Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Miss My Goodbye Hug

Ta-dah!  The big day's finally here!  I've just sent my newest Berger-Mitry mystery, The Blood Red Indian Summer, off to my publisher.

Several friends have asked me what it feels like to finish a novel.  So here goes.  Me, I feel elated and excited.  Truly, it's a day to celebrate.  I feel a great sense of accomplishment.  Really, really proud of myself.  I feel, let's see, relieved. I feel exhausted.

And I feel totally nauseated.  Doesn't matter how many years I've been doing this.  I get tremendous separation anxiety whenever I let go of a book.  After all, it's been mine and mine alone all of these many months.  Now I'm sending it out into the cold, cruel world all by itself to be scrutinized, judged and thrown under a bus by heartless strangers who probably worship at the altar of James Patterson.  In case you're curious, this separation anxiety of mine soon gives way to a much stronger emotion -- blind panic.  For the first time in a year I realize that I'll be waking up tomorrow morning without having the slightest idea of what in the hell I'm supposed to do that day.  Actually, this is something that happens to most of us.  Usually, the blind panic lasts about a week for me.  It goes away just as soon as I open my eyes one morning, rub my hands together with glee and eagerly get started on my next book.

But I have to confess that lately I've been feeling something new and different whenever I turn in a book.  And it's really starting to bug the hell out of me.  I'm not proud to admit this but, well, here it is:

I miss my goodbye hug.

I guess I'd better explain.  I've been writing books for over 20 years.  In fact, I've been writing books for so long that I wrote my first eight books on a typewriter.  Now those were good times.  If you wanted to make even the slightest editorial change to the final draft you had to retype the entire goddamned manuscript.  Or pay someone to do it for you at the rate of $1.50 per page, which was a lot of money in those days.  Come to think of it, it's still a lot of money.  Switching to a Mac made life a lot easier for writers.  Not so much when it comes to the creation of the first draft but the re-writing and editing part, which for me is where most of the work comes in.  I can input the changes myself and generate a clean, finished draft in minutes.  It's like magic.

I used to have a bit of a personal ritual whenever I finished a new manuscript and was getting ready to send it off to my editor.  I'd carefully bind up a fresh, clean copy with two rubber bands.  I'd place it there on my desk next to a neatly addressed mailing pouch.  I'd gaze at it with fatherly pride.  And, before I slid it carefully inside of its mailing pouch, I'd pat the manuscript twice with the palm of my right hand.  Not once.  Not three times.  Twice.  I've never told anyone this before.  It was a superstition of mine, I guess.  No, it was more than that.

It was my goodbye hug.  And I don't get my goodbye hug anymore.

Wanna know why? Because there's no more manuscript.  You just attach the file to an e-mail, hit Send  and off it goes to your editor. Whooosh and it's gone. Again, it's like magic.

Except that it's cold.  It's really, really cold.  And I don't mean to sound like a hopeless trog except, well, I am a hopeless trog.  And I miss my goodbye hug, okay? There, I said it.  



  1. David,
    Loved this. Congrats. And after you've written so many books, I guess I'm glad to hear it's not auto pilot for you, and good point about the digital daze we are in. However, you can do a virtual goodbye hug. Go ahead, pat the top of your monitor. No one's looking. Agree, not the same, but the spirit is there.
    And I can relate to the typewriter days. I wrote only one book and it was at the dawn of the PC. I decided the PC was too confusing to learn and settled on the then-new Apple III. Saved lots of trees. Agree, it's magic. Hilary

  2. I hugged my Mac the other day.

    I figure, I hug most everything else I appreciate. The magnolia tree in the backyard, the resistant cat, the insanely capable, outrageously powerful blender that helps keep me healthy and happy. My yoga mat, the books I enjoy so much that I almost can't believe someone actually wrote them and I get to read them, the tee shirt of someone I love that magically still smells like them, even after being washed. And, of course, people.

    So, after 7 1/2 years w my last laptop, which is still hanging on for occasional use, the new one deserves hugs for all it encourages me to try that I hadn't before: getting hired for a vegan whole foods cheffing gig on an island... via Skype!, starting a writing group w friends w whom I always talk abt needing to do more writing, and certainly more adventures to come. Maybe I'll even get up to date on posts for my own blog!

    So, go ahead and hug your computer, all the cool kids are doing it... and I'll send a hug your way, too. Congratulations, David.


  3. David, never send your manuscripts to anyone who worships at the altar of James Patterson. It's degrading.


    P.S. I met someone once who had a pretty good sense of humor and she was from Pittsburgh. Well, okay, her family moved when she was two months old and she never went back. But still....