The Swear Jar

Our Dining Room Shelf, circa 2019

Back in 2019–which seems like decades ago now!–the months leading up to the release of my first book were actually a bit of a blur. Here I thought that the actual writing of the book would be the most challenging, time consuming part; later, I found the arduous journey of finding a willing publisher was almost as bad if not worse.

But I discovered that once the wheels are set in motion, getting a book ready for publication is where the real work begins. It involved multiple time consuming steps, all very new to me, and in a short period of time. From settling on a title and subtitle, to approving the edits from a copy editor, to choosing the cover art, then picking fonts, finding reviewers willing to write a “blurb” for the book cover–it was an all-consuming process. And this was on top of my day job as a full time physician and mom of two kids who had just started the basketball season on top of school, church, youth group, and outings with friends. Suffice it to say, I felt like I was living and breathing all things book related when I was not seeing patients or in the parenting role. One could even say while sleeping; I had dreams about the cover art. Once, I set an alarm for 4 am to finish approving edits that were up against a deadline; truly, I was burning the midnight oil.

During this time, I also must have been talking about the book almost constantly, even more than I ever realized, because my family actually resorted to creating a swear jar for me. At the time, I was not pleased with some repeat phrases that were coming from Lydia (“shut up”) or Sam (“liar”) or even Dad (“bedtime, kids!” when it was not even 7 pm.) So I created swear jars for them; each time the word or phrase was uttered, 50 cents would go into the jar. I thought, I’ve created the perfect system for deterring these annoying habits! I am a parenting genius! But imagine my surprise when Sam and Lydia turned on me, and also insisted on a swear jar for me, and it simply read: “book.” Yes, anytime I said anything at all about the book, I would be reminded of this, and need to go looking for two quarters in my purse or in my pocket.

Now, I thought at the time this arrangement was patently unfair; given the amount of effort and energy involved in a book publication, surely I could take exception to this rule, such as when sharing important updates from my publisher or selecting a date and site for the book launch party. But no, they held me to the agreement, and soon I began to realize, I was either going to go bankrupt or fund my kid’s college this way. It wasn’t too long and I actually begged them to abandon this approach, because Sam and Lydia had both long ceased saying “shut up” or “liar” and yet, my jar kept filling up. So essentially, it worked for them–but not for me.

This experience held more than one life lesson, I believe. First, it reminded me as an author that your family is definitely part of the process, whether you realize it or not, and whether they like it or not. Continually expressing gratitude for their support and patience is needed and necessary; in retrospect, 50 cents is actually a small price to pay when you consider the number of hours I was pulled away. And second, even though the “swear jar” was a rather humorous approach, tongue in cheek, it reminded me to involve my family in the process so they feel a part of it, and not just on the outside looking in. Paul provided helpful suggestions for the titles and cover art when asked; Sam and Lydia read entire chapters and gave me feedback for improvement. Later, my kids were both excited to greet people at the door for my book launch parties. I felt they truly enjoyed the events and were proud to be a part of it.

So for those of you who tend to get immersed in your writing projects, I am sure this blog post will resonate with you. Or if it’s not writing, it could be any number of hobbies or creative endeavors; fishing, golf, photography, knitting, cooking, baking. While these are all worthwhile pursuits, we should always be looking for opportunities to involve our families, if possible, and thanking them for the gift of time even if not; both are valid and worthwhile approaches.

When all else fails…the swear jar could always come into play again.

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