It begins with the company of other writers. Long before the book is even a completed manuscript, my critique group reads each chapter, giving me feedback and encouragement. At conferences and on social media, I meet other writers who are sharing this journey, toiling away on manuscripts of their own. We share stories, news, successes and disappointments, but mostly, our interactions help us to feel less alone in what is typically a solitary pursuit.
Once the book is out, new journey begins: promotion. A dirty word to many writers who'd prefer to stay in a happy little writing cocoon, toiling away at the next work-in-progress, promotion isn't really so bad if you find a way to make it your own.
For me, that meant beginning my publication celebration in a place where I write: Starbucks. On a snowy night in February, I spent four hours with good friends from all aspects of my life: family, church friends, theatre friends, co-workers and former co-workers, fellow writers...It was so much fun, I did it two more times, at three different Starbucks stores in all, and each time was wonderful. The book was merely a starting point. The conversations and connections were what made each time special.
Each of these book events, whether at a Starbucks or a book store, has given me the opportunity to connect with current friends and re-connect with old friends -- those from whom my path has diverged. And now, as I move forward, those re-connections are something to be cherished anew. People who come to celebrate with you when the time on different paths is measured in decades are people whose friendships are worth savoring. And savoring, by definition, is a process which requires both time and attention.
Writing a book and getting it published is definitely something worth celebrating. But without friends with whom to celebrate, it's merely another item to be checked off a bucket list.
When life gets hectic and it's hard to find time for that coffee or that lunch -- perhaps even because it means sacrificing time spent working on the next book -- it's important to remember that without friends, life really is just a bucket list. We can spend our time checking things off and feeling accomplished, and at the end of the day, that makes us feel pretty good. But at the end of a lifetime, it merely feels empty.
So as I set out on the journey that is the next book (and the next busy week and the next crazy month), I have to keep in mind that remaining in a cocoon may be the best way to write a book, but it's not the best way to live a life.
And in the end, I'd much rather be a social butterfly than a solitary caterpillar.