Christopher Pike wrote a book called "Remember Me 2", where the ghost of a murdered girl was given a second chance at Life. Instead of being reincarnated, the ghost-girl was given the body of a Latina girl who had truly given up on life and subconsciously appealed to the universe for a way out. The universe answered the living girl by plucking her soul out of her body and interring the ghost girl's soul therein. While the Latina girl had felt that her life had no meaning and no purpose, the ghost girl took ahold of her second chance and, despite her limited options as an inner-city, high school drop out, she grabbed ahold of every opportunity and became a successful writer, whose stories touched the millions who read them.
There are so many inspiring tales of people making the most of their lives - people who survive, who succeed, who make it happen, even when the odds against them seem insurmountable. These people are like the ghost girl who are determined to make it happen, while, far too often, so many of us are like the Latina girl, ready to give up. Sometimes I feel like that Latina girl. I don't know where my life is going; I don't know where I am headed. Sure, I have many more opportunities than that Latina girl in Pike's novel, but, at the same time, I don't make the most of what I have and what I can do with what I have. A more ambitious person would channel their focus and drive, and sit down and write and write and write some more, honing their writing skills - making it happen. Me? I let the rejection of "Avi, Resurrected" affect me so much that I stay my hand at writing. I'm not the world's best writer - I'm not even in the top million - but I do love to write, so why don't I? I think there's a huge part of me that's afraid. Not afraid of rejection, not afraid of not succeeding, not afraid of not trying. There's the complacent demon in me that's afraid to change. I'm so comfortable - I haven't had any real upsets to mar my life. And that's what I'm afraid of: that I haven't paid my dues so I don't deserve success if it should happen.
In a way, I'm a pessimist and an externaliser. I sometimes think that destiny just doesn't have this, that or the other in store for me - so why try? Because if I try, I'm just going to get knocked down, since I haven't paid any dues to get where I want to go. Life is about struggle, about overcoming obstacles, about beating the odds. Other than overcoming whatever pains and heartaches I went through as a result of my parent's divorce as a child, and the random heartbreak of romance, I've had nothing to challenge me and make me work hard and earn my success. This is why I'm stuck where I am, or, at least, keeping myself here. I know the power is within me to simply turn over a new leaf anytime I want - but why do that when it's so easy to not do so? I can while my life away in the comfortable place that I am in life - knowing that everything would be ok, because there isn't anything to prod me into doing otherwise.
Sometimes I wonder about the great people of history. Would they have been great if their circumstances had not pushed them forward towards something greater? So many notable historical figures fought through so much to achieve what they wanted. When it comes too easily, it's never much of an accomplishment. My friend, Kirk, who, like me, had been thoroughly spoilt by his parents, was suddenly cut off by his parents in 2006 when he decided he wanted to go to China to learn Mandarin. A semester shy of graduating from university, Kirk was forced to find funds to pay off his tuition, to eat, to live, to survive, and then found a way to China to make his dream come true. The struggle, the effort, the determination made his success all the more sweeter and more deserving.
When you have to fight for what you want - when you truly are forced to make it happen - the ability to succeed is such a reward. In Trinidadian culture, you are embraced and kept safe by your parents for years and years and years. You're not forced out into the world to make your way and to struggle and make ends meet. That's a good thing, in so many ways, but at the same time, it results in a sheltered, complacent adult, who isn't really an adult when you think about it.
Do I love to write? Yes. Do I want success? Yes. Success in terms of what? Publication, fulfilment, and the energy and push to write some more. Am I willing to work hard and suffer through to make my writing happen? Meh. Not so much.
I think that I need to have a moment in my life where things aren't easy. where I have to fend for myself and stand up and make it work. Where I can't run to daddy for help with everything. I'm not like the Latina girl in that I am not ready to give up life just yet, but I am like her in that I'm not taking advantage of my talents and my advantage of simply being alive.
Today I came across a most affirming article, "19 signs you're doing better than you think", and it got me thinking. It was certainly a most positive, change-your-perspective type article for anyone who's down, but the point of the article is not to pat yourself on the back and sat back smugly and complacently after you've read it. The point of it is to understand how good you've got it, take a breath and propel yourself further - to be aware of how much you have going for you and to, in the words of Tim Gunn, make it work.
