Write What You Know…or Know Not?

I have tended to follow the “Write What You Know,” principle and am now wondering whether that mantra accrues diminishing returns over time. Recently, I finished writing another novel. Four of my novels have been published to date, while the other four sit in limbo waiting to get into the public spotlight. I have also written dozens of short stories, many of which have been published, including two collections of short fiction under my name. And I thought I would be beyond postpartum depression by now, when it came to writing and seeing one’s work in print. I was wrong. With the completion of this eighth yet-to-be-published novel—my shortest one yet, as I am aiming for brevity—that familiar feeling of release, mixed with loss and doubt, returned.

The first question I asked myself was: Who would benefit from reading this book? Who would care? And if no one cared, why do I continue to go around in circles crafting this stuff, picking incidents from my life, either experienced or witnessed because I am supposed to write only about what I know, when I could be doing some other good for humanity and for myself? Or do I detest humanity so much that I would rather hangout with my fictional characters whom I can bend to my will? And now that I have said goodbye to my imaginary friends at the end of this new book, am I left vulnerable and exposed again? Can I return to the fictional world, or is that gate managed by some power beyond myself, and do I need to experience and observe more of life before I am allowed in again? Who calls the timing of my re-entry? Is there a re-entry after this latest foray?

The rational side of me says, “Don’t worry, this is just the beginning of another adventure. There will be beta readers to go through, editors, re-writes, the publishing cycle, and the post-publishing marketing circus of launches, readings, interviews, reviews, book fairs and social media. Writing the book is only the beginning.” But I’ve heard this all before and gone through the “adventure” a number of times. All this “other stuff” is work that runs according to a template. The creation bit was the most important, the entry into a tunnel you never knew when or where you would exit from, and with what gifts of story accumulating in your manuscript. Creation was the true adventure, everything else was fluff.

“Write what you know,” can be stultifying, for how many personal life experiences are worth writing about, especially in a way that others would find entertaining, educational and uplifting? Some writers like Knausgaard, Kerouac and Burroughs have gotten away with it, but they either had unique lives that only they could write about, or boring ones that after a single reading need never be duplicated by any other writer. On the other hand, writing about other lives is supposed to wring hollow and is not taken seriously. And yet after writing about one’s own life from countless angles, if we don’t venture into other lives and other periods, repetition will set in. Is that why genres like historical fiction and fantasy are so popular with readers, while being financially rewarding and liberating for the writer?

I have arrived at that point, I think, where I have written all the stories from my life that I care to write about. Now, I’m at the jumping-off point into the great beyond of other lives and epochs, where the writing will, hopefully, continue for another indefinite period. I’m sure most writers have been here once; some have crossed the bridge successfully, while others have stayed in their comfort zone writing their way into irrelevance.

The Novel of the Future

I’ve tried to imagine what the novel of the future would be like. “Novel” means “new” and the form has been evolving since its invention. In fact, I am still trying to figure out who invented the novel; was it the Greeks, the Icelanders, the English, or the Japanese? Depending on which source you read, all of the above nations make that claim, due in part to the novel’s amorphous and ever-evolving form that fits any work having some kind of a narrative. But the future novel? A daunting task to conceive, yet one that every novelist tries to invent, if he is to gain immortality.

I looked at trend lines. Readers are consuming the following in plenty these days: feel-good stories, short works, long works, fantasy, crime (the puzzle), female themes, teen romances, and series (the latter, thanks to Netflix, I think). Weighty literary tomes, where the accent is on lyricism not brevity, character not plot, are attracting shrinking audiences, despite best efforts by arts organizations to elevate literary fiction with prizes, grants, and snob value. How do readers want novels to be presented; i.e. in prose, pictures, video, on paper, or electronically? Even though e-books were once touted as the emerging standard, their first iteration has not gained much ground, for three reasons: (a) their audience has come from a paper background and is required to change, (b) the devices and content are still pretty “old world”—our first generation of e-book is just another mousetrap, not necessarily better (c) publishers and e-tailers have gotten greedy and are pricing e-books closer to that of paper books to subsidize the paper that they are dumping at fire sales.

From the above I concluded that the novel of the future (and I’m talking 10-plus years from now, when the first kids to get an iPad on their fifth birthday become serious book buyers) would have to be story-driven, fast-paced, eventful, continuous, loaded with pictures and interactive video—and delivered electronically, of course.

