The bits are zipping through the internet to Riverhead, my publisher, as I write this. That feels good.
I can’t wait to get my editor’s reactions.
So it took me one year (of writing part-time, since I never took a book leave) from the proposal to the first draft, and another four months to finish this second draft. I went about it rather as Khaled Hosseini does: one run through to have a working blueprint, then another to add the beauty.
Allow me to indulge for one moment in a short meditation on success. The book is about success and failure and how each constantly wants to turn into the other, so this is appropriate.
When I started writing, I defined for myself two layers of success: In the first layer, I would simply write exactly the book that had conceived in my head, a book that I would be proud of. I’m really happy to say that this is how it turned out. So I’ve succeeded.
The second layer is conventional success–ie, good reviews and sales. That, obviously, is something over which I have absolutely no control once I bid my manuscript adieu. So I have decided, for the time being, not to worry about it.
Which reminds me of a story that a professor of Japanese history once told me in college, long ago. He was visiting a Japanese artist and walking around the artist’s house, admiring the paintings. The professor stopped before one and said ‘Why, this one is just stunning!’
The Japanese artist said ‘Thank You’, then took the painting off the wall and tore it to shreds.
Had this guy gone nuts? the professor asked rhetorically years later when he told me about this. No! For this artist, Zen-inspired, painting was something that he did for its own sake. He was not being rude or weird by ripping it up. He was simply showing, or reminding himself, that the praise of others was not necessary, that the painting had already brought him all the joy it could, and that he was now detached from it.
Don’t get ideas. Nobody gets to rip up my manuscript. But I like the story.