I'm typing all of this a ferocious determination at present. I don't know what tomorrow may bring - I may revert to my regular complacency, or I may push myself into being different. I don't know. I just want to remind myself with these words here that, in all truth and honesty, although I'm thirty, I'm pretty much in the same place I was when I graduated high school. It's a sad truth, but it's the truth. Do I want to be forty and typing/thinking that as well? Well, if I don't, I've got to light the fire under my ass and get moving. A new future looms before me: I move to Israel in January. Sure, I've done it before, but when I did it in the past, I did it on daddy's dime. As scary and poor as the recent future will be, I know I'm going to have to make it on my own, to succeed at the little things (day to day living) and big things (becoming a real writer). Like Rachel Greene of "Friends", it's like I'm entering the first episode of my new life, and it's time to cut up those daddy-given credit cards. Sure, I'll probably be poor for a while, as I adjust to living on my own: rent, food, etc., but I can just imagine the feeling of accomplishment I'll have, when, at the end of the day, I know I'll have made it on my own. And, besides, being a pauper (albeit, one with a Macbook Pro and an MBA behind his name) is usually the right school for successful artists - that's the way artists pay their dues, gain their experience, and truly hone their skills. So time for me to pick up the scissors and cut up those credit cards, otherwise a ghost will probably take over my life and make more out of it than I am at present. It's probably better if I didn't let that happen.
I've been thinking alot about my blog and where I want it to go. Do I want it to be Food blog (since I love food?), or just a general blog of the goings-on in my life (since I'm narcissistic/unhinged enough to think the goings-on in my life are worth broadcasting?), or even just a purely Jewish blog where I comment on things happening in the Jewish world?
I've decided to do none of these things. I want a regularly updated blog with some of my stories: new short ones bubbling about in my brain, and excerpts from the long ones. I want to write about everything - Jewish living, Everyday living, Living as a Jew in the Diaspora, Philosophy, writing novels, my takes on things of the day - I want a blog with no border to limit what I can write or will write, and I hope the readers appreciate, understand and enjoy the mad collection of things I choose to write about. This is the joy of being a blogger - there is no editor or publisher to rein in my imagination. I can write as much as I want, as little as I want; be as verbose or obtuse as I choose to be. That's what blogging is about: no limits.
I've got tons of interesting things I think of blogging but never do because of: 1. pure laziness, 2. timidity, 3. fear of being vulnerable, 4. fear of being criticised, 5. pure laziness. Though your greatest hope is that the internet traffic on your site goes beyond a total of three persons (i.e., yourself, your mom, and that one hit from Azerbaijan), as a blogger, you still worry about the repercussions of what you write. The very freedom which one enjoys in having no editor, publisher, circus-master, means that there's no one to tell you what you're saying is ridiculous, offensive, cruel or so yesterday. A blogger must be impassioned writer and unbiased editor in one person. And that's a difficult two caps for one person to wear. But, we must learn to do it - for that's the price we pay for the freedom. We have to learn to adopt the Tim Gunn mantra of: edit, edit, edit.
So these were/are my obstacles in the way of my blogging, and I'm ready to move beyond the scope of hoping and dreaming and wishing and wanting. The writing world today is not merely about talent and ability, it's about the name you've built up for yourself and whether your story fits into a certain niche market. The profit-or-loss world of publishing forces the writer to turn himself into a keen marketer. And blogging is one simple and wonderful way we aspiring writers can use to hone our craft and gain the interest of readers. I'm not saying that the publishing world is the big, bad wolf. I understand that like all things in this dizzyingly fiscal world we live in, publishing, too, is governed by the laws of demand and supply. If there is a demand, the publishers will supply it. And demand only happens after the wily marketers can generate buzz and interest - and with aspiring (and poor, unpopular) writers such as myself, we have to generate the marketing buzz for ourselves. And this is the simplicity which comes with being a blogger - you get to market yourself to the world.
Blogging is not just about writing. It's about promoting, it's about interaction, it's about dialogue. Although I will write about what interests me and not be curbed by an editor when it comes to topics and scope - blogging, at the end of the day, is still greatly determined by the readers. If my blogs of my puppies or my adventures on Ambien don't get hits, but my blogs about Israel and/or Trinidad do, then, like the world of publishing, I'll stick to those. The readers (through comments, feedback and a monitoring of internet traffic) are the ones who let us know what's good and what's not. And that sort of raw critiquing is priceless for any writer.