And what would happen to the current crop of writers? Would they phase out like silent movie stars after sound entered the film industry? Or would they collaborate with illustrators, videographers, and techies to produce composite works, like the movies? Would the cost of a book therefore increase? After all, illustrations, video and sound must cost money. And these new collaborators will want a slice of the creator’s royalty pie as well, wouldn’t they ? Would we therefore have to be selective in the production and consumption of new literature due to its high cost of creation? Would advertizing become a standard appearance in novels to defray expenses? Would sponsorships be de-rigueur? And wouldn’t the older reader (i.e. my demographic) also gravitate to this new novel out of necessity as eyesight deteriorates, and a manipulatable book with the assistance of pictures, audio and video become more accessible? Too many questions…

There are more: Would I still play in this new environment? Me, who came of age reading words and conjuring up the rest (pictures, video and sound) in my imagination? Would I be happy being just a scriptwriter, for that’s what I would be reduced to (movie script-writers, please do not be offended, but novelists are the masters of their universe, editors notwithstanding)? Or would I continue writing my novels in the traditional manner and morph into an epicurean artist, like a calligrapher or a hypnotist?

Or could I depend on teachers and parents to continue reading to their children before these future readers are bestowed with iPads on their fifth birthday, thus ensuring that the tactile connection with books is still paper for generations to come? There are more questions than answers at this time when it comes to envisioning the novel of the future. And there is hope too, I think. In the meantime, we continue to write…

Peru Revisited

I wrote a novel in 2007 based on a trip I took to Peru in 2002. The country had intrigued me; emerging from a revolution that had recently ended and that still showed traces in bombed-out buildings, the underlying vein of poverty that intruded despite the bright colours of the clothes and ponchos worn by locals, the daunting heights of the Andes and the threat of altitude sickness that lurked with every painful step along the rugged Inca trail, and the magnificent ruin that awaited us at the end of the road: Machu Picchu. There were unpleasant sights too: favelas that encroached on historic ruins, one civilization threatening another even in the 21st century, like the Inca had done with their predecessors, or the Spanish with the Inca later on; traffic chaos resulting from urban drift and from traffic signals that were rarely obeyed; pickpockets in the Plazas de Armas in the major cities. An interesting country in which to set a novel, and I did.

My novel languished for years, enduring several critical beta readers and many re-writes, biding its time to be born. And that time arrived when it was finally selected for publication in the fall of 2015. Wondering whether my image of the country still held true, I returned to Peru last month for some final fact-checking. I’m glad I did.

Gone were the green-uniformed money changers who hung about the streets of the capital, gone too were their counterparts, prostitutes looking for a gringo tourist, to relieve him of his stress and his newly exchanged Sol. Gone were the bombed-out buildings, replaced by a condo-construction frenzy to accommodate a burgeoning middle class. Even my former hotel was boarded up and slated for demolition to make way for a more modern building. New parks and stadiums had sprung up, and there were traffic policewomen (women were considered more honest than men) to supplement enforcement at road intersections. And yet there was still the “donkey belly sky” over Lima, the traffic was denser, and the politics looser, but the crowds walked with a more confident step as 75% of the Limenos (residents of Lima) were now entrepreneurs, and the poverty ridden class had shrunk from 75% to 25% . A mining boom and better relationships with developed nations were being attributed to the economic uptick that had begun in 2005, and, despite one-off slumps, showed no signs of abating.

In the Andes, a similar building boom was underway. Cusco had doubled in size with new construction climbing the walls of the valley of the former Inca capital. The smattering of shacks on either side of a railway line that had been the gateway to Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, was now spreading out in all directions, around the swollen Urubamba River. Towns along the Sacred Valley were littered with similar works-in-progress: buildings with their second or third floors incomplete. Considering that the Inca took over a hundred years to complete some of their structures by quarrying large stones and interlocking them through feats of great strength and patience, this state of incompleteness in the modern Peru looked appropriate. At least, the modern Peruvians were extending existing dwellings and not stamping out the old in favour of the new  as their Inca and Spanish predecessors had done to assert that “Might was Right.”

And as for my novel, it will remain rooted in the Old Peru with only some details corrected in light of my recent fact-checking. Like the Inca story, it will be a part of the history that Peru needs to preserve as it rushes headlong into progress with other developing nations, as if grabbing for lost time. And yet the timelessness of its old story is the most endearing attraction and the mark of character of that country in a world that is moving towards homogeneity in this era of global sameness.

