One of my writer friends uses the phrase “going to New York” as a kind of shorthand to herself, to remind her that writing has to go all the way. It’s not enough to hypothesize about New York or view it from a polite distance. You’ve got to go there, to the place in yourself that intimidates you, that’s big and unruly and dirty and magical. The scariest, realest place you’ve got.
It’s a good metaphor, although I modify it for my own use. In my personal mythology, that city-to-end-all-cities tends to be Izmir, Turkey, where I’m always lost. Or sometimes Tokyo, where I’m illiterate AND lost. The principle is the same, in any case.
As the gods of irony would have it, however, I am at this moment in real New York for real. It’s my son’s spring break, so I dropped him off with his grandparents in Kentucky and came that one step further. I am here to meet the many wonderful people who have helped – and are continuing to help – bring Seraphina into the world.
Meeting people is intimidating for an introvert like myself, but it’s exciting too. I met my editor for the first time today, someone I’ve been working with for three years. After three years, you really feel like you know a person – and I think I do know him, but I know him as words and ideas, as this disembodied voice who helps me see my own work more clearly. Until you see that person standing in the world, that real human right in front of you, the picture isn’t complete, somehow. You haven’t actually been to New York, in the metaphorical sense, if that makes any sense at all.
I’m vaguely afraid it doesn’t. I’ll translate: meeting people is scary, but worth doing!
Seraphina is at a similar juncture, strange as it may sound. This book, which has lived so long as an idea in my head, or words on my screen, will soon embark on a journey of its own. Where is metaphorical “New York” for a book? Other people’s houses, other people’s heads. It’s going to walk out into the world, just like me, and meet people.
And that is as must be, of course. And obviously, I feel it on the book’s behalf, and the book doesn’t feel it at all. I feel fortunate and grateful, as the day approaches, that I haven’t had to do this alone and that Seraphina has had so many friends to set her on her path.
(I do need to apologize to the friends, cousins, and cousins of friends who I won’t have the opportunity to see on this trip. I am scheduled right up to the eyeballs. I should have made it a longer trip – next time I will know. When you go to New York, take your time!)