Over the past several days, I’ve come to realize that it’s not easy being a writer, particularly when you’re as emotionally invested in a project as I am in “Dear Ashley . . .” The curious thing is that many people assume that the “creative piece” is the most difficult part of writing a book – and don’t get me wrong it is challenging. But for the most part, the writing is done in solitary spaces, where the only consequence of bearing your soul is having to clean up a few ink smudges that your otherwise very private tears leave on the page. Sure, you let others in from time to time, but it is a very select group. They are chosen because they understand you. They fully appreciate the fragility of the work-in-progress and are keenly aware that the soul you are so intent on laying bare is still very much “ground under repair.” Because of that, they tread lightly on your words. But they also know how critical it is for you to dig deeper still. They see a powerful truth emerging and they are intent on coaxing it to come out. And then finally, almost mercifully, it does and the book is launched – a message in a bottle.
Turns out that’s where the real difficulty in being a writer lies. It’s in the waiting and the wondering. It’s in the sometimes deafening silence between the launch and the public response. Who, if anyone, will find my bottle? Will they decide to pick it up? Will they take the time to look inside – the book and my soul? What will they think of it when they do? What will they think of me? In some respects, I suppose the feelings aren’t that dissimilar from any one of a number of other creative endeavors. It likely is what an artist feels when, having poured his heart into a painting in the privacy of his studio for months, the day finally arrives to hang it on the wall of a gallery for all the world to see – and judge. It also is what a thespian in musical theater must experience in the awkward moments of silence that inevitably follow even the most breathtaking rendition of a critical song, as the audience withholds their thunderous applause to be certain the song is fully over. In those instances, however, the feedback is almost immediate. Not so in the case of a writer. For us, the initial feedback can take weeks or months.
Yesterday, the “public silence” was broken, as the first official review of “Dear Ashley . . .” appeared on barnesandnoble.com and on amazon.com:
“Dear Ashley is a beautiful book which is both heartrendingly tragic and joyfully inspiring. It is more than an extraordinary soul-baring work courageously told by a father as he struggles to help his daughter battle anorexia; it is also an intense, intelligent and inspiring examination of parenting. Dear Ashley is emotionally powerful without ever being sentimental. It is a brilliant juxtaposition of hope and hopelessness, trust and doubt, faith and despair, courage and fear, and, ultimately: love. Every parent and every adolescent should read this remarkable book.”
Humbled – beyond words.