Your life as a novel

They say that we are born alone and that we die alone. Though there may be many gathered around us at these two seminal events, we are the ones being born and who are doing the dying, the rest are spectators. And between these two bookends of life lie the many people whom we encounter along the journey, people who motivate, inspire, discourage and disparage—heroes and villains. Your life is like a novel and the people in it are characters. I’ve tried to categorize these people:

 Motivators: Children, spouses, extended family – those you have to struggle to give life to, to protect, inspire and discipline, to teach and mentor until some are ready to take their places in the world and others to regain their lost places in it. They give you a reason to get up in the morning, for their lives depend on you – they give you purpose. Many of them remain with you throughout your life and grow old with you, some leaving this plane before your own exit bell sounds.

Inspirers: Teachers, friends, bosses (good ones), colleagues (good ones), parents (good ones), writers, philosophers. They acknowledge your efforts but keep the bar raised that much higher so that you continue to stretch and grow. Many of these people come into your life for short but intense periods during which their lessons are vivid, and register.

Discouragers: Those with whom you form non-productive relationships, those who make you lesser then you are or are capable of becoming. And yet, they too teach you the lesson about whom to associate with and whom to avoid. Their passage through your life teaches you what not to become. They sharpen your disassociation skills. They last for as long as you tolerate their company.

Disparagers: These are the ones who fear you, your enemies, and those who see in you the person they have failed to become. They criticize and censure, diminish and deride your achievements. And yet they give you a taste for the negative side of success and teach you about what happens when one person’s star casts a shadow over everyone else. Disparagers do not leave until they are satiated with venting their venom on you. They are hard to shake off and multiply the more successful you become.

So there you have it. In many instances, these characters are like the hands you are dealt with in a game of chance. As the Holiday Season visits us again, and it comes the time for that annual stock taking of our lives, I thought I would revisit my life’s scrapbook, my personal novel, and take stock of the characters still in play, some newly arrived, some enduring for ages, others desired but not yet in sight. I’m sure you will be able to identify a whole bunch of people who came into your life as well at some point or other, who fall into these four camps. Though there may be good guys and bad guys in this cast, they all have one thing in common: they are teachers, and they make your life what it is.

And so we embrace them all, thanking them for their presence, and settle down to playing our game of chance, and to writing our personal novel of life.

The drug novel – a new sub-genre in fiction

I’m wondering if the time has come for us to classify the drug novel as a distinct sub-genre in fiction. In the absence of global wars (wars have gone local or regional these days) and other universal grist mills of human conflict, it seems that drug dependency has become a prevalent theme in our times, a state of being that many can identify with. All the ingredients for a gripping novel are here: premise, weapon…err…drug, hero, villain, and setting.

 The Premise – The scientific-minded rationalize that we are made up of chemicals, and that sometimes we go out of balance, so we need to restore that balance, and a little pill is all that is required. The traditionalists wail that our romance with the pill is because the world has gone to pot (I suppose even a pot pill must be out there now that the legal walls around marijuana are crumbling) and we are consequently killing ourselves faster and faster, although life expectancy rates show otherwise. The elderly thank the stars that their personalized bag of pills is keeping them alive longer, but mourn that the pills have not shown them how to command purpose, respect and dignity in their sunset years. And the young are forever trying to find a higher level of buzz, because the stuff of a generation ago is so dumb. Lots premises for basing the drug novel…

 The Weapon – Drug consumption falls into several types: the ones taken for recreation due to boredom with the quotidian; the ones taken to escape the pain of that daily grind; the ones taken for illness, that need to be counterbalanced with others due to the side effects from the first, and with still others for the side effects from the counterbalancing drugs, and so on; the ones taken to insulate us from a hostile environment (aka allergens); the ones taken because our mood is considered either too chirpy or too low. Even the medical profession has taken its first line of offence against any out-of- pattern situation with the “Do I have just the pill for you!” line.

The Hero – We could classify drug users as damaged heroes, hapless victims, weak protagonists, or unreliable narrators. They evoke sympathy in whichever way you classify them, and sympathetic characters sell, these days.

The Villains – The good villain, aka Big Pharma, promises us that “this little pill is good for you,” but then gets you hooked on it for life (e.g. statins, blood-pressure medication, sleeping pills, etc.), ensuring a steady cash flow while being protected by patents; the bad villain, aka the Drug Dealer, feeds us recreational drugs to make us “feel good,” and also hooks us for life, until death or bankruptcy do us part; the insurance company decides which drugs are good for us and throws wrenches into the best laid medical plans. And let’s not forget the arch-villains: Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other fatal illnesses that drive us towards drugs.

