From Me To You

I was surprised yesterday to receive an email notification of a new post from a writer’s blog I still followed, but had basically forgotten about as the writer/blogger had not posted in over a year (at least). That led me to think on how I have seen disappear, or mostly disappear, most of the indie authors or “soon-to-be” authors with whom I blogged alongside on here on “January 1, 2014.” Their blogs are by now only rarely to never updated, or even have been deleted leaving us with no trace as to what became of them.

Over these same six and some years, I have myself almost given up on writing three times… and could have similarly disappeared from here too.

THE FIRST TIME WAS IN FEBRUARY 2014. The death of “Kam,” a close girlfriend of ours, barely two months after my first book appeared, threw me into a tailspin. I had NEVER before been as upset by anyone’s death.

[The cartoon women in that British Airways safety video could have been inspired by two women we knew. We joked for years that sisters “Rav” (left) and “Kam” had at one point found time amidst their travels to model for it. Since February 2, 2014, however, watching that video ceased to be amusing and I was pleased when BA retired it.]

She had only just turned 45 and we had known her nearly twenty years. Her death came as a major shock because while we were aware she had been unwell for several years, she had hidden from everyone just how ill she had become in the previous months. We were in New York at that time, and she here in England. When her sister days after revealed to us that hours before she died she had told her to remind us that she had loved us, I fell apart (and I can barely type that even now without tearing up).

She had not seen my book, but the previous summer – hearing I was writing it – she said to me that she wanted to read it. She never got the chance. I had partly based a character on her and I was into my second volume at her death, but now I could not look at the screen without wanting to hurl my computer out of a window.

I came *THAT* close to deleting this site and never writing another thing ever again.

[My desk, in the Catskills. (A little bit of Christmas “cheer” is also visible.) Photo by me, 2015.]

Then out of the blue, it hit me: she would never have wanted me to stop for that reason. Gradually I altered some of the planned new novel’s story, and even gave her a cameo as the real her. That finished second book was published in December 2014.

THE SECOND TIME I NEARLY GAVE UP WAS IN NOVEMBER 2015. I had finished my third novel almost in its entirety by late September, just weeks before my (novelist) uncle and then my mother would unexpectedly both die in October (two weeks apart). Had they died in that manner a few months earlier, I might never have finished it at all; or it would have at least taken on a decidedly different tone.

In it, before I had any hint of what was coming later in the year, I had written this:

[Excerpt from Distances: Atlantic Lives, 1996-1997. Paperback version. Copyright, 2015. Click to expand.]

As you see, I left that paragraph in the published version of the book.

I was feeling worn out. I had completed that trilogy I wanted to write. I thought it was time to move on in life and stop with the writing.

A sense of gloom hung over me until just around Christmas. Around New Year’s 2016, I realized my uncle would never have wanted me to quit at this point. Yes, one series was “finished,” but I certainly was not.

So I decided I would change course instead. He had more than once suggested that I should try something historical, so I would write the type of “The Winds of War” big historical romance novel that I had for decades occasionally fantasized I would write. (Maybe someday I would get a TV miniseries out of it too, I chuckled to myself.) Indeed I had long had the general story already vaguely in my mind, and after doing some digging and finding nobody else had already written something too much like it, I started typing and typing…

…and fourteen months later, in April 2017, that novel – the longest and by far most complicated single story I had yet attempted – was published as Conventions: The Garden At Paris.

No one could take it away from me. Yes, I finally had my Gone With the Wind and my The Winds of War. LOL. It was probably my single most satisfying moment thus far as an author.

Naturally, though, that satisfaction could not last long.

THE THIRD TIME I NEARLY THREW IN THE TOWEL WAS LATE IN 2018. I faced some family wrongheaded criticism about my social media that confused time wasting personal social media with that of my authoring (this, Instagram, etc.) work social media. (It was also a reminder of why I had written under a pseudonym in the first place; but as years passed I had dropped my guard a bit and let some relations in on what I had been doing.) I felt trapped and miserable. For without my work social media – which is in a real sense also a form of advertising – I would never sell a single book; yet I could not do work social media because some family might see it?

