How do you even begin to define the moment you began work on a particular book? Was it the moment you first sat down and put pen to paper? The moment when the first words began to flow from your brain to the page? Was it the moment you first had the conscious idea for a story? Or was it the moment (maybe years ago when you were a child) that you experienced something that would...someday...become a book? Or could it go back even further than that? Back to a time that somehow connected (in your subconscious? in the memories that arise only in dreams?) to the story you have—only now—created?
When students ask me when or how I got the idea for a particular story, I often have a ready answer: I was on a plane; I was walking with my daughter; my two sons were having a fight over a lemonade stand. But truthfully, I think we are creating our stories all our lives. Every day, in ways we can't even comprehend, we are living and experiencing and thinking and feeling and collecting and hiding—and all of it becomes one story or another. Or many stories all at once.
Okay, enough with the metaphysical stuff. Here's one part of any story that has a definite date, no question about it. And that is the publication date (or "pub date," as we in the biz call it). And I've got a pub date coming up. In fact, my next pub date is in exactly two weeks—and so the countdown begins. On Tuesday, September 13, my next book—PANDA PANTS—will be out in the world. And that's a very particular moment for an author.
Because that is truly the moment of letting go. Once a book is out in the world, it stops being yours. It belongs to whoever reads it. It is their story. They get to decide if it's good or bad. They get to decide what the story is really about. They get to decide to share it with a friend or toss it back on the shelf, unread. They can accept it or reject it. Love it or hate it. (Or simply ignore it. The worst of all.)
And here's the only thing that an author can do: start the next story. Because if you spend even one ounce of energy responding to the world's response, that's an ounce of precious energy that is sucked away from your next work. Holding on will sap your strength, as surely as a spring cold or a rip tide. It's time to let go.
But not for two more weeks. For two more weeks, PANDA PANTS is mine. Then the world can have it. It will belong to you. Do with it what you will. I'm already working on my next story...