The Setting – This world is bleak, where hope has been sucked out and the only exit leads downhill; a world of unrealized dreams, damaged lives, grieving families, scarred children, and death or suicide staring you in the face.

This is not an easy sub-genre to digest, and I have stayed away from reading such downers because, in many instances, there is a lack of hope associated with these stories. A writer who thinks he can shock or entertain us with this stuff is taking a risk, for many of us would rather not be reminded; somewhere in our circle, someone is wrestling with this very demon, and we are too scared to get near lest we too succumb or be reminded of our failed salvage efforts.

My guess however is that this sub-genre will thrive the more we get obsessed with viewing our lives as art (Proust Revisited, Knausgaard, Bolano et al), as fiction approaches the real, and as the Selfie gains ascendance. The ingredients of a modern day-in-the-life scenario now routinely include a joint of weed, a sniff of heroin, a cocktail of prescription meds, or a bag of anti-depressants, and these drugs seep into the novel as regular props and devices, just like cigarettes and alcohol did a generation ago.

As for me, I plan to steer clear of these books for now. I never say never though, for who knows, one day I may end up pharmaceutical-dependent (inevitable as we age, it seems) and may have to go seeking a little bit of company and sympathy from fictitious junkie friends.

Travel is Education

Someone told me that with Google Earth, Wikipedia and other instant information tools readily at our fingertips these days, there was no longer a need to travel to foreign places to get a sense of culture, language, food, geography and all the other elements that a trip outside of one’s physical boundaries provide. While armchair travelling has never had it better, I beg to differ with these pundits of inertia.

I recently wrote a novel set in a part of France I had never visited (my travels in that country up to that point had been limited to Paris and environs). With the assistance of all the online tools and data repositories available to me, I wrote copiously about Strasbourg and Metz, and not in our present day either, but around the time of the French Revolution. Something irked me on completing the book. I had not captured the soul of these places. So I travelled to those two cities and spent some time soaking in their atmospheres.

The first thing I noticed was how poorly I had estimated distance, especially if travelling by horse and carriage, and how differently the shadows fell on old buildings at certain times of the day; and the variance in colour of the Vosges Mountain range in the distance, for online photographs create their own hue and are never like the real thing. Dwellings had added an extra floor with each passing century and the ones I had to hunt down were the crumbling three•storey structures with wide doorways for carriages – these were the ones that harked back to the period depicted in my novel. I had to blot out the sound of motorized traffic and imagine the clop of horses’ hooves on cobblestone streets that still paved the inner cores of these cities. I sat on canal banks and watched swans whose ancestors had floated on those same waters three hundred years ago, waters carrying the blood of citoyen killed in the mass upheavals of those times. I was so absorbed in the scene that I thought I heard voices. Was I finally communing with the soul of this place?

From a young age I have always travelled abroad. I even set an ambitious goal for myself once, of visiting one new country for every year of my life. I am probably running two countries shy of that target, not brought about by a diminishing of interest but because there are not many new “safe” places to explore anymore, given that the world is caught up in a war between the haves and the have•nots, and “equalization” methods such as kidnapping and terrorism now extend to tourists as well. Even Mother Nature has been angry, unleashing temperamental outbursts at the most inconvenient times: I escaped the tsunami in Japan in 2011 by a couple of weeks, and was rocked and rolled by an earthquake in Costa Rica last year, then stranded due to a flood in Nicaragua on that same trip.

But I continue my pursuit, and to stretch my goals, I have just completed a novel set in Cape Town, circa 1794. Even though I used my trusty online tools to the maximum once again, visited the reference library several times, and had two South African friends fact•check my work, I know what is missing. Needless to say, when funds and time permit, I will be heading off for a date with the Soul of South Africa.

How to write the next literary novel

A fellow writer asked me what it would take to write the next literary novel. I searched through my notes, gathered after wondering for many years in literary wastelands, and came up with these Ten Commandments (caveat emptor: I take no responsibility for the success or failure of your novel):

1) Do away with plot. Plots are superfluous and distract from the language.

