It’s the project that, up until just recently, only one person was aware of. Also, this was a project that wasn’t planned at all.
At the end of January 2014, I finished a novel with the working title The Rebirth of Meras: Genesis. For the next six months, I tried pitching the manuscript to publishers far and wide. At best, I got rejection notices that all played variations on the theme of “Much as we like your work, it is not what we have in mind given our current production schedule. We do, nevertheless, wish you well in your career.” At worst, dead silence; it was like a slap in the face or a rather snooty way of saying, “You have no talent. You live in a third-world country. You have a funny-sounding surname. We have no time for you; your work is rubbish.” Ouch.
In the almost eighteen months that have followed since the night I typed in the final pages of a story that took me the better part of a year to finish, there were times when I wanted to give up writing for good. There were times when I wasn’t sure about what I was doing; indeed, I often questioned how and why I kept writing when it seemed like no one would ever read my words. And, unfortunately, there were times when suicide seemed the only way out of this most unpleasant situation; the only thing that would dispel the feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing that seemed to be my psyche’s default setting at the time.
I was, at the time, 37 and felt that, as a writer, I had nothing to show for it.
Now, I have a friend who pretty much shoots me down whenever I start whining and crying in his direction. Technically, he should be the last person I ought to be whining to in my hour of need. For one thing, he has his own problems. For another, given the tenor of our friendship, it was pretty damned awkward to say the very least. Yet, whenever I have a crisis of the faith with regard to my writing (and life in general), he always seemed to be there – just there – to deliver a rather pointed scolding, a bracing slap in the face to bring me back to my senses.
“It would be a blessing if you quit yapping about disappearing and focus on your talents,” he said one particularly dismal afternoon after I gloomily told him that the world would be a better place without me. He would later follow this up with, “You have an audience; you just have to find it – and it is not here.”
Find an audience… At first, I wanted to track him down and hit him upside the head: easy for him to say – he had an audience. He was a musician, for the love of everything sacred; musicians always have an audience and they will always find an audience. Writers seem to have a more difficult time looking for people who will actually read their work, let alone people who would actually like their work.
Following The Rebirth of Meras, I tried my hand at another novel. But the sting of rejection led to work being done in sporadic fits and frequent stops. It seemed like my heart just wasn’t in the long, drawn-out process of telling another story. What I could write, though, were verses: short, free verse poems where I could express how I felt. This, in itself, was rather strange for me because I was never confident about writing poetry.
But the verses continued to flow…and, judging from the stats, people were actually reading my work. This led to me going over poems written over the past six years; posting them, finally letting people read them. My friend was right: I did have an audience and I finally found them.
And this begged the question: so, where do I go from here?
I decided to compile every line of verse I’d written over the past six years into a book, a small compilation of poems. And I made the decision to publish it myself – as an ebook, yes, but a book, nevertheless! And this was a whole four years after my friend told me to consider self-publication. What can I say: I’m a stubborn little piece of work, but I am grateful that I was shoved towards where I had to go.
It sounds crazy, yes, but things began to happen one after another once I’d finished the compilation. I was able to lay the whole thing out – pictures and verses – into some semblance of order. Copyright application forms were downloaded and filled up and notarised. I trekked down to the National Library in the pouring rain to file my manuscript. Unlike the novel that was sent everywhere that no one seemed to want, that longstanding effort that took so much care and consideration to write, this compilation of poems written in one fit or another coalesced so quickly and now…
…it’ll soon be ready for the world.
“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
– from “Go to the Limits of Your Longing”, Rainer Maria Rilke
Author’s Note: The official preview for A Jar of Starlight goes online via Scribd on Thursday, 24 September 2015. The compilation officially goes online for sale on 01st October 2015; a limited edition press copy will be available by 01st December 2015. For more information, please make a comment on this entry and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as I can.