Me and my book – Sarah Bailey

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By Sarah Bailey

Sometimes I look at my published book and feel nothing. No real connection, no relationship. No link. Other times I look at it and feel an undeniable jolt of emotion. An otherworldly spark. It’s mine, I think with pride, closely followed by, a bewildered, I wrote that.

Similarly, I often read reviews of my book and feel a strange sense of disassociation, as if the world I created from scratch is a slightly embarrassing thing from my past that I can only vaguely recall. Both the praise and the insults wash over me without any real impact. On other days, I can read a review and feel a whip of pain right to the heart (this is especially the case if I know the criticism to be valid) or I might feel an intense surge of love for the reviewer because, well, they totally got it. They got me.

It would seem that this hot and cold relationship is just one aspect of strangeness that comes with publishing a book.

I recently had the strange experience of reading my finished published book from beginning to end. It was not something that I ever expected to do, writers are not like singers, we don’t play our songs over and over. After publication, I intended to have a few copies of my novel on a bookshelf for eternity, perhaps pick one up from time to time, but read it again? Hell no. Then, a few months after my book was birthed it became apparent that I needed to revisit those words I had massaged so many times. I had a sequel to write.

Consistency was required. Flow. Character development.

So, I set about reading my own book from start to finish just like I read every other book.

Yes, I found the occasional error, missed opportunities, cringe-worthy metaphors and clumsy phrasing, but I also found myself getting sporadically lost in the story, for the most part able to block out its highly personal origin. Upon finishing, I reflected as objectively as possible, that it seemed like an okay book.

The first time I saw my book in a shop I turned into a one-woman comedy skit. I spotted it when I walked in, then proceeded to studiously ignore it for at least ten minutes. I perused every section in the store except the area that my book was positioned in. I’m not sure whether I was savouring the moment or trying to avoid it but when I eventually stood in front of it, touched it just a little bit, I felt all the emotions: it was amazing, anti-climatic, a relief, special and nothing, all at once.

I think that perhaps similarly to the relationship you have with a child, a book is yours but it is also not. It’s forever bound to you, but once published, it becomes its own entity. You conceived it, nurtured it, cursed it and eventually come to terms with letting it go. You can be embarrassed by it and proud of it in the same minute. Regardless of the bond, after months of being part of you, it is suddenly separate. And while a daunting prospect, it is pretty incredible to know that out there somewhere, at any moment in time, someone might be reading the book you wrote and feeling whatever they damn well want to about it.

Whether these thoughts are good or bad, I’ve come to realise it’s a true privilege to be read. And, like any proud and nervous parent, my job is to get out of the way and let it make its way in the big wide world.


Sarah Bailey is an Australian based writer with a background in advertising and communications. She has two young children and currently works as a director of creative projects company Mr Smith. Over the past five years she has written a number of short stories and opinion pieces. The Dark Lake is her first novel.

sarahbaileyauthor.com

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