I started writing about the original Wonder Woman comics back in 2009. My son was six then, still in kindergarten, and Obama had just entered the White House. I wrote about every issue of the original Wonder Woman series on my blog. Several academics saw it, and suggested I pitch a proposal for a book to Rutgers University Press, which I did in 2011. I wrote the first draft of the book in 2012; readers’ reports, edits, re-edits, and re-re-edits took another two years. And finally, this last week, I got an actual physical copy of my book in the mail. Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948, it reads. Half a decade of research and hundreds of thousands of words of writing in a pretty cover with my name on it: "Noah Berlatsky."
I always figured that when I finally got the book, I'd feel joy, enthusiasm, relief or some combination of those. Instead, I felt panic. And not a little nausea. It wasn't anything with the book itself, per se. The front cover looks much like it does online. The pages all seem to be in order; the images are fine; my name is spelled correctly. Everything is in order. I should feel proud and relieved and happy, not terrified.
But terrified is what I feel. It's a bit like the morning after my son was born. We'd been up all night, and though obviously my wife had done most of the work, and all without anesthetics, I was worn out as well. Much of the night is a blur, but I remember lying in bed afterwards, dazed and exhausted, with my wife and new frightening live thing that I was responsible for next to me, and I burst into tears at the thought that now that the baby was born everything would be different, and our large smelly cat probably wouldn't sleep in our bed anymore.
I was somewhat delirious, and as it turned out our large smelly cat was less dissuadable than I thought. But still, even now, sober, well-rested, and with a delightful 11-year-old who gets along with the new large and not as smelly cat, I can see where delirious, panicked, new-father me was coming from. Life changes are scary, even ones that are supposed to be joyous. You wonder, how is this going to work? Am I up to it? Have I made a terrible mistake?
Anticipating a child is a way bigger deal than releasing a book. Nonetheless, the sense of impending doom has some parallels, at least for me. Here is this book now, in my hands, and what the hell happens now? Will anyone buy it? Will everyone hate it? Will all this work be meaningful to anyone else but me? A book about Wonder Woman and bondage, feminism, evangelical propaganda for lesbianism and Amazonian battle kangaroos and tied up gorillas seems like it should have some sort of appeal to someone… doesn't it? Don't you think? Maybe? Help?
Intellectually, I know that, absolute worst case, I'll get a quiet review or two, and the tome will slide into painless oblivion, leaving me in much the same place I was before. Maybe my neurotic self-marketing will lose me a few Twitter followers or prompt some brief effusions of scorn. And best case isn't exactly life-changing either—I get some good reviews, sell enough copies to make a little money, and perhaps it does well enough that someone, somewhere will want me to do another book project. No matter what, neither disgrace nor fame and fortune will be mine. The world will roll on much as before, albeit with another Wonder Woman book in it.
After five years, though, it's hard not to feel like you're on the cusp of a big debut, even if the debut won't change anything of particular importance to anyone else, or even to yourself. I guess that's what the nervousness is about. All that work, and now, finally, is the moment when you have to reconcile yourself to the fact that it's not really that big a deal. There will be no fireworks and no earthquakes. Which is for the best—or so I'll think after I've gotten used to the idea.
—Follow Noah Berlatsky on Twitter: @hoodedu
Congratulations! At least you followed your dream! I think some people don't write not because they can't do it, but because they are nervous about the exposure it will engender. Good for you! I'll check it out~ WonderWoman was my profile pic on FB for awhile :-)
Thanks Kathy! I didn't really think about exposure at all; I don't think it really occurred to me that anyone might actually read it until recently! (thus the panic, perhaps.)