Pandora’s Book

Written by Hollye Dexter

July 31, 2010

Yeah so I finished writing my book last week. No biggie. Just eight grueling years of my life; two where I couldn’t write at all, several spent in intensive therapy, and this year, working like a woman possessed, until finally last week….I completed it. Got my first rough draft printed out and sobbed in Kinko’s when I held it in my hands. The sheer weight of it… I wrote all that? I was on a giddy high for about a half hour. I did it! I wrote a book!

Flash forward to a half hour later. Completely depressed and hand-wringing. All this work, what if nothing ever becomes of it? What if I’m not inspired to write anything more? Then what will I obsess over? Oh the misery….

For three days I couldn’t bear to look at it. It sat on my desk, taunting me as I paced circles around it. My husband said he was so proud of me, he wanted to tell everyone. NO! I shouted. Don’t tell anyone!

Uh…isn’t that the point of writing a book? So people will know about it, and uh…read it? He was right. But I couldn’t bear to let anyone know. I have no idea why.

That Monday, I vowed to face it. I would start at the beginning and read it all the way through. I took my manuscript to a café, and sat on the outdoor patio with my editing pen and a glass of Chardonnay. It felt like a very writerly thing to do. I put my reading glasses on, took a deep breath and cheerily started in on my final edits. Chapter one…

By chapter two I was convinced I’d never be a writer. I’d either have to scrap the whole thing and start over or just quit writing altogether. What was I thinking? Eight years of my life? I put my head in my hands, feeling hopeless. Then out of nowhere, a flying beetle the size of a Hummer started dive-bombing me to the point where, after ten minutes of relentless attack I had to leave the café, practically in tears. On the way out I slammed my sandaled foot into the corner of a door and was bleeding all over the place. As I limped, bleeding, into the parking lot I was hustled by a six foot two junkie that looked just like one of my brothers (who is a junkie). At this point I was so stressed I screamed BACK OFF. He actually took three giant steps backward, his hands up in the air and said “Sorry Ma’am”. Just then my phone rang. It was my kid’s summer camp calling to tell me my son was vomiting. After I got home and held my son’s head over the toilet I tossed that damn manuscript in the closet and slammed the door shut. And I haven’t let it back out yet.

Like Dr. Frankenstein, I fear the very thing I have created. I feel like it has a power of its own, like Pandora’s box, or as my husband called it, Pandora’s Book. It’s as if writing the memoir of my childhood has released all these scary ghosts. I mean think about it. My septic system backed up into my yard, crazy people started threatening my family, my kid keeps getting sick, all these issues from my past are being dug up, flying beetles attacking me. It’s almost apocalyptic! I don’t know. I’m getting a little freaked out and superstitious. I do believe that words are powerful. Powerful enough to bring a curse on me? Or am I just being neurotic? I swear I can almost hear that thing banging on the closet door, rattling the doorknob to get out.

My stomach is wretching. I grab my side and bend over. This must be what they call writer’s cramp. And then, my angel-friend Amy calls (who is a brilliant, much more experienced writer), and I tell her how insane and neurotic I am. I tell her about my crazy behavior. Is this normal, I ask?

Oh yes, she says calmly, absolutely normal. And you’ll go through it with every book you write. I sit down and exhale.

Congratulations on finishing your book, she says happily, and welcome to the writer’s life.

I slowly open the closet door….

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  1. Anonymous

    Hollye: Brava, Congrats.
    Based on your blog your book is going to be a best seller.
    Your story will touch many people. Things in your life that you only mentioned in little bits will be larger than life in your book and they will make others in the world realize that they are not alone possibly facing a similar experience. How you have such a loving family and enjoy fun times together. How just from your blog and FB I feel PEACE:) so get that book off to the publisher…..I will come to CA just to meet you, purchase it and you better sign it!!!! love xoxo

  2. Hollye Dexter

    Oh thank you Kathleen!!! Thank you thank you!!!!
    I'll surely meet you before then, at the opening night of Amy's play!
    love and kisses xoxo – Hollye

