Today I’d like to continue my week-long discussion of why I love writing by focusing on the end product. All the long hours and months and sometimes years of work all lead to a competed book that you can hold in your hands, feel the texture, see the print, smell the ink and read the prose. It is such a brilliant feeling of accomplishment, like no other. Although I would hardly consider it a pinnacle in my life, holding my novel for the first time gave me a feeling of such intense delight that I’m sure I had never experienced that feeling before that moment. Other authors tell me that you feel those intense emotions with each new book, and I can’t wait to find out if that is true.
Earlier this year I stopped off for a few weeks in Japan on my way back from a four-month trek through Southeast Asia. While in Japan, I exhausted my reading material. The only book I had left that I hadn’t read on the trip was a copy of my own novel, Island Song. So I took it to a park in Tokyo and, snuggled amid the blooming cherry trees, I read my novel. It was the first time I had ever read it without trying to edit the prose or change the story. I read it for the simple pleasure of reading a story that I love. I’ve heard from several writers that they never read their work once they have finished with it, but I found a quiet elation in rereading my novel. It had been a year since I had last proofread it, so I had forgotten much of the details. Some of it surprised me that it was written so well, and I often had a tinge of fear that my next novel, due out in September, will not measure up to Island Song. But the marvelous thing is, the book is there on the shelf and I can revisit the story and get reacquainted with the characters any time I wish. I love that.
When I look at that book now, what I see is something that will survive me. Perhaps it’s simply a trick of my ego, but I envision, long after my death, people picking up my work for the first time and finding a small joy in what I’ve left for them. I like to think my work will survive, and that means that in a minute way I will survive also, because so much of me has spilled onto those pages.