Ananda Lima on Conquering Pre-Publication Anxiety With Crafting

I am not a crafty person. I am clumsy, disoriented, spatially confused. I sometimes have to pause and think to identify where left and right are (touching the writing callus on my finger). I need to rotate the map on my phone precisely so that it matches the landmarks I see in order to find my way. I can’t turn things around in my mind. My hands are not steady. I can’t cut a straight line, or even trace along a ruler without messing up.

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So I usually keep my creative endeavors more abstract, using machines to make the translation between the idea and their physical manifestations (yes to writing and digital photography, no to painting, baking, clay). But pre-publication is a weird time. And I found myself, a few months before my debut, on my kitchen counter, in a mess of paper, scissors, pencil and glue.

All images courtesy of the author

I had just finished the last round of proofreading. The different rounds of edits had gone beautifully. My editor and I were a magical, very lucky match: she was one of the best readers I had in my life, seeing subtle nuances in the writing, little things I was resigned to have in the manuscript even if only for myself.


But it was also a difficult time. Now that the editing was finished, I felt like I was supposed to be working on something, but didn’t know what exactly. I began feeling very anxious. I had heard that writers can become a little freaked out before their books come out. Occasionally I had warning signs that the anxiety would come, an article or book mentioning that anxiety: other writers who have been through tentatively checking in “so how are you holding up?”

left overs

I noticed that for me the anxiety was not around big existential questions, but they revolved around a specific questions “shouldn’t I be doing something for the book?” Not so much “is the book even good?” “Are people going to hate it?” or “What am I doing with my life?” It was more a fear that I was wasting time, when I should be working. Maybe that was part of what was different this time around.

My first book, a poetry collection, came out with a (wonderful) small press. I had so much care and support from my publisher then, but the resources are different from those of a big five publisher. I was really actively involved with everything, including getting the word out. And the calendar was more compressed. So I think part of what made me less anxious that first time around was that I was always working. There were no lulls so I had the feeling that I did everything I could for the book. But with a bigger publisher things were a little different. I could help, but I also had to learn to relax during that longer pre-publication period.

What I had to offer was imperfect, far from ideal, but it was vulnerable and done with love.

I tried doing one of my favorite things to keep myself centered: walking. I love walking and the steady rhythm, the movement, can usually do the trick. But I found myself wanting to listen to publishing podcasts, or brainstorming possible publicity ideas, or making notes to email people. I was having a hard time turning the work impulse off.


One night after lying in the darkness of my bedroom for hours, head swirling, I gave up on sleeping. I got up and turned on the light. There on the shelf were the pages I had printed during the last round of proofreading. My book, looking so lovely in its final font. Beautiful, wonderful and maddening. Looking at the cool vintage rounded font, I saw the title “Craft” again. There was my answer. It seemed like a command.

I folded one of the pages of my manuscript in half. I was so grateful for those pages. It was around the end of the year holidays then and everyone at Tor would soon go on a break. Then it all came together to me.  I would use those pages to make holiday cards for them.

I played around with the idea of using stencils or stamps. But then I thought of my cover, that I love so much, by the brilliant Jamie Stafford-Hill. How wonderful it was that he had done actual cut outs by hand to get the 3D effect of the cover just right. Cut outs was what I was going to do. Something with cut outs and 3d. Pop-up cards were it.

So I began looking at some pictures and videos online. There are some beautiful intricate designs out there. But I needed something really basic to start. Even then,  it was hard to actually match the paper to what I saw on the screen. To flip perspectives in my mind. After a lot of confused playing and many failed attempts, I ended up got the gist of it, a simple heuristic that worked for me: the trick was to cut most but not all of whatever shape I wanted to pop up and fold it the opposite direction from the original card fold. With that notion and some templates I was off.


The work was physical. I was engaging my clumsy hands and eyes. I could not multitask. And the fact that I was no good at it turned out to be a blessing. It meant I needed to concentrate. So unlike walking, as I worked on the cards, the geometrical work took up all the space in my mind that had been dedicated to worrying. If it were easy for me to figure out the shapes, it would not have worked. And because I was no good at it, I had to let go of my fear or embarrassment. Make mistakes, have things look a little wonky. Laugh at myself.

It was also a place to put all that love and gratitude I was feeling. Turn it into something physical that I could give to them. What I had to offer was imperfect, far from ideal, but it was vulnerable and done with love. A gift for my book people and for me.

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Craft Ananda Lima Cover

Craft: Stories I Wrote for the Devil by Ananda Lima is available from Tor Books, a division of Macmillan, Inc.

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