Yesterday my book, Passages Through Pakistan, was released. I have been looking forward to this day – a day when my 8-year-old baby is born and the world sees it. I’ve also been nervous. This journey of writing is a vulnerable journey. Whenever we put words on paper and they are released to the world there is a chance that they will not be well received. That’s life and it comes with any public creative process.
Advance copies were sent to several folks who would assist with the book launch. Everything was ready. Until we realized that the advance copies were poorly printed, the font color uneven and distracting.
It’s a small thing, but to my fragile psyche it felt huge. Emails and messages flew back and forth yesterday afternoon and I couldn’t rest. I became an Angry Diva, convincing myself that this was the most important thing that anyone could or should think about.
At seven o’clock, I collapsed on the couch in tears. My book baby with its eight year gestation had birth spots. Suddenly I wanted to pull the whole thing. Uneven color font be damned, I was done. Why on earth did I think I could write anyway? Why did I even try?
The downward spiral didn’t stop. Instead it continued and soon I moved on from questioning my ability to write to questioning why I existed. I was questioning my worth as a mom, as a wife, as an employee, and ultimately as a human being.
Earlier in February my husband and I watched an interesting film featuring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant. The film is called Florence Foster Jenkins after a historical person of the same name. Florence Foster Jenkins was an opera singer who lived in New York. She had inherited a lot of money and no talent.
“The historian Stephen Pile ranked her ‘the world’s worst opera singer’. ‘No one, before or since,’ he wrote, ‘has succeeded in liberating themselves quite so completely from the shackles of musical notation.’*
The movie portrays the way her partner, a Shakespearean actor, protects her. He hides reviews of her concerts so she doesn’t see the criticism; he pays other reviewers to write glowing and effusive reviews; he even pays people to attend her concerts.
As you can imagine, one day the charade crashes. You can only hide the truth for so long. Sooner or later it will be revealed. So Florence reads some nasty reviews, and she is shaken to the core.
In a poignant scene toward the end of the film, she looks at her partner and says to him: “They may say I can’t sing, but they can never say I didn’t sing.”
This morning as I was reflecting on how I acted like a diva to disguise my fragile ego, how I suddenly began questioning my worth in every area of my life, I began thinking about Florence Foster Jenkins and how her spirit was wounded, but not completely crushed when she realized the truth. And I thought about my writing, how its been an unexpected gift these past eight years, how no matter what happens with this book – it has been a cathartic, healing process.
I have put down memories and feelings. I have revisited my faith. I have processed boarding school joy and pain. And I have met incredible people in the process.
So in the spirit of Florence Foster Jenkins I give you the honesty of an angry diva, the humiliation of a fragile psyche, and the words “They may say I can’t write, but they can never say I didn’t write.”
Also, the printing problem is almost corrected, so I can assure you that you will get a good copy should you choose to stroke my ego and buy my words! And I would love, love, love it if you did.
9 thoughts on “An Angry Diva and a Fragile Psyche”
What an unexpected blessing that the two of you had watched that film! You had no idea how impactful it would be. Isn’t that life for you. I recently wrote a blog post that I thought was perfect but in the light of day was way below my standards, and that made me freak out, so I can only imagine your feelings yesterday. I’m so happy to hear that you can find peace in the good that was produced. In 2 years you’ll laugh about the dreadfulness of it all.
What a beautiful sharing of the angst we can have in life. It’s so good to share our fallen humanity. Thank you for that.
I recently had a bad writing experience and a writer friend suggested that I “Lie on the floor and wallow for a little while, then sigh, get up, and get back to work.” I loved that – let it hurt, then recognize that it isn’t world-ending, and press on. I love that you are doing that and I love that you are releasing your heart to the world through this book.
This is the BEST ADVICE EVER! I am a personal believer in wallow with a side dish of icecream!
My copy should arrive tomorrow, according to Amazon! I hope I can get it autographed, eventually!! :)
I would love that! So honored that you ordered it.
I’m looking forward to getting your book. I can recognize my experiences in your writing. My “Pakistan” was called Ceylon. I’m trying to find a thread to follow in my story, and I’ve been inspired by your writing even before!
I’m sure you will get many readers of your new book!
So delighted to hear this. I hope it resonates with your memories and your heart.
This honesty is what I love best about you! Can’t wait to get my copy, perfect or otherwise.