A book is more than words on paper. It’s more than an escape for the reader and a service produced by the author. It’s less than a cornerstone of civilization as the author may feel. Obviously it’s somewhere in between, but if you take away its physical form, it’s hard to define it.
I asked a good friend what a book was, and one of the things she said was that a book can make you angry, make you smile, make you laugh, and make you cry. And that really is one of a book’s best qualities, isn’t it? It bridges the gap between the author and the reader when the same scene or bit of dialogue might make both laugh or cry as it is written and read. Instead of authors dreaming of money, fame, and bestsellers, that right there ought to be an author’s biggest aspiration. To build bridges.
I’m sitting here sneaking glances at my latest book as I type. It’s being released soon, but for now it’s still my own to contemplate, admire, and enjoy. It’s the result of hard work—not luck as in winning the lottery or nature as in giving birth—and the pride and joy it brings me is unique because of it.
I say hard work. It’s a lot more than that. When I choose to write (or when writing chooses me), it means becoming consumed. To write a book means making sacrifices, saying no, and going slowly mad until I don’t know crappy writing from good.
It also means doing what I’m good at. Not what’s expected of me professionally and socially, but finding the voice I lack in other areas of my life. The result is a book that shows what I love, what I hate, what I worry about, and what I enjoy. The books I write aren’t about me, but I’m part of them. Part of every word I put on the page.
I’m the author. No book I write will ever mean as much to anyone else as it does to me. This is fact. Other authors will know what I feel when I write “the end”, when a glowing review ticks in, or when I hold the child of my heart in print for the first time. But they won’t know which parts of me went into the writing. Because there’s no recipe for writing. Only the one you invent and that works for you.
A book is words on a page. Letters put in a specific order. A book is whatever you make it. And I am fortunate enough to make my own.