Today is the day I let go after who-knows-how-many dozens of revisions. You would think a children’s book wouldn’t take this much effort. (OK, well I would’ve thought that once.) But when you only have a thousand words in which to captivate a child’s imagination with the story of Jesus,
So this is the scary part. Handing it over to someone else and waiting to see what they do with my book. It’s weird. I’ve been on the other side of the editor-author relationship many times, but this is my first seeing it from an author’s point of view.
I think it would be harder to let someone else leave their mark on my book if there weren’t so many sets of fingerprints on it already. There’s my mom, the first to see a writer in me and to nurture that potential. There’s Brian, my first boss at World Vision, the first person who actually paid me to write, who took a chance on hiring a writer without a professional writing background. There’s Sandra, who edited almost everything I wrote at World Vision, who scared the crap out of me a little at first, but who helped me become a better writer and gave me the confidence to put myself out there. There’s Rob, the Welsh writer and actor who saw creative potential in everyone he met — so much so that each time we were together, even the last time when his cancer had nearly run its course, he wanted to know what I was writing, what I was creating. (Rob, I finally have an interesting answer.) There’s Scot, who was the first to share what started as a simple blog post written for my daughter, and also the first to tell me I should turn it into a book. There’s my agent Linda, who has patiently put up with more revisions of this thing than I think either of us anticipated — and has added immense value to each. There’s my wife, who’s done more than anyone to give me the confidence to write — and who has a knack for telling me when something doesn’t make sense or when I should find a better way to express myself, all while managing to make me feel good about it.
And of course, there’s my daughter Elizabeth. This will always be her book. (Though I’m sure she won’t mind sharing it with others, too.) It will always be the book I wrote to try, in my own faltering way, to express to her what God is doing in our world and how she can be part of it. If it does that for her, then I don’t really care how many copies it sells.
(OK, well maybe I care a little.)
Not long ago, a politician caused a controversy (imagine that) by saying to a room full of successful businesspeople, “You didn’t build that.” By which he meant: You didn’t build that on your own. There were others who helped lay the foundation for your success.
His opponent tried turning his statement into a political advantage, as all politicians are wont to do, even making a slogan (and merchandise) out of its antithesis: I did built that.
Setting politics aside, along with debates over the role of government in our success (or lack of it), I appreciate perhaps more than I used to the truth that “I didn’t build that.” I can see the delusion in thinking that any of us got where we are on our own.
This realization helps me to let go of my work. (Which is not to say that letting go is easy.) It helps me to realize that it’s not really mine to begin with. I didn’t create it on my own. I wouldn’t have been capable of creating it if it weren’t for the investments made in me by others. And I didn’t write this book for myself, either. I wrote it for my daughter and others like her who need to be introduced to the story of Jesus in a more authentic, more compelling way.
So it’s not really “my” manuscript. It’s not “my” book.
(Now if I can just remember that when the time comes for others to add their mark to it…)