2) Create metaphors within metaphors within metaphors…

3) Deliberately obfuscate the flow of the narrative. Forget about beginnings, middles, and ends. Start at the end and go to the beginning. Or better yet, start in the middle and go both ways, testing your reader who wouldn’t know if you are coming or going.

4) Throw in all the literary styles you can think of: dialogue, poetry, screenplay, Q & A, parallel scenes, songs, flashback, flash forward, oh, and bit of straight narrative so that the reader still believes that she is reading a book. Write at least one chapter as one long stream•of•consciousness sentence. Write from about five first•person points of view (of preferably the same scene) and let the reader figure out who is who. Worried this book may be unclassifiable? Who gives a damn? The literary novel makes its own rules. Show them how clever you are.

5) Create characters that are not just larger than life but physically grotesque. Their character flaws and physical defects must yawn larger than the Grand Canyon.

6) Make sure that everyone is sexually repressed but don’t have them express their sexuality—the imagination is better.

7) Invent new words. Go for sound not meaning. And you don’t need a glossary at the end of your book to explain them—if the reader doesn’t get it, too bad! He will put it down to art.

8) Write at least 1000 pages. After the publisher’s cuts, it should not be less than 500 pages. A heavy tome is always authoritative. Also the reader will never finish it, so it will remain a mountain to be conquered, a masterpiece to be returned to time and again, in frustration.

9) Don’t publicize the book. Just make sure it has some scandal attached to it (charges of nihilism, sedition or sexual deviancy would work).

10) Print a limited run of 100 copies, give them away free to people who are looking for a hook or platform to further their own literary careers, then sit back or get on with your regular writing and watch your book become the stuff of legend. Better yet, say it’s out of print and have readers scramble to get their hands on a copy.

In the end, if the reader does not understand your novel, he will put it down to the superior intellect of the writer and your work will be hailed as a classic, only to be read in small doses by scholars.

All the best with your masterpiece!

Do titles sell books?

I know that covers sell books, well, at least for now, before e•books run us over, but do titles do the same? Is it best to plagiarize an existing best•selling title, and modify it a bit to ensure that unintended searches will unearth your book and present it to an unsuspecting reader? I know I had some unasked•for success when my last novel After the Flood came out a few months after a more famous book called The Year of the Flood (honest, I did not plagiarize here, I had been toiling at my tome for over seven years and had a mass of publishers and other gatekeepers to wade through before I arrived at my launch party, late, as to be expected)

Or is it better to use the most unremarkable title like The (Something) or a longer one like the curious incident of when I went to buy groceries and met a long cool woman in a black dress? Or adapt one of those biblical passages that Hemingway was so fond of using even if it has no relevance to the story: I lie me down in green pastures.

I have been struggling to find the title for a collection of linked stories that I would like to see published next. These stories cover the immigrant experience from both sides: the home country and the host country, and deals with the unfinished business often left behind, the emotional baggage that prevents the immigrant from making that final commitment to his new home, to what was originally just a leap of faith. I started with Unfinished Business, then I found out that there were plenty of titles under that moniker; also it could be mistaken for a poorly written business book. I lingered over Memories – too soppy and melodramatic. Departure Stains was next, but it sounded like someone had taken a dump on the old country and run away in a hurry seeking sanctuary in the new home (which is true of some shadier immigrants, but is not a general condition). From Both Sides Now is the name of a famous song, so I discarded that one. In desperation, I thought of Untitled but even that has been taken several times over. My Short Stories would be too immature, Immigrant Stories would be better as a sub•title, and I Can’t Bloody Find A Name For This Book would definitely sound paranoid.

I thought of asking my publisher. After all, they are going to market my book, let them do some work. But then I could see their rebound question hitting me squarely in the face: “You can’t even articulate the meaning of your book with an appropriate title? Okay – Reject Pile. Next!”

Dear readers, you seem to be my last resort. If you have an idea, please let me know. Perhaps cyberspace will come to my rescue, and as Frasier Crane said, “I am listening…”

Is Writing like Farming?

I was trying to find an analogy for writing when farming came to mind. A new novel is like a farmer’s new crop. Consider what goes into getting the novel to that stage: first there are the seeds of an idea, then the first drafts, then the feedback, the hunt for a publisher, chasing the market by promoting the work, and later, counting the pennies as royalties roll in (if they roll in!). Finally, wiping the slate clean and writing the next book.