I'm learning that I need to make a name for myself as a writer. It's almost impossible for someone to become a novelist by being an unknown. The chances are slim to none. You can write as much as you want, but it's not going to happen unless you've established yourself through some other means as a writer (be it blogging, magazines, op-eds). Charlaine Harris, Stephanie Myer and JK Rowling were the lucky ones - and I'm not even sure if they had their own columns/blogs/pieces coming out prior to becoming established novelists. Most other writers I know of (A.J. Jacobs, Rich Cohen, Mike Gayle, Nick Hornby) are established columnists. So it would be great to follow in the footsteps of such greats: i'm going to write and write and write some more, and ope that you kind folk take pity on me and sometimes click the link to nicholasjagdeo.com, just to read my pitiful offerings and allow me this wonderful opportunity to share myself with you, because, at the end of the day, that's what writing is all about: expressing oneself.
So, in a nutshell, this is what my blog is about. It will capture all my main thoughts - all the mad ones - and I'll write them here for your edification, clarification, education, enjoyment and many critiques and debates which will undoubtedly happen.
February 14th, 2013 - 2:28am.
This date and time will forever be remembered by me.
After all these years of writing and re-writing and editing and re-editing, I've finally come to a close and finished the final two chapters and epilogue of "Avi Resurrected: Alive and lovin' it." True, I will probably go over it again tomorrow and do some editing and re-editing, but the fact is - those final two words have been typed: THE END. I've finished it.
It is completed.
I feel a sense of relief right now. Maybe also some tiredness in there as well. I'm searching my feelings and there is only a slight sense of accomplishment and pride in what I've done. Maybe I'm just tired cause it's so late. Or maybe I've talked about it so much/sent it to other people/sent out queries too prematurely to feel super excited. I don't know.
But I'm done.
And this moment will never come again.
So I had to come on here and capture it as best I could on this blog.
Tomorrow: maybe some editing, yes, but never again will I be able to type THE END on this book. It's officially finished.
Yay me :)
Now comes the agonising waiting, and painful rejections, and crazy bureaucracy that sometimes you think was formulated for no reason other than to frustrate and annoy writers.
When I completed my first manuscript in my very early twenties, I was ecstatic. It was somewhat autobiographical, and I was so unbelievably happy. I still remember that day I typed in the words THE END, and then, as an after-thought, I jotted in the time and date of completion: 2:20AM - January 16th, 2006.
I came across this manuscript, tucked comfortably away in the Documents file on my computer at the of 2012, and feeling nostalgic after not having seen my creation for maybe four years or more, I figuratively dusted off the old book and settled down for a nice read. Unfortunately, I couldn't exactly enjoy my read of first baby: instead, all the thoughts of the laborious and emotionally draining process of searching for a literary agent came flooding to my mind. My writing is never very genre-specific, so I understand the automatic aversion within the rigidly structured, label-loving literary world - but the struggle for authors, particularly first-time authors, to capture the support of a literary agent can be the absolute most painful thing a writer ever has to go through. Ok, literary agents are all generally quite nice, and in their defense, they generally tend to stick to certain genres because they've carved out niches and made the appropriate in the publishing world geared towards those specific types of books. Sadly, the rejection they send can (and oftentimes does) make a writer feel consistently more and more despondent - eventually resulting in many an author tucking away their work into files and folders and packing them away into the recesses of their minds.
For writers, writing is a joy: a true expression of their innermost selves. The putting together of a manuscript - whether the result is excellent, mediocre, or awful as hell - brings a writer such an incredible feeling of accomplishment and fulfilment. You look at the manuscript like it's your child. You've nurtured it; you've made sacrifices to write it; you've given it your all - and no matter what the world may think, it's yours, it's wonderful, and it's perfection.
And then comes the publishing process - and you realise that the process of birthing your manuscript was actually the easiest part of the whole thing and would probably be the last time you'd feel happy until you get signed by a publisher, or start writing again.
Because, now comes everything that has nothing to do with creativity. Now comes the agonising waiting, and painful rejections, and crazy bureaucracy that sometimes you think was formulated for no reason other than to frustrate and annoy writers. First you have to find a literary agent. Then you're going to be told that your manuscript needs to be edited. After that you're going to have to deal with being rejected by publishers. And interspersed throughout it all, you're going to have to find the ability to patient, and if you can't be patient? - well, you're just going to have to learn how to be, the hard way.
You either come of it all with a book deal, or you come out of it without a book deal. Either way, the emotional strain and unnecessary anxiousness would have taken it's toll. No writer is exempt from this painful step when it comes to publishing (unless they go that taboo route of self-publishing and are thus treated as outcasts in the publishing world); even JK Rowling - the most commercially successful author of all time - writes openly of the constant rejections she received from every literary agency she contacted. This crucial first-step of finding a lit agent (which some hypothesise is an unnecessary layer in this complicated procedure) is the most harrowing of them all as it is the most difficult to check-off on your list of getting published. Like an upside down pyramid, there's a tiny, narrow opening into the publishing scene, through the rejection-happy conduit of the literary agent. After that, things get generally easier. The stamp of "represented by" (insert agent's name here) gives an author a sort of visa in their literary passport which allows them to travel freely - vertically and horizontally - throughout the publishing world.
