what is happening now is this
So, the galleys. While it's fun to see what the book is going to look like actually laid out on the page (the layout nerd in me takes particular pleasure in the fonts and the spacing), I also have this weird feeling when reading through that like I'm watching a monster movie through slitted fingers. Because I know that if I find a section that feels clunky or a paragraph that reads awkwardly, I've for the most part moved beyond the point where big changes can be made. Want to rewrite Chapter Nine? That ship has sailed. So I'm just kind of holding my breath and hoping that, aside from the errant typographical error or stray hyphen, nothing that's in this version of the book is going to be too humiliating. You know, because my name is on the cover.
I've had to think a little more about self-promotion, and it's led me to realize how horribly uncomfortable it makes me to talk about myself. I know, I know, I just wrote a 319-page first-person non-fiction personal narrative, I should be pretty good at talking about myself, but I'm not. That's writing. Writing is solitary. Self-promotion involves other people. Tooting my horn in front of other people.
I am not one for tooting.
In general, I have no big problem with public speaking. I have given speeches in front of audiences. I was in student government in high school and college. I have presented at Grand Rounds; Power Point slides, laser pointer and all. But the difference between that and what I will probably have to do for book promotion is that before, the public speaking I had to do was not about me. It was about graduating high school or about the college resident advisor system or pulmonary hypertension. Talking about myself makes me feel like an egomaniac. I could just try to stick to talking about the book, but unfortunately, the book is also sort of about me. So like it or not, I'm going to have to talk about myself. And not only does that make me feel like an egomaniac, it makes me worried that other people are going to think that I'm an egomaniac.
I never really liked being the center of attention. It's not that I'm shy per se, I just get embarrassed in situations where I might be perceived as self-aggrandizing. Even on my wedding day, I wondered if I could skip the part where I walked down the aisle and everyone had to stand up and look. It just seemed so self-indulgent and beside the point, somehow, like, can't we just skip to the party, which is the real fun part anyway? I don't like to be fawned over. I don't like situations that invite fawning.
When I was in medical school, one of my medical school teachers (the late great Steve Z. Miller) said of our transition from second to third-year medical students that there had to be an essential change in how we viewed ourselves as part of the picture. Until that point, he told us, we all strove to be awarded "Best Actor." We studied hard to get the best grades, we worked day and night to make ourselves better, smarter, more prepared to be good doctors. But once we stepped on the wards the July of our third year of medical school, that would all be in the past. It would not be about ourselves anymore. From now on, the patient was the important thing, the focus, the center of the picture. And from now on, we would strive to be not the star, but "Best Supporting Actor." I've been living that truism for the past nine years. It's not about you. It's not about ego. It's not about whether you had a bad day or if you think the surgeon you're working with is a shithead or if you have to get out of work early to pick up your kid from school. When you step up to the patient's bedside, it's not about you anymore. Best Supporting Actor. It's a good and noble thing to be.
Anyway, this awkwardness I feel about attention is something that I'm going to have to get over, because like it or not, I'm going to be doing some book promotion, and part of me does kind of want to do it. I want people to read this book. I want them to like it. I just wish it wasn't so embarrassing for me to say so.