Sarah Hepola

A person who was
going to write a book

For many years, I was a person who was going to write a book. Friends introduced me this way: She’s going to write a book one day. I said this to myself, in quiet moments of contemplation, or in grand rallying moments when what you want out of life gets scrunched up against your nose. I am going to write a book. Once, back in 2006, I wrote an essay for Slate about shutting down my blog to write a book. Guess what? I didn’t write that book at all. I think I wrote two pages, and then flipped on a marathon of “The Hills.” But people are so polite, and forgiving, and forgetful that they rarely asked me about it. Months passed, and friends didn’t care that I had publicly announced a book I never wrote, and so I cranked up the blog again, kind of like when a couple announces they’re divorcing and everyone gasps and then four months later you see them out to dinner. Oh, OK. Never mind?

In these years — decades, really — friends of mine wrote books. Successful books. Modestly selling but beautiful books. Books they’d rather forget, but books nonetheless. A book is nothing to shrug off, I would tell them. A book is a sacred fucking thing. And every time a friend of mine wrote a book it was a notch in the ever-growing column that told me book writing was possible. It was being done by people like me, on this planet, in this very moment. I didn’t need expensive high-tech equipment, or classes at MIT, or a signed waiver from George Saunders. I could start NOW.

Eventually, I did. And unlike the many times before, I didn’t stop. I kept going till I reached the end, which was longer and harder than I anticipated. I did it anyway.

On the morning I finished my book, I woke up at 4:30am, and I made coffee, and I sat down at the table in my pajamas, and I read from page one. Three hundred pages of a story. I read the book like it was something I had picked up in the airport, stopping into Hudson’s News on a layover from Miami. And you know what? It was pretty good. I liked it. It was funny in places, and very sad in places, and I teared up several times. I was also sleep-deprived, and had been subsisting for days on golden Oreos and cheese enchiladas, so it’s possible I was clinically insane. But actually, I felt sharp. A clarity that comes in the final moments of a game.

I sent my book in at 1pm, and while balloons failed to drop from the ceiling, I became someone different in that moment. I became someone who had written a book. I waited many years to say that about myself. Whatever happens next is out of my hands.

(The book, “Blackout,” comes out in June 2015 from Grand Central.)