The Nervous Time

Today in Charlotte: My first stop on the “Did I Mention” book tour. The event is 7:30 p.m. at Providence Day School, it’s totally free, there will be refreshments AND my book, “The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini” will be available five days before it appears in bookstores. You can still RSVP!

This is the nervous time. The only way I know to write a book is to so totally immerse myself in the process that I basically lose myself to it. At no point during the writing do I ever think about what it will be like when the book is finished — I can’t even IMAGINE the book being finished. I surely can’t imagine that point when the editing is done, and the cover is designed, and the book is printed and made available to read.

If I ever thought about any of that stuff, I would freeze in sheer panic.

My first big job was as the sports columnist in Augusta, Ga. It was, in retrospect, one of the greatest times in my life. It was, in real time, a daily audition for something better. I was 25 years old and wanted to write for the world. All of my co-workers were 25 years old and wanted to write for the world. We talked every single day about getting out, doing big things, if only someone would just discover us.

The way for a sportswriter to get discovered in Augusta, obviously, was to write great stuff during the Masters, when all the great sportswriters from all around the globe came to town for golf. I met the great Jim Murray in Augusta. I blathered on to him about what a hero he was to me and what an inspiration and how my greatest wish was to someday, maybe, be one-tenth of the writer he was, and how I hoped he might offer me a little advice. He smiled patiently and when I was finished, he put his hand on my shoulder and said gently: “Next time, use fewer words.”

In any case, the way out was to light up the sky with writing fireworks during the Masters — or at least that’s what I told myself. And during my second Masters, I decided to do just that. I planned it out for weeks. I was going to write the greatest stories anyone had ever seen. It was the only time in my career, I think, that I wrote not for the moment, not for the joy of writing, not for the muse but instead for something external, something tangible: I tried to write my way out.

And I wrote some garbage that I can still smell to this day.

So, no, when I’m writing a book, I don’t think even for an instant about the end.

And now, here we are, at the end: And yes, all of those panicky doubts that I refused to face while writing the book torment me. What if nobody shows up? What if people don’t read the book? What if they don’t like it? What if it just disappears into the ether? This is the fear that you hold off — that you HAVE to hold off — or you would never leave your room.

Yes, this is the nervous time.

But this is also the exciting time, the thrilling time, when the words you so painstakingly put together in a cramped little office begin to seep out into the world. And, incredibly, some people seem to like the order of those words. You read just one review like this from Rebecca Weston at The Writer’s Bone and you feel like you can fly.

I guess it’s just pretty emotional right now. I can’t wait for it to start. I’m scared to death about it starting.

But it is starting, tonight, and I do think it’s like a big game. All the butterflies come before. Once the tour begins, there’s so much to do, so many interviews to do, so many talks, so much work that there’s no time to let your mind wander. I always liked that phrase that football coaches use about that moment when they’ve done everything they can do and it is time to just see what happens. That phrase really speaks to me, relaxes me now. The only trouble is that I can never remember if the phrase is “The hay is in the barn,” or “The hay is out of the barn.”

It is embarrassing how little I know about farming considering I married the daughter of a farmer.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the Little Houdini movie that I put together with our daughter Katie. I feel it pretty authentically offers the experience of seeing Houdini escape from the Chinese Water Torture Cell … while also watching the original Avengers movie.

And here are some tour highlights. The full tour (as of right now) is here. I hope to see you along the road.