Some are lucky, however. A wonderful, plucky friend of mine, came across an editor and managed to inveigle a book contract for her excellent manuscript after nearly two years of trying to get signed by an agent. Yes, it is possible to by-pass the literary agent step, but one has to be well-researched, and, more importantly, well-connected in the publishing world. For the vast majority of writers, we are going to have to fight through the established channels and accept the status quo as it has been since books began to flow freely throughout the world and writing no longer became a purely creative process.
In my first attempt at writing all those years ago, I struggled to find an agent, and, like the thousands of other writers who went before and came after me, I sent out queries willy-nilly and received the expected "Thank you, but this is not right for us. But keep in mind, this is a highly subjective industry and while we may not be right to represent your work, someone else will" standard rejection time after time after time. Of course, I also received the occasional "Yes! We accept!" from the conmen who abound in publishing like they do in any other field (be aware of them! Any literary agent who charges to read your manuscript, or accepts you unconditionally without having read your manuscript in it's entirety, or will conflictingly act a money-collecting editor is, undoubtedly, not a literary agent and is just in this to wheedle money out of you), and I was lucky to receive critiques from two literary agents - one of whom actually became a regular pen pal of mine (the late Harry Preston - may he rest in peace).
I'm the sort of person who isn't very thick-skinned, and so, after a month of non-stop querying, I threw in the towel, shed a tear or two, and put my manuscript away. Did I give up too easily? Perhaps. But remember, I was only twenty-two at the time - and very inexperienced about how things worked in the publishing world. I will be honest with you, my writing wasn't the best thing out there: my manuscript was a bit messy and not very focused - there were parts which were very literary and very avant garde, but reading it today at twenty-older-than-twenty-two, I can ascertain that it wasn't the best thing out there and it reflected my immaturity. The fact that I managed to capture the attention of two literary agents and become long-term friends with one of them really was quite lucky!
So although my first manuscript reminds me of that not-so-good month of fighting for a literary agent and being left down in the dumps and feeling rejected, I am proud of it - and I stand by it. It is a part of who I am, as a writer and as a person. As I said, it was a somewhat autobiographical piece of work, and having captured that special moment in my life in my manuscript makes it all the more cherished to me. Writing, like any skill, can only be honed with time and with an undue amount of practice. Read the writings of any writer at an early stage in their career and then read them again in five years, or ten years, and you are amazed at the transformation and ripening of skill and ability. I am of the school "Everything happens for a reason", and my reason in writing my first manuscript was multiple-fold:
1. I had to learn to not be so sensitive; a rejection of my query to an agent means that agent simply doesn't have the contacts to connect my work to (and their loss, at the end of the day, right?! Ha!),
2. I deepened and honed my writing skills - in reading the beginning of my manuscript, and reading the end, it is an obvious evolution in the voice, tone and maturity of the writer. Furthermore, in comparing writing from today to my first manuscript, it's almost like reading the work of two entirely different people (although the humor is still most assuredly mine - no matter how immature I was then, and how mature my writing is now!). I can't wait to write something when I am ninety years old! - definite Nobel Laureate in Literature, definite!
3. I made friends with Harry Preston - a brilliant writer who was published at the early age of fifteen, and went on to write way into his eighties. The advice, correspondence and overall friendship we developed will be something I will cherish forever. Had I not been despondent about rejected by him (and all those other literary agents), he wouldn't have continued correspondence with me, because he was an encouraging fellow all-around.
So, it all happens for a reason - or in this case three.
But I'm once again at a juncture - I've written my second manuscript and very nearly done and ready to move on from the creative portion of publishing (writing the story) and onto the daunting and tedious portion of publishing (trying to get published). I'm excited, and a bit apprehensive, but I'm not the thin-skinned person I was at twenty-three (God, I hope not. I hope I don't get my first rejection and say to myself "So it's happening again? Better give up while you're ahead of yourself, Nick." I hope I don't have a hard fight to get recognised, to get accepted by an agent, to begin the process of publishing. As much as I've spent all of this blog touting my first manuscript and how much I love it - I also love my second manuscript, which reflects a deeper part of my soul, and a different aspect of who I am. It, too, is my baby - and I love them both.
As I begin this process again, I hope to succeed - please keep your fingers crossed for me.