I concluded the only way forward required me to back away from my work social media. As a bigger consequence, and what I did not reveal to anyone, was out of sheer frustration I was again seriously considering stopping writing. For what was the point to writing books that I could not promote on social media?

[Rotterdam, 1797. Photo by me, 2020.]

Then also a year into writing a second historical novel that built upon the first, I decided I would at some point just release that one without fanfare. The manuscript was so far along I did not want to leave it unfinished. Even if only one person on the planet read it – me – I was determined I would publish it before sailing off into the authoring sunset.

However, after several weeks’ depressing pause, feeling like a total failure – as if everything I had done since 2013 had been pointless – I resolved that I would not “retire” yet. I had not come so far and worked so hard simply to disappear. I would deal with the situation the best I could and did so.

I came back here. I also attacked writing the new manuscript with an extra-gusto. I wrote as if indeed I might be the only person ever to read it and that it could well turn out to be my “authoring goodbye”:

[Excerpt from Tomorrow The Grace. On Kindle for iPhone or iPad. Click to expand.]

…and completed what in October 2019 became Tomorrow The Grace – the novel of which I may be most proud of all.

Months since, you may know already that I hope there will be yet another new novel in a year or two building on from that one.

If I sit back and compare my first novel with its successors, I can on the latters’ pages see the scars of challenges that have arisen in my life since 2013; they have in their ways, I feel, added to those four books and even made them better. Perseverance – in the face of misplaced criticisms, ridicule, abuse, rejections, self-doubts, personal tragedies, the list is long – is a VITAL trait any author must possess. I have learned these years that it is about the longest of hauls: An author should not focus on a single book as if completing THAT BOOK is somehow to reach the Promised Land, for there is no such place because there will always be another daunting mountain looming ahead of us to overcome.

In December 1980 John Lennon told Rolling Stone in his last major print interview that he first realized what he was up against when a reviewer had called the Beatles third single, mid-1963’s “From Me To You,” not the Beatles at their best:

…“From Me to You” was “below-par Beatles,” don’t forget that. That was the review in the NME [New Musical Express]. Jesus Christ, I’m sorry. Maybe it wasn’t as good as “Please Please Me,” I don’t know, but “below par”? I’ll never forget that one…

…that’s when I first realized you’ve got to keep it up, there’s some sort of system where you get on the wheel and you’ve got to keep going around.

It had hit him then that he was facing a perpetual uphill struggle that would NEVER end. EVERY new release would be compared to every release before. He and the Beatles would always be judged.

[From my Instagram Stories, May 22, 2020.]

In writing, we all, in our own ways, face the same. We must keep at it if we are to reach more people and get better. We too are on the wheel.

Anyway, have a good day, wherever you are (possibly staying home) in the world. 🙂

9 thoughts on “From Me To You

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this post… I feel so connected to you through your words. I was gripped from top to bottom! I’m so glad we have connected on here

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Many say despair is part and parcel of a writer’s life. Some succumb to worse fates, especially many who have basked in the glory of unfettered success. Papa Hemingway comes to mind.

    Don’t lose heart. Ever. It’d be a shame. Stay safe!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. It is so easy to give up. It is a lifetime commitment in a sense. I think about much that I see on Twitter, though, and I kinda feel sorry for some of them. At “age 21” they seem to think that once they have THAT BOOK WRITTEN they are there. Alas (to use an old-fashioned term) they will learn…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a post, dear Robert! The true routine of the quality writer! In fact, when you begin feeling fed up with what you are doing, it means….you are becoming a professional! I suppose that even Julius Ceasar has felt something similar during his great conquests! Patience + toil = the Nobel prize in literature! Be it so! 🙂
    Best wishes,
    Maria

    Liked by 1 person

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