L is for Letting Go
This is a tender topic for me, something that's hard for me to do personally, and I'm sure was hard for my mother before me. When you've done the best that you can, when you've given something or someone your all, there comes a time when you have to let it/them go.
For mothers all over the world, this is a terrible balancing act. When and how do they let go? Baby birds learn to fly at great personal risk, and mothers must watch helplessly. But the truth behind the questions of how and when is that it isn't up to us. There comes a time when children stand up and say, "I am me. You are you. I'm going now. This is my next step into the world."
Whether we let go or not, the time comes when our white-knuckled grasp is only holding air.
It's this way with art, too. Like children, art comes from a very tender, private place inside us. It is cultivated by our love and attention. It is shaped by us, as much as it is within our talents and power, to resemble what we think it ought to be. And when we've done our best, given our all, it's time to let go.
For authors lucky and determined enough to have publishing contracts or self-publishing release dates, that time is a specific date. For them, letting go is a fixed affair. "On this day I will send my book baby into the world, come what may." You see a lot of posts to this effect on twitter and facebook. Authors say, "I've done it. It's release day. I'm sending it out into the world. I hope you love it."
But you can't make them love it. You can't even make them understand it. People will misunderstand your art, just as they will insist on misunderstanding you. People will chop up your work, quote it or paraphrase it out of context, make you look silly (sparkly vampires). People will snark about what is sacred to you, make themselves seem clever while tearing you down. It's what people do sometimes.
People may review the earliest edition of your self-published book (as happened to a very vocal disgruntled writer a few years back). They may reprint your typos and call them stupidity.
And they will do all of this without asking for your permission.
Let it go.
Then there are artists like me. I'm not published, and I haven't published myself. I've talked about it. I've thought about it, but I'm just not ready. Some of my closest friends and family say, "Let it go." Just put your art out into the world and let it be read, even when it's not perfect. I resist. I want it to be perfect. I want it to be without flaws. I want to "avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong understanding to ridicule" (Darcy).
Some painters swipe and brush away at their favorite pieces in the lamp-lit corners of their houses, never portraying their art to the community because all they can see are the flaws. I don't want to be that. But I also want my "debut" to be auspicious and what they call promising. I want to be read and appreciated and most of all understood.
So I can understand if even a traditionally published author has trouble, because I feel it, too, the resistance, as tight as a rubber band, to the notion, the pull against gravity, telling me to