A strange thing happened while I was visiting Boston. Regular readers of this blog will know that these posts are no longer in real-time, and that by the time you read about an adventure here, I have long since moved on from it in the real world. This means that I was in Boston the day I published my post on the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas.
Occasionally I will get nervous before publishing. There are lots of reasons for this. Sometimes I worry that I’m making too bold a statement, and that perhaps I haven’t thought it through enough first. I worry that people will read it and instantly point out all the holes in my argument I never considered. The WBC post was my first big post of this nature, my first post to really make an argument. It was also about a very controversial subject. A subject that inspires the worst in people. And I was suggesting a position I hadn’t heard put forth by anyone else. I was very worried.
Because I almost always publish between 7AM and 8AM Pacific Standard Time, the post didn’t show up until after 10AM in Boston. By then I was on my way to the Boston Public Library near Copley Square. I had been told by friends that the library was worth checking out, and I found it to be a large and lovely place in which to get lost. After wandering in and out of the hallways for some time, I made it my mission to find the rare books section. It was somewhere up on the third floor and in a corner. I went back and forth, up and down. Not all of the elevators reached all of the floors. Not all of the floors were continuous. As I walked I started to wonder how people were reacting to my post. I finally reached the reading area right in front of the rare books section and pulled out my phone to check the responses on Facebook. A few of my friends had hit the Like button. Whew. At least I wasn’t completely crazy.
There were different levels of rare to the rare books section. The first seemed to be books that were generally interesting and old, but not fragile. The room wasn’t remarkably different than others in the building. Off to the side was a collection of old marionettes in glass cases. To get to the next section, I had to go through through a glass door. This was no ordinary door. It was the sort that seals completely when closed in order to maintain the temperature of the room behind it. This was the main section of rare books. The lighting was very dim. A woman was seated at a desk, explaining in whispers what they had in their catalog to a pair of patrons. Everything was delicate. Everything was unusual. They were featuring works by Daniel Defoe, including first editions of Robinson Crusoe from 1719. Behind another glass door was a third room, but this one was available by appointment only, and only to researchers. You couldn’t casually look at the books in that room. You had to prove yourself first.
I left the rare books area and went back out into the reading section. I couldn’t help it – I checked my phone again. There were a few more Likes, and now some Shares. My friends were saying very complimentary things about the post. What a relief.
I walked back out of the library, taking a quick detour to the map room because maps are great. I walked across the street into Copley Square and took a photo of two women taking photos of a turtle sculpture. The square was a nice open respite from the large, imposing city buildings. I saw a small fountain off to the side of the square, the shallow kind that kids will jump around in when the weather becomes too hot to bear. I sat on the edge of the fountain to take in a bit of sunshine. I pulled out my phone again. I read more feedback, now from strangers. People I didn’t know were sharing what I had written. People I didn’t know were complimenting me on it. I laid down and smiled.
I know many writers suffer from a sort of perpetual doubt, myself included. No matter what people say or how many times you hear it, there will always come those days when you think what you’ve written is not good enough. One might even say it’s what makes you into a good writer – the obsessive need to improve what you’ve created for fear that it is secretly worthless. I have received compliments on my writing before, and I can only hope I will receive them again in the future. But on that post, I actually got people talking. I got people arguing. Shirley Phelps tweeted about me, which was something I didn’t even realize was on my bucket list until it happened. No one pays me for what I do. I’ve never had anything traditionally published. I am still a beginner, an amateur. But on that day, leaning back onto the warm stone of Copley Square, I felt like a real writer.