Tag Archives: self-doubt

“The book of my enemy has been remaindered” Clive James

Conde Nast TagID: cncartoons025158.jpg/Photo via Conde Nast
Well, the book has been launched, and I’m at a difficult crossroads. Do I frantically try to market it, push it out into the world like a ten-pound baby, or do I retract back into my shell and let the rest of my books lie fallow?

Can you all relate? It’s hard putting yourself out there, visible, when all of you screams, “No don’t! They’ll see your flaws.” Somehow it seems better to slink along and just not do.

And then there is the cringing that occurs when you’ve been seen and found wanting…Are you, in fact, merely killing trees to no purpose?

Its at times of doubt like this that I love a good poem, like this gem by the inimitableĀ Clive James. If all else fails, I can hope for some minor glory, like his enemy in this poem…

The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy's much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life's vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one's enemy's book --
For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and banks of duds,
These ponderous and seeminly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs.

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I rejoice.
It has gone with bowed head like a defeated legion
Beneath the yoke.
What avail him now his awards and prizes,
The praise expended upon his meticulous technique,
His individual new voice?
Knocked into the middle of next week
His brainchild now consorts with the bad buys
The sinker, clinkers, dogs and dregs,
The Edsels of the world of moveable type,
The bummers that no amount of hype could shift,
The unbudgeable turkeys.

Yea, his slim volume with its understated wrapper
Bathes in the blare of the brightly jacketed Hitler's War Machine,
His unmistakably individual new voice
Shares the same scrapyart with a forlorn skyscraper 
Of The Kung-Fu Cookbook,
His honesty, proclaimed by himself and believed by others,
His renowned abhorrence of all posturing and pretense,
Is there with Pertwee's Promenades and Pierrots--
One Hundred Years of Seaside Entertainment,
And (oh, this above all) his sensibility,
His sensibility and its hair-like filaments,
His delicate, quivering sensibility is now as one
With Barbara Windsor's Book of Boobs,
A volume graced by the descriptive rubric
"My boobs will give everyone hours of fun".

Soon now a book of mine could be remaindered also,
Though not to the monumental extent
In which the chastisement of remaindering has been meted out
To the book of my enemy,
Since in the case of my own book it will be due
To a miscalculated print run, a marketing error--
Nothing to do with merit.
But just supposing that such an event should hold
Some slight element of sadness, it will be offset
By the memory of this sweet moment.
Chill the champagne and polish the crystal goblets! 
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am glad.




Personally, I’d kindĀ of like to be found shelved next to Barbara Windsor’s Book of Boobs, which actually does exist, remaindered or not…After all, her boobs promise everyone hours of fun.

What more can any author ask?


Panicking and all that

This weekend I’m off to an excellent mystery writer’s conference – Bloody Words XII in Toronto, ON. It’s one of those GOOD conferences, with a short story contest, the opportunity to have your MS evaluated by an author, a chance to take said story to pitch to an agent, plus lots of sessions on how to write, meetings with all the fabulous authors you read, and fun galore.

So I should be looking forward to it. Instead, I am in a state of suspended animation similar to that of a deer in the front of an oncoming Mac Truck.

You see, I missed the short story contest, despite promising myself I’d enter. My story didn’t fit the guidelines and I hated to send in a revamped weaker one that probably would just embarrass me.

I did send in a MS for evaluation, though, and am inwardly cringing at the potential for damning with faint praise from a real live author. Of course I assume she’ll hate it.

And then I booked an appointment with an agent, and now I am overcome, frozen, totally blinded by the view of my incompetence as I review my book, working on it so it’s shiny enough to pitch.

Part of it is the aloneness of writing. I’ve been lazy about sending things in for publication and my recent contest entries have been uninspired. I feel as if I am dabbling in the shallows of the tidal pools of my mind. Little little splashes.

Part of it is the difficulty I have roping my mind into behaving properly. It might be simple laziness, but I also wonder about the effects of my MS on my brain power. Of course, as soon as I

say that, I hear my mum telling me it’s just an excuse, but I do run up against limitations that seem real to me. Maybe the novel format is too much to take on, my “poor me I’m sick” self says.

“You’re just wasting time,” my maternal message says. “You can do anything you put your mind to,” she adds, dangling participles with abandon.

Self-messaging runs deep deep in our souls. Over years of therapy and self-examination and trying to pull them up by their roots, they still hang in there, sprouting in the darkness, waiting their time to reach into the sun and be seen, in all their malevolent beauty.

I still feel sleeping in past eight is “wasting the day” as my dad told me over and over, despite having a disease that demands more rest. I feel incompetent with handling my finances despite managing okay in general, but my relatives never let me think I could do it. I feel fat and lazy despite working out several times a week (and said illness) because that’s part of the messaging I’ve absorbed over the years. I feel inadequate and all that every day.

And yet, I’m not. I’m active, fit, smart, pretty, round, yes, but strong as a bull. I’m funny and witty and I write well when I write. I accomplish a lot in my humble circles and in bigger ones, too. So why, when presented with this conference, does my confidence drip away through the drain like so much sludge?