CW: confidence issues, mental health, the world.
Last week, I was talking on the phone with my DSA mental health mentor. She was asking me how I was doing with my dissertation proposal, and I told her in honesty that I hadn’t had the opportunity to work on it in the past couple of weeks: I was too busy dealing with Covid-19 aftercare at home; juggling with survival, brain fog and fatigue; proofreading typesetting for my book; and so on. She then stopped me in my tracks and, barely containing her excitement, she jolted:
— YOU HAVE A BOOK?!
I was puzzled. I have been speaking to this mentor since May 2019. By then, my proposal for a poetry collection had already been accepted by the publishing house, and I was attempting to edit previous work and write new material during a human relationship crisis. I was sure I had told her about the book several times before, but maybe she had forgotten. I shrugged and replied:
— Yes? Of my poetry?
— I didn’t know you had that in you!
Basically, because of the social and professional repercussions of said crisis that May, I had lost all opportunities of creative interaction and friendships in all but one aspect of my life. This was the poetry scene. For almost a year, I would only leave the house to go to university and to go to spoken word events. My mentor certainly knew about this, didn’t she? There were times I would head straight to the pub, coffee house or theatre where a poetry workshop or open mic would take place right after our meetings. I must have told her in one of those “what are you doing for the rest of the day?” farewell chats.
— Really? It’s basically all that I do. I would go to the open mics right after uni.
— Well, congratulations! Tell me when it comes out, so I can get a signed copy!
I should have been flattered, but I was confused. How could she not know about the things that kept me alive? A lot of our sessions involved time management, bullet journalling and planning the week ahead, hour by hour. Several of those hours had to do with writing, listening and sharing poetry – especially, The Book. How did she not know? I must have spoken about nothing but The bloody Book, hadn’t I.
Sometime last year, I was having a pint with a few fellow friends and poets before one of our favourite open mics. I had arrived in advance after one of these mentoring sessions at uni, so I spent the time in between writing new work. I told this to my colleagues, expecting they would understand, and one of them interjected:
— That book’s been coming on for a while, hasn’t it.
Translation: “are you talking about The bloody Book again? Get over it. No one cares”.
I felt self-conscious and sad. This person was still friends with the people who had made it impossible for me to do anything else in this town. I didn’t want to lose my last remaining den of security, now with cracks in the ceiling. I stopped talking about the book altogether.
Mind you, this person won’t stop advertising his self-published poetry zines and recordings to anyone with willing eyes and ears. I was stealing his spotlight and taking way too much space on the table. So, I chose to be quiet until the publishing date was closer, and I had to speak about it. But I have lost practice and I am scared.
Around the same time I had that awkward interaction with my DSA mentor, I had posted a recommendation quote for the book in a way to advertise it across my social media platforms. Again, I received a few congratulations from people who did not know I was being published soon. Bear in mind, I had advertised the initial news about being included in the publishing house’s roster for upcoming releases, the news about the title and synopsis made official, and the unveiling of the album cover. A lot of the people congratulating had known me for several years, or at least I thought. Again, it had perplexed me that they had just found out. Have I been this quiet?
Maybe they have other things to think about and notice. After all, we are in the middle of a pandemic, an economic crisis, and the brink of civil war wherever you are reading this. I know I am not the centre of the universe, and neither are other writers, and I should be grateful for any speck of attention. Especially now, and after that pileup last year.
Either way, I wish I had an assistant and a street/online team who did the advertisement for me and spare me from feeling like an arsehole regardless of how little or how much I do.
Screenshots from Amazon, Waterstones and Foyles.
My assistant and team would tell you now that Meanwhile, my debut poetry collection, is now available for presale on Amazon, Waterstones and Foyles. They will also warn you not to buy it from these platforms because in the publishing houses and authors get peanuts from sales on these big websites; and they would encourage you to wait until it is available on the Burning Eye Books website and on my own store for presale.
My PR/assistant team would release it on presale right away, come up with ideas and bundles, encourage me to release a mailing list or whatever, and they would whack me with a stick if I replied “The bloody Book again? Get over it. No one cares”. But I’m tired of people who say they know me telling me they didn’t know I was a writer when it’s literally the only thing I can do; and equally tired of privileged white guys telling me to shut up and let them blabber a bit more about their vanity rags.