For years you toil alone. There is no coffee-machine chatter, no morning “Hello! How is your daughter this morning? Is she feeling better?” before going to your station. In moments of frustration (and there are many, many, many) you have no one to turn to. In moments of satisfaction, you think, “So, this is what it’s all about. This is the secret.” But you keep it to yourself.

You revel in the silence, the daily solitude. You put up signs, “Keep out!” You disconnect the phone. You lower the blinds and put on noise-cancelling head-phones, set to play a dronning hypnotic note. Daily, you sit at your computer and enter another world.

And then, one day, you come out, blinking against the glare. Your creation, over which you’ve wept and laughed — your creation, which has been your private and rather intimate affair for all these many years — is deemed ready to be sent out into the world. Your agent, your editors take it eagerly from your hands (they have been waiting; they had hoped to have it earlier). It’s prodded and poked. Some adjustments are made, and it enters the machine of publication.

And so do you. You get your nails done, your hair tinted and trimmed. You acquire new clothes. You study questions, and think up answers. You talk in front of a mirror, to practice. Your words sound dumb to you, stumbling and inarticulate and false, and so you practice some more, for you know what is to come, that you must go forth into the world, you and your creation. Now and then you think of her — your creation — and you wonder how she’s doing, in the bowels of the publication machinery. But most of all, you worry: you want her to be liked. You want her to be loved.

And so you throw yourself into fray, do everything you can think of to prepare for her reception in the world. Your private place is closed to you know — it seems so long ago. Now you live in a public arena. You speak before audiences, the bigger the better. You type letters, hundreds of them. You seek connection with the same hunger that you formerly saught solitude. You must leave no rock unturned.

You are applauded, and it’s wonderful. The creation is loved, welcomed, adulated. You have succeeded beyond what you’d dreamed possible.

“What will your next book be about?” the people ask.

“I’m not sure,” you tell them. What you don’t say, what you’re keeping to yourself, is that you fear that you’ve lost the way back to that cave. Like Hansel and Gretel, you look for crumbs.