You were working on a big novel with big themes at the time – art and the meaning of images in the twentieth century, and you thought once you had this book written and published, everything would be OK. You could even die in the knowledge you had leaped over some new bar.
And in the end, the reviews across the country were very good indeed.
Then you worked for three years on a novel that washed out. It’s still in a drawer now. You showed it to three people and decided it was not good enough.
It was harder to start again after that than at any other time in the novel-writing game.
Only moronic self-help strategies, such as listening repeatedly to Stan Rogers’s song, The Mary –Ellen Carter (whose chorus is “Rise Again”) managed to sustain you.
It was an exceptionally dark time, made worse with a son as a front-line soldier in Afghanistan while I wrote about death in another war zone.
I kept writing. It was a struggle, but in the end it worked out OK. The young man survived and the new novel was written and again, most of the reviews are pretty good.
Here’s the message to my younger self and to others in this pursuit – one thinks of publishing books as a high jump. Just write that one book, just get over that bar and everything will be all right.
But that image is wrong. Writing novels is closer to jumping hurdles, and those hurdles go on to the horizon like the railroad ties in Gordon Lightfoot’s song.
~ Antanas Sileika