person doesn't appreciate your work, another will. Too often worrying about what others will think stops us from writing certain things. I don't know the answer to that; I've written personal things on the blog that many of my friends didn't know. But the thought of my family reading does give me pause. Good luck - may your submissions have wings to fly! xo
Kamsin said…
Good luck as you shape your manuscript. Why is it so much easier to reveal intimate things to "strangers", but fear the reactions or consequences of those who in theory know and love us anyway? Here's hoping you can say goodbye to the fear I guess most of us who blog can identify with.
Jemima said…
Just printing some of my blog poems out and looking at them on paper scared me to death. There's a world of difference between the shadowy other world of my blog and the cut-throat horror of books.
Good luck with finding a publisher!
Three cheers! I will certainly be one of your first customers!

Greenish lady has some good advice. Have you read Natalie Goldberg? She's wonderful.

So are you!
Dani said…
I know that feeling of trepidation before you show someone else your work. You should have confidence that you will be able to answer any questions your work brings up.
January said…
Dani, it's such a strange thing to present your life in poems, something I never really thought about in the creation process.
January said…
Greenish Lady, THANK YOU!

Go for it! Enjoy! Apart from the birth of my son, the day I finally got to hold my book in my hands was the day I felt the most HERE on planet earth.

I'm taking your words with me.
January said…
Pepek, I think I have The Artist's Way somewhere in a box in my basement. I bought it when it came out but it didn't resonate with me.

Maybe I should dig out the book and take a fresh look at it.
Bug said…
Congrats Jan for letting go of it! Of course it's scary--terrifying, I would imagine. But the 3 sections I have read are more than ready for publication. And as for people asking you questions, you can always default to the standard, "The 'I' is the speaker of the poem, not an autobiographical I." :)
January said…
Very true, Bug. Very true.
I relate deeply to this. I know this is the reason why I have not submitted certain poems for publication. Please realize you don't need to explain your poems to anyone nor answer questions by disssecting your insides! It's hard to come up with polite phrases for family and friends but I think you can do so and still retain professionalism and good relations with them. It's a hard balance.

You wrote beautifully and openly about how hard this goodbye is to do. My family and friends don't read my blog either. That exposed feeling is raw and hard now that you're submitting your manuscript. I'm happy you want to "fall forward." I look forward to reading your work here and seeing it in the bookstore! Yes!
Jone said…
Fall forward and I hope you get a publisher. i want to read your poems. "...blacking out..." struck a chord with me. My parents are gone now and I feel freer to write about my past.

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