The Rockwood Files: How I wound up naked on Amazon.com

 By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Today was huge. Today I went to the Amazon website and typed in my name. And there it was – the book that has consumed the past six months of my life. It’s done. Out there. Finally real.

The book has been sitting on my desk for a week. I can hold it in my hands, flip the pages, smell the new paper. But it still felt dreamlike until I saw it on Amazon, with that yellow “add to cart” button sitting beside it – the button I’ve clicked so many times for books I’ve ordered and read.

If it’s on Amazon, I reasoned, then it must be a real book that real people can really read. Suddenly, I felt really, really naked. There it was – my work, out there for the world to see.

With any form of art, there comes that critical point where you need to show it to people, which opens you up for possible rejection. Kids do it fearlessly all the time. When my kindergartner draws a picture, she runs across the room, hands it to me proudly and says “Look what I drew, Mom!” I marvel at it and “ooooh” and “aaaah” and tell her how much I like it. She beams while I tape it to the wall beside my writing desk. Part of the joy of creating something is in the sharing.

I know this because I’ve been sharing little chunks of my work every week in this newspaper column. It has always been a big deal to me because I think newspapers are important. And people who read them are busy and thoughtful and they deserve to read something valuable.

When I get email from readers, some of the notes take me to task for something the reader didn’t like, which is okay. But most of the notes are wonderfully kind, and they nurture the part of me that loves to write. When someone says they cut out a column and sent it to a friend, I beam the same way my 5-year-old does when I tape her drawing to the wall. It makes me want to create all over again.

Many years ago, a reader sent me a note (which I still have taped to my desk) that said I should put my columns into a book – a collection of the best pieces. I thought about it for a long time, imagining how great it would feel to have a book with my name on it. I decided I’d do it – someday.

A dozen years and three kids later, I was still going to write that book – someday when I had more time, someday when the kids were older, someday when I felt smart enough to pull it off. But someday never came. What did come, however, was the nagging feeling that I was letting myself down – playing it safe because I didn’t feel worthy of something as special as a book. I was telling my kids they can do anything they want as long as they work for it, but I was scared to work toward the thing I most wanted.

Long story short, I finally decided that even if I wrote a book that flopped completely, it would be better than a “someday” book that never materialized. I chose risk over regret. And with the help of family, friends and a thriving self-publishing industry, I climbed over my own baggage and fear of failure and did the thing I’ve always wanted to do.

And that’s how I ended up “naked” on Amazon. The book is called Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection. I hope you’ll check it out. Whether you like it or hate it, it’s all okay. Because I’ve learned that the real joy comes in the doing and the sharing. Anything that happens after that is the icing.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.

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