Remember the first time you had sex?
Maybe you spent months — or years — dreaming about the moment when it would finally happen. Maybe you didn’t think about it much at all. Maybe you were impatient because all your friends had already done it, and you couldn’t wait for your turn. Maybe you were determined to be the first one of your friends to do it. Maybe you were the last, and you worried there was something wrong with you. Maybe you wanted to do it to prove something about yourself — that you were beautiful, or lovable, or wanted. Special. Chosen.
And maybe it was everything you ever imagined it would be. Maybe it lived up to all the hype. Maybe you felt different afterward. Maybe you waited until you were really sure, and your first time was with someone you truly loved, and even if it was a little awkward and weird, it was still beautiful.
Or maybe it was just weird. Maybe you didn’t wait long enough, maybe you were too young, maybe you had no idea how big of a deal it would be until it was too late. Maybe it didn’t change you at all, or maybe it changed you for all the wrong reasons. Maybe you felt out of control. Maybe you just wanted to get it out of the way. Maybe you were scared. Maybe you felt powerful. Maybe you felt used. Maybe you were drunk and hardly remember. Maybe you thought you were in love but now you cringe at the thought of ever having feelings for that cretin.
And after that first time, things did change. Maybe you were no longer content to linger on the brush of a hand against an arm, a meaningful look, a borrowed coat on a chilly night. Maybe you were impatient to get to bed, or maybe he was. Maybe you both were, and if your evenings didn’t end up in bed something felt like it was missing. Maybe you wished you could go back to the time when kissing in the driveway was enough, when an entire week’s worth of gossip could be spent on one phone call. Maybe afterward you wished you hadn’t done it. Maybe afterward you wanted to do all the time.
Whatever your first time was like, you’re stuck with it. When you’re sitting around with your girlfriends and everyone’s had too much wine and the topic comes up, this is the story you have, whatever it was like: in the back of a car, in your parents’ basement, in your childhood bedroom, in a stranger’s dormroom, on your wedding night.
And it’s the same with publishing your first book.
(Except then imagine that after the first time you have sex, you have to spend the next six months doing interviews and writing guest blogs about why you chose to sleep with the partner you did, and everyone you know — your friends, your family, your high school teachers, your grandma, your co-workers — will sit around and scrutinize your partner and ask you weird questions, and complete strangers will write detailed analyses of what they do or do not like about your partner and post them in public forums.)
My point is, publishing can be an amazing experience, yes. It can also be weird and uncomfortable and embarrassing. And just like with sex, you should wait until you’re sure you’re ready for all the ways it will change you, your writing, your expectations, and others’ expectations of you.
So ask yourself: are you trying to get this project published because you just want to be published? Are you looking for some kind of validation, or fame, or money? Is your project ready? Are you in love? Are you ready?
Because after this, you can never go back to being unpublished. Your life will change in ways you can’t anticipate. You may not be content with writing just for the fun of it, just for the joy of exploring a character or discovering a story. You may start worrying about what your audience, or your critics, or your co-workers will say about it. You may not have the luxury of working without deadlines anymore. And if you don’t feel special and chosen before publication, you probably won’t feel it afterward.
Whether you’re content to wait until the perfect moment or eager to hurry up and get it over with, enjoy your pre-publication life. It has its own beauty, and its own joys. And when your time comes, enjoy that too. Whether it’s beautiful or awkward, rushed or relaxed, exactly as you imagined or nothing like you ever dreamed, it will be yours, and you’ll never forget it.
The Debs are giving away query critiques to 5 of our beloved readers! To be eligible, just leave a comment any day during this week ( Including Saturday, April 14ths post—contributed by our FABULOUS guest agent Michelle Wolfson) and specify if you’d like to be entered in the contest and we will randomly select 5 winners. You’ll have up to two weeks to send us a digital copy of your query letter (for books in any genre) and we’ll give you feedback on the query. We’re so excited to see what everyone is working on!