Thursday, July 05, 2007


Two days ago, by chance, I found out that a co-worker of mine has published a novel. And not just now, but in 2004. In the mean time, he’s finished the first draft of another one, but he’s saying that he can’t work much on it because of lack of time. The guy is 26 years old.

I must admit the news came as a freezing shock to me.

It’s not in my nature to be envious. So, I don’t think it was envy that I felt. But, definitely, it was a complete, mind boggling amazement, and also a horribly sinking feeling of loss, and lost time, and narrowing possibilities – a parade of “goodies” that come to you when you’re over thirty-something…

Once past the above - that is the next day - after wallowing the whole evening in the blackest thoughts possible, and after working till one in the morning at one of the stories I’m writing, I only felt a grand admiration for him, and that’s what stays with me now.

The book is in French, 150 pages, pocket format. The story has elements of fantastic in it and its target readers are adolescents/young adults.

It appears that the book was taken out of bookstores because it hasn’t sold much. It’s a small publishing house with very limited resources. The publisher has, basically, forced him to buy three hundred copies, and he’s selling them by himself. The guy has them in his drawer. I bought one, of course – out of curiosity, and camaraderie, and as a reminder to myself that it can be done and that I have to do it.

And the book is good, really good. It flows well; it keeps your curiosity alive; it makes you turn the pages eagerly. I love it.

I would’ve never imagined this guy to be the literary type. It’s true though that I see him reading at lunchtime – mostly Fantasy and Science Fiction. But when I talked to him about his writing, he said that – given a choice - he’d do just that rather than engineering, but that he has to earn a living. Don’t we all? He also said that, through writing, he escapes to a world of his own, much more interesting than the “real” one. For an instant, I felt as if I were looking at myself in a mirror – what a weird sensation!

And all seemed so easy for him, so light-hearted. I asked him how he did it, and he told me that he’d sent initially fragments and then the whole thing to somebody who was offering advice and critique over the Internet. This someone is a writer and the owner of a publishing house, and he helped him to essentially rewrite the whole thing. In the end, he gave him a letter of recommendation for another publisher. Sounds like a fairy tale?

I think this has somehow put things into perspective for me. All the fuss, and the stress, and the lamentation, and the introspection, all that soul-consuming anti-productive sickening crap, seem to me now like swimming pointlessly in circles. Of course, I will go on with it, for what is the blog for and what else am I doing right now? But I’ll have to do more of the rest, the “real” thing, the “true” writing.

I feel at the bottom of a well, with the sky just a teeny-tiny patch of blue high up, at an astronomical distance. Oh, where to get the ropes and the pitons from? I could also use my hands…

The picture in this post comes from the superb Ian Parker's Gallery.


Jon M said...

I know how you feel! What is that horrible sinking feeling all about? I'm impressed by your positive attitude!

I had a similar experience producing a CD in a ceilidh band years ago, we all ended up with boxfuls of these things, we sold most of them at gigs but some still lurk at the backs of wardrobes...

Anonymous said...

It is extremely hard not to be envious, even when that something (any sort of success) is something occurs to someone most deserving. If it is not you, it is hard to take.

Keeping looking up, Vesper, keeping seeing the brilliant blue, keep asking yourself the questions. You will get there.

Taffiny said...

Oh I admit I can be very dark. I go to the bookstore, and I love it, all the books, all these words, worlds, I read the backs, I read the first sentence or two of the beginning, I hum, then suddenly while reading the praises of one, I fall, hard and fast, spiraling downward, and hate it all. Can't stand it. Like everyone else's success is proof, that I have accomplished nothing, and wont ever accomplish anything. I sulk and fret and wish to leave the bookstore (flee). I feel like some potential, some hope, has been ripped out and stolen from me.
It is dreadful really, how I have to prod and pry and work my way back up to feeling okay again.

So I know how you feel. It is wonderful that you were able to work your way into being happy for him (as we all should be for each other) (though sometimes it does hurt a bit).

I hate it when I feel small and jealous, but such is life. (as long as we only visit and don't live there forever. What else should we expect, being human and all?)

c.s. said...

"But when I talked to him about his writing, he said that – given a choice - he’d do just that rather than engineering, but that he has to earn a living. Don’t we all?"

this sounds so peculiarly familiar. oh yes...i'm having the same sentiments!

you have just affirmed me more to pursue what i want to do.

thanks, Vesper!

ps: easier said than done

Vesper said...

Jon, it's because I'm obsessed with time, and I feel like I'm running out of it, especially when I see younger people doing something that I've always dreamt of doing and, somehow, it never happened. To see my name there, in a printed book or in a magazine, at least once, that would make up for everything else.

GoodThomas, thank you so much for encouraging me and for believing in me. I'm an optimist by nature, even in the worst situations, so I'll just plod on, and I'll get there! :-)

Taffiny, I totally understand what you're saying. I'm buying my books from Amazon. :-) But try to find the positive thing in this also. Say to yourself: If all these people have done it, why shouldn't I? I'm not worse than they are. I'm intelligent, I'm talented, I have the fire in me, I'll go home and work till my ass falls off. (sorry!) Maybe it's good to take a trip to the bookstore every now and then to get a fresh impulse.

CS, we are the same, and I find strength in this solidarity of spirit, across oceans, through electrons, behind computer screens... I know it's hard, but we have to do it!

I thank you all for sharing your thoughts with me. It means very much to me, and I feel you all very close to my heart.

Dewey said...

There's a reason so many of the writers of the world come from wealthy families! You need the luxury of time, sometimes years, sometimes decades, of dedication to write a book.

Vesper said...

Yes, Dewey, time, that's the keyword. And hope to win the lottery... :-)

Pearl said...

I know how you feel too. The sucesses just keep getting younger. People born when I was going to university are headlining at music fests. Shouldn't they still be in diapers? It's inspiring to see people published. It can be done. We just got to keep at it.

Taffiny said...

The thing that I like about writing (ambitions) is that as long as you are alive, you can still pursue the dream. Some things do have time limits, age limits, but writing I believe does not. I would rather accomplish this goal sooner than later, but I hope I will always keep faith for it. As long as I shall draw breath it will be my dream. (and if I should accomplish it, then it will be my dream to do it again)

I do admit though, sometimes my personal pep talks aren't so peppy.

It helps to know I am not alone, seeking light to illuminate an unknown path (which appears dark at times when my eyes can't adjust to seeing in it). I long for someone to stand up ahead and guide me.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I know just how you feel.

I hired a girl to work for me at a company, and on the first day when I was doing the 'getting to know you bit' in my training class, she pops off with 'I just had my book published... blah blah...'

I was floored. I stood there with that smile plastered on my face like it was.. well... plaster.

I couldn't believe this girl had done it. Here I've been lolling about for years writing and editing and rewriting.. etc...
not getting anything FINISHED... and this girl...

Oh. The shock and horror.

Then she gave me an autographed copy, got promoted to a position that was essentially my boss, got fired, and now we are best friends.

You read about her... Molly & the tea fiasco.

Fate is a funny thing.

You are a good writer, you will have your words in print, in your hands one day, staring down at your brainchild in disbelief and glee.

Can't wait to hear all about it.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Blithe Muse said...

it is comforting that i am not alone in my sentiments. especially this battle against time. when you are twenty something, you feel you are still "discovering yourself" and you still have time to create your "master piece" once you cross over to thirty something, it hits you with this now or never feeling..i guess we all face the same struggles to succeed.

ps: love your posts.