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.