Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Out from under a boulder

An emptiness unlike all others sets in once a manuscript has left home for the last time, all grown up and on its way into the mulching, relentless printing press. The opportunities for amending and tweaking are exhausted and soon the words contained within its pages will be exposed for all to see. The relief of having finished this labor of both love and hate is thus a bit tainted and the vague content sounds whispered by the muscles of now unburdened shoulders, does not bring about the pleasure one expected and looked forward to. It is a similar feeling one recollects from years ago, when still at school when the long awaited end of exams finally rolled around. The relief was never as exhilarating as one expected, the test questions wrongly answered still at the forefront of one’s thoughts while those perfectly concluded were immediately completely forgotten, as if they were a credit card pin number. This melancholy emotion is the bitter ghostly taste of opportunity wasted and time passed into oblivion. You can't get it back and fix things. But when teetering on the edge of this incline into utter woe and depression there is no way out except to pause, shake the gloom away much the same as one would annoying confetti from one’s hair and think: Why so glum chum?

What is the worst that can happen, in the publishing scenario and the many others one tends to worry about? Usually nothing that one can’t recover from, given determination and hard work. A failed test can be retaken and a bad mark made up for the following semester. With a book, so what if it bombs and the reviewers hate it? You take their advice to heed and do better next time. Should there not be a next time because of the severity of the fiasco then do the next best thing. Read. Enjoy what others have strived to get out there. Use the spare time freed up to bake a cake, take up golf or learn to hunt. This being said I must admit that the amount of spare time I would need to have on my hands in order to take up golf is a number in the realm of astronomy. And I am much too soft hearted to hunt as much as a spider, coincidentally an insect as capable a baker as yours truly. So I will be doing none of those things should I end up unpublishable. I will probably just stick to reading.

To not sound ungrateful I must mention how good it is to again have the time to blog without having to fight the feeling that for every word blogged the book will have to be one word shorter. Not to mention how thankful I am that Jeff stepped in and helped me out last Wednesday when I had typed the last amended word and believed I would never touch a keyboard again. Hopefully this is a favor I can repay him someday.

It is impossible to leave the subject of semi-regret without mentioning my performance on the TV quiz show. As a hint regarding how the team for Seltjarnarnes (my hometown) did, consider this: Did we know the name of Nixon’s dog? Did we know who wrote a play called the Birthday Party in 1958? Did we know how many prize categories there are at the Academy Awards? Did we know the name of the governor of Syria at the time of Jesus’ birth? Did we know how hard the questions were going to be when we signed up? The answer to all of these questions is no. We had no idea – we did not even know Nixon had a dog. He might just as well have had a hamster. So we lost, had about as much chance of winning as a Kennedy has in passing the bar exam on the first go. Were defeated in one of those disgraceful ways that is best likened to a barbarian clan from ancient history, the type that lived within the woods and became arrogant after learning to light fire, and then decided to take on the Roman Empire. Ouch.

But as little as I am now liked in my hometown I must be greatly admired in Ísafjörður, the town that did the defeating a la Ceasar. The reviews for my book in the local paper will probably be fabulous.

(Nixon’s bloody dog was named Checkers, the stupid play was written by Harold Pinter, there are 24 ugly Oscar statues handed out annually and the irrelevant governor of Syria was Quirinius)

Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. Before I mention what a wonderful post this is, I must comment on the Kennedy family difficulty in passing the bar exam. Fairly early on, the family decided that, since the states involved wouldn't take bribes, they would simply hire someone else to take the exam. That they were all fairly recognizable because of their media exposure, should have kept this from being a reasonable plan but eventually they managed to get sworn in as lawyers. Ted had been forced to leave Harvard for two years when he was caught cheating on a Spanish exam. No lessons were ever learned it seemed.

    I am proud of my daughter. She passed the bar exam the first time she took it. We were all greatly relieved. The summer of the bar exam was not a happy time. She was working the day the exam results arrived. There were two envelopes. She agreed that I could open one, and her father could open the other. As she hyperventilated, she was mumbling something about one letter said she passed, and the other said the first letter was a mistake. It took awhile to convince her that one was notification that she had passed and the other gave the details of the swearing in.

    I seriously digress. Kennedys can make me do that.

    Your comments are a terrific life lesson. As bad as things can seem, they can be overcome if there is the desire to do so. Events may be out of one's control but how one responds is not.

    I think that creative people are prone to think that their successes are transient because creativity cannot be quantified. I can bake a cake; success requires nothing more than being capable of reading the recipe and marks on the measuring cups and spoons. If I fail, the failure is immediately obvious; the evidence is sitting right there. If I succeed, that becomes obvious when the evidence of the success vanishes.

    What you do, and do so well, is create a world in your imagination and then re-create it for your readers. You do have to send it off to succeed or fail on its own. That takes courage.


  2. What a wonderful post! It rings so true. Even though I live(d) in the States I wouldn't have got any of the answers correct either.

    Stan (a Seltjarnarnes fan)

  3. Yrsa, having to follow your words and Beth's prompts me to think of comedian George Gobel's classic line on American television's iconic Johnny Carson Show. Gobel was following extraordinary performances by legends Bob Hope and Dean Martin, none of whom left the set when it was Gobel's turn. Gobel now had to come up with something to say as the world watched.

    Okay, Yrsa, this is your chance to redeem yourself in the eyes of the hometown crowd...Question: WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I TALKING ABOUT?

    Patient Pause.

    Answer: Gobel said, "Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you're a pair of brown shoes?"

    And you're very welcome, as it was my honor to fill in for you.


  4. Hi all,

    Beth - I love the 2 envelope story, your daughter sounds as if she has my affliction for wierd worrying. The reason for example that I am so worried about my latest book is the fact that one of the readers, a guy who reads over the grammar etc, has read all 5 to date and has always been really negative about the contents, found the books no good. All of the sudden he now loves the new one which makes me extremely worried. I would have much preferred he hated it like he usually does. Bad sign.

    Stan - if it makes you feel better I am sure Nixon's decendants would have a hard time remembering the name of his dpg.

    Jeff - a million thanks again, let me know when the boulder closes in on you and I will jump to the rescue.

    bye Yrsa