Farmers too plant seeds of various kinds: tried•and•true varieties like canola, soy and corn, or specialty organic seeds, just as the writers develop their ideas in either mainstream or literary fiction. Aren’t trial crops like drafts, isn’t the weather at times just as hostile as literary criticism and rejection letters, isn’t the hunt for buyers of farm produce in a commoditized market difficult, and aren’t the pickings slim? Isn’t the harvest like a book launch? Isn’t Fall the most lucrative time of the year for a farmer as it is for an author? Is letting the field lie fallow over the winter before re•planting in spring like letting the imagination rest and re•invigorate itself for the next novel?

Some farmers sell out to conglomerates and co•operatives and work for guaranteed prices and quotas, much like contract writers or journalists. Others take their chances at selling their wares at country fairs and friendly co•ops like self•published authors do. Some writers even peddle their work at weekend farmers markets, rubbing shoulders with their buddies•in•hardship? There must be an unexpressed kinship and bonding taking place at these venues among these silent types. Oh, and lest we forget, Canada Revenue likens farming to writing as the only profession in which the practitioner is not expected to make a profit during his lifetime!

The only difference between these two vocations I find is that as farms wane and farmers exit their industry today, writers are entering theirs in droves and we are awash in new literature delivered via traditional and non•traditional forms. Writers are at a different end of their cycle than farmers, it appears. But cycles do go around. The recent rise in global food prices is a harbinger of what happens when farmers are not given their due respect. Perhaps faming will return to its once held place of pre•eminence among the trades once global food scarcity levels hit a higher notch, if we aren’t there already. It be nice to see writers return to their once lofty pedestal too, being provided just reward for their sincere toil, for unreservedly sharing their imaginations with the world. Ah, but then I am a dreamer.

There is another glitch to realizing this dream. Farming produces stomach food while writing generates soul food. And in the human hierarchy of needs, farming will always come first. We have not evolved as a society yet to recognize that soul food is as important as belly food. I wonder if I would be treated with more respect the next time I introduce myself not as a writer but as “a farmer of soul food?” Would I be embraced graciously or would I be asked a dumb question like “Can I buy your stuff at the grocery store? Which aisle?”

There’s got to be the morning after

I remember the day my old high school staged the musical “Oliver” on what was then the national theatre in the old country. We were ecstatic, we had hit the big time – we were stars! On the morning of opening night, our producer, who was also the school principal, summoned the cast into a mass and issued us a sermon on “looking beyond.” He said, “Tonight, you will reach for the stars and you will delight your audiences. And this euphoria will continue for the run of the play. But the play will end one day, and you will wake up on the morning after the cast party, bleary eyed and lost, your fame vanished. Look beyond the play to what it would have done for you and to what you would have learned from it. Unfortunately, I have to disagree with Shakespeare – the play is NOT the thing.” I was a bit pissed off at him then, but I understand the wisdom of his words now.

For now, as I prepare my fourth novel for publication, I am thinking of “the morning after” and am full of questions. Is this tome yet another contribution to that growing graveyard of books that my generation seems determined to proliferate, just as we have done so successfully with nuclear weapons, garbage dumps, and data storage clouds? Is it going to make the world a better place? Will I become a better person for releasing this creation into the world?

How many hours of imagining, drafting, writing and re•writing went into this baby? How many query letters left unanswered, how much alcohol consumed to dull the emotional pain of being ignored, how many epithets hurled at the Maker for giving me this cross, how many prayers offered for a single acceptance when the rejections “quite overcrowed the spirit” and the whole world looked like an uncaring place?

And like our play “Oliver,” for a few weeks, or months, perhaps years, people may continue to read and talk about my novel; some may e•mail me with compliments for giving them an enlightening read, others will send me hate mail for having raised some better•buried skeletons in the closet. And after that flurry of activity, the book will be forgotten, consigned to the slagheap of literature where all books ultimately reside. I may feel in good company if I see a dog•eared copy of my novel at a book sale one day, rubbing shoulders with a tattered copy of the Bard’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”

And how will I feel on the morning after? After all this is over?

I know what I will do, what I have to do. I have no option. I will move on to write another novel, and another, and continue to litter the world with thoughts, ideas, creations and stories. Dissipate the anxiety through creation. That will be my response to the morning after syndrome. For to stop is to look down into the abyss … “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller (or writer) returns.”

I wish I could meet my old high school principal now (he passed away recently) and thank him for the caution he gave me during my formative years that prepared me for this “crisis of creation” and allowed me to arrive at the only remedy.