Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The writing on the wall

Life has been really difficult for me of late, and I have been struggling to come to terms with what seems like the end of all my hopes and dreams. Everything was going so well for me until I started back at work in November. At the time it felt like the right thing to do - I was reaching saturation point with ringing Waterstones, the largest and most important book chain in the UK, and desperately needed a second source of income. In some ways then the job was a blessing, but at the same time, going back to work has opened a big can of wiggly worms that I really would rather not look at.

I have my annual review tomorrow, which I know is very important. This is a chance to sit down with my Manager and discuss my goals and aspirations for the future, assess the contribution I have made during the past 12 months with the company (5 for me, since that is how long I have been there now), and work out not just a plan of action for the future, but also how much pay rise I will get. This then is a very important meeting, which is made all the more difficult, as there are important things that I need to say that can no longer be ignored.

I always find it so very difficult to really talk about my feelings with anyone other than Coran, who is it seems, the one person in this whole world who has ever really listened to me and understood. Maybe it is because we share the same path, maybe it is because we share the same soul, but he has always been the one who has been able to read me like a book, and understand almost instinctively how I feel. This also works to a lesser extent the other way around.

I have been thinking about this all day, why I find it so hard to really commit to this job. All my life I have yearned for not just a job, but a career, and it is ironic that now I have the opportunity for this, I stand at the brink of throwing the whole thing away. It is utter madness when I think about this logically, but you see my heart is just not there. It took me a long time to realise this - 40 odd years, but my true vocation is and always been writing.

I spent five long years writing that book, and almost four years trying in vain to get it published, in the end giving up and choosing to self publish. I was led to believe by other writers, and by writing books that success would be easy if I did as these books suggested, but despite my doing all these things, almost to the letter, success has not come my way, at least not to the extent that I would have wished. I had such grand aspirations that I see now were misguided and unattainable, and feel let down by not only those other authors, but God and the whole universe. How do you come to terms and deal with this level of anger and frustration?

At the same time, I realise that there is no difference between God and myself, as He or perhaps She, lies within. It is therefore not God that I am angry with, but myself. I feel as if I have been let down by everyone, but especially myself, and I blame myself for not reading between the lines, and wasting as I see it, both time and money on something which has turned out to be fruitless.

I need the job in order to pay the bills, but I also need and want to write. Usually there is a difference between the two, but in this case it is a need that must be fulfilled at any cost. It took me most of my life to realise this, and now that I have discovered my true vocation I have no choice but to pursue it on at least some level, in order to survive both spiritually and emotionally. It may sound melodramatic, and other creative people will understand, but if I cannot write, then I might as well not be alive, for to deny this aspect of myself will be like slowly dying bit by bit. How though do you reconcile this with the need to earn a living and live in the 'real world'? If anyone knows the answer then I would love to know.

If I do commit to this job, then it will be for me, akin to giving up all my hopes and all my dreams and a lifetimes work and aspirations. I cannot do this easily or lightly. I feel angry, frustrated and so very let down, and blame the job for being the cause of these problems, yet I know deep down in my heart of hearts that the writing was on the wall a long time before I ever got this job. I blame myself then most of all for not heeding the signs and pushing on regardless.

I do not want to admit defeat as this will also mean admitting that my dreams have turned to ash. I am the most stubborn person in the world, so stubborn in fact that I will fight to the bitter end, almost to the death to defend what I believe in. The problem is that I define myself by my book, and so if I admit that this has failed, then I too have failed.

I had so much pinned on this book, so much tied up, so many hopes and so many dreams, and I have seen them all come crumbling down around me. I have to find a way of working this through and coming to a resolution if I am not to end up a sad and bitter woman in later years, for the anger and the hatred and the frustration and the pain will eat me up like a parasite slowly burrowing away inside, eating me away until there is nothing left but a hollow and empty shell left lying on the beach of scattered bones, the death and destruction of everything that I hold dear.
What has made me feel like this I hear you ask? It has been precipitated, I am almost ashamed to say, by the success of another of Richard's authors. I will not say who it is, or mention the name of the book out of respect for the author concerned, and don't get me wrong, I am delighted beyond words for his success and what it must mean to him, but I can't help feeling that it should be me!
This may seem petty and silly to some, and I agree that it is - this is borne from my ego, which as usual plays on all my fears and doubts and whispers all these words into the crevices of my mind, winding like a labarynth of poison through the synapses, and locking the words into place where they cause the maximum damage. It is strange to watch all the goings on and witness the struggle that is taking place between the heart and the ego. The heart tells me not to worry about what others are doing, to celebrate the successes that I have had - and they have been many, and to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. The ego though cajoles and squeezes until its last breath is exhausted, squeezing the empty vessels of my heart and pumping the life from my soul.
This other book has really taken off, having been mentioned now in countless magazines and newspapers and the author having also been interviewed on both BBC radio and television. The phone in Richard's office is ringing off the wall, and he has been inundated with orders (there were 60 waiting for him at 9am this morning), rapidly moving the book to a lithographic print run from print on demand. At the time of writing, the book is at number 100 on, and it has been taken on as a category A core stock item by Waterstones (meaning that it is stocked in all of their branches) - on their request. This my ego cries, should be my success and my glory and my 5 minutes of fame. I have worked and slaved my guts out and I deserve this success just as much, for I have worked as hard, if not more so.
It is though like I say, the ceaseless bleatings of a wounded ego and a shattered and empty heart, and my own resistance as usual to the path that I am forced to acknowledge, I have chosen to walk. If the success has not come my way it is because I am not yet ready for this, and also because the world is not ready to hear my message. I can rest assured though that my message has reached out and touched the hearts of those who need to be reached - including the students of Arizona State University (my friend Nadine Laman tells me that her son is a student there and others students are raving about my book), and the customers at the 90 odd Waterstones stores that still have stock. So what if Staines have sent some of their copies back, they still have some stock and so still have faith and belief in its ability to sell. So what too if the organisers of the Guildford Book Festival have not responded to my email request to take part in this years festival - it is not until October and there is plenty of time.
I remember the words of Susan Jeffers and remember them well - I am not a failure if I do not succeed, I am a success because I tried. I did my damned best and gave it my best shot, and am not ready to give up quite yet. My three weeks of enforced stoppage from all types of book promotion are over now, so I intend to get back in the saddle this weekend and get those orders flowing once again.

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