  3. Anonymous

    i love that the book was trying to come out of the closet !!! How do think the book feels !!! LOL oh and the writers cramp….brillant !!!! I am sure many people are affraid to let the book breathe !!! but it is your book and know one else's !!!!! I am sure it would make Opra's top list !!!!! Very happy for you Hol !!!!! cathy

  4. Anonymous

    Hollye, having recently found you I too believe you are a gifted writer and the book will be published someway somehow. I found you after reading hundreds of blogs and yours stood out to me. Have faith, hope and a big drink. Good karma is on your side. xoxoxo

  5. Barbara

    I second Madge's thoughts! So true! And you know what? That energy with the apocalypse descending can also be from all the nerves and worries and concerns about the whole process. It is excruciating. But worth every damn second. You, HD, have faced every single thing with courage and style. Why change now? Take that ms in your hands and remember the wrestling match that will ensue is both utterly essential and also part of the fun. (and trying to practice what I preach …not so easy!)

  6. Hollye Dexter

    I love you all like crizazy – you make the whole journey bearable.
    Thank you thank you for your encouragement.
    As always, I will trudge through my fear, because…really, what other choice is there? Oh but that self doubt – I gotta slay that dragon!

  7. Debbie

    WOW. Hollye, you wrote your book. That is AMAZING. Inspiring. You are the third person I know who has written a book. Do you know what that tells me? I move in very sophisticated circles! I am so proud of you and I can't wait to read it. YOU DID IT!


  8. Cruella Collett

    First of all, congratulations!!! You have no idea how inspiring it is for someone like me (who so far is struggling with unfinished books only) to hear that it is possible to actually reach that finish line even if there are huge obstacles along the way.

    Seconly, of course you're a writer! In the course of this blog post you had me smiling, wiping tears, waving away insects, and eyeing my own "closet" (computer document folder), determined not to open it… That you're able to pull the reader along for all that in just one short blog post, I am certain that you have a whole lot going for you in your book.

    Good luck on your new journey! 🙂

    The Giraffability of Digressions

  9. GuacamoleGirl

    Oh Hollye, everyone else has said it all so well! I too can not wait to read your book and I want a personalized signed copy as well! Your writing is so true and weaves so beautiful through your stories! xoxo, Pam

  10. Anonymous

    You are beautiful and I love you and your generous heart! A wise friend of ours once said, "we are all alike," so true, so true … you are not alone. I agree with Amy … welcome to the writer's life. Brace yourself, it only gets stranger, and scarier, and better and more awesome than you could ever imagine! So, go grow a few wrinkles (or I'll gladly give you a few of mine), thicken that skin, get on with it! Besides, I saw your book with my very own eyes, held it in my very own hands … no turning back now … I touched it! How about that for superstition … a little voodoo for youdoo. 🙂

    You've only just begun, Dexter, "the gods wait to delight in you."

    Oh, and CONGRATULATIONS! Let's celebrate soon!

    Lovie love love

  11. Pam

    You are already my hero. You did it!

    And funnily enough, you became a writer long before you finished your book. You're an amazing writer, Hollye, because you are so honest, and full of heart, and so brave–you're even fearless about telling us that you're scared shitless! Already you have devoted readers who trust you, are captivated by your words, and are inspired by your insights. Remember that when you pull your work out of the closet and you see a sentence that makes you want to writhe in embarrassment and wonder whatever made you think you had a decent command of the English language. (Oh, whoops. That's would be me projecting my own editing experiences. I'm sure you won't have ANY of those!) Be gentle with yourself and your book; you are both greater than you think.

    I'm so glad someone else has seen and touched your book–you have a witness that your book already has a life in this world, who won't allow it to languish for too long in your closet. I know lots of writers who can't face reading their work for quite some time after writing it–many put it in a drawer for weeks to get some space. But many DO 'forget' to take it back out again. If it's too soon for you, maybe you could let a trusted friend read it in the meantime, and not tell you anything about their reactions except how much they love it? Because they will, you know. Maybe even the sentences you don't like.



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