How I became my own stumbling block to success

desert-846930_640I’m having a bit of an introspective evening thinking back to when I had published the first two books of the Celenic Earth Chronicles before, and how I almost threw it away. I felt perhaps I should share this with my readers, to maybe give a sense of what I’ve been through for this series, how much it means to be back, and so that someone can learn a lesson from my mistakes.

After I had originally published “The DragonRider” in 2008, I had completed the “Sadgi” a few months later, but was only going to publish later in 2009. I had decided to get more exposure as a writer, get myself known in local communities and really get myself out there, despite my very anti-social, introverted nature. In this quest to discover a new side to myself, I discovered a local book “club” while attending a Cape Town Book Fair.

This book club consisted of only a few members, including only one other published author at the time. The other members were writers looking to be published, and the main goal of the club was to critique each other’s work and give valuable insight as to how it may be improved. They also read other works for critique. It was one of the most meaningful experiences in my life, in that I learnt just how much I have no ambition to become a critic. It’s really hard for me to tell someone their writing sucks, as I believe even the worst writing could be a butterfly waiting to break loose from its cocoon – there’s always hope.

Unfortunately, at that time I was going through a hidden dark phase of my life. I had also discovered Mxit, and all the sensual pleasures that came with it. The rush of finding out over chat when people you have known so long are just as sexually minded as you…and the exhilarating consequences of those findings. Everything that parents were complaining that Mxit was bad for, I basically took for a test drive. So much easier when you’re not actually having to face the person in person…. so to speak.

So what does this have to do with my writing? Along with the adventures of finding this club, i had spread my wings in terms of networking. Back then, Facebook was the main in-thing and all my marketing was done via my Facebook Celenic Earth page. I had grown some grand ideas in the nursery of my mind, and one of those was a network of SA writers who I could assist with getting where I had gotten. I was published, I had marketing tools, and I had a network of aides such as printing companies who would assist any SA writers connected to me. I basically wanted to make it much easier for any new writers to enter the market, and pave the way for future SA writers.

It’s with very little surprise that one of the writers in the club saw an opportunity for herself in this grand scheme and got very excited by its prospects. She became very proactive in joining me on this crusade and enabling it to happen quicker than I could have imagined. We built the network with the speed of light, only because there was such a hungry market of SA writers wanting to be published easily and without too much hassle.

She also got to know about my other side, since sharing sensual sides of myself felt just too easy and comfortable on a mobile chat platform, where consequences seems so inconsequential. She also seemed comfortable with crossing that line in terms of engaging me with the discussions, not in terms of participating but by the mere fact of being interested in the details. I wish that back then I had learnt the lessons that I have already learnt by now, I would have given myself some good advice.

But since I did not have me to guide me in the right direction, I took a wrong turn. I am still not sure where the misunderstanding had been in the initial part. In short, I had shared with her a picture of myself which should not have been shared, after a brief discussion and a show of interest from her. Something so small, and maybe not so innocent, at the time, but we didn’t make a big deal about it an moved on.

Now kids (in the voice of Ted Mosby from “How I met your mother”), this would be a good hard lesson in how things that seem small, later comes to bite you in the ass. After some time, my interest in the book club waned, not because they were bad in any way, but I realised I am not that much into critiquing other people’s work. Also, I had just taken on academic studies and I knew I would have even less time for anything else. I had decided to just try one or two more club meetings, and see if it could not work.

She and I had a fallout though, just after I had made that decision. We were having a casual conversation about writing styles and techniques in capturing the reader’s attention over chat. We were comparing famous authors that we read, and our opinions on their writing styles. I had mentioned a technique I had adapted from Clive Cussler, to which she not only had an opinion in terms of my writing but his as well, stating that it is a weak technique and lazy, calling her technique far superior. Now, I don’t really mind if a person’s opinion differs from mine, as a matter of fact it is to be expected. But there’s a major line between having an opinion on something and insulting it.

Needless to say we had a rather big fallout about it that weekend and didn’t speak again until the following week. By that time I had further considered my waning interest in the club, together with the pressure of my upcoming studies, and decided maybe it was time to pull out. She took it very personally of course, and decided to not just take it out on me but attempt to destroy me completely. Without mentioning our actual fight and the real reason for our split, she went to every member in our great network we had created and shared with them that I had sent her that photo, and made as if that was the real cause of the problem.

I had attempted to contact them after that to continue the network, but the damage had been done. They pulled out one by one, some of them explaining what she had told them and that they wanted nothing to do with me. It didn’t hurt so much that they were abandoning me for what I had done – it was wrong and I deserved that. It hurt me more that none of them even wanted to hear what had actually happened, just took her word for it and judged me. And I had known most of them much longer than she had. In retrospect, they never deserved an explanation from me if they could not have the decency to want to hear both sides. I still wonder why no one asked her why she still had that photo.

I have always been known by friends, family and colleagues for finding a silver lining in everything, and this is no exception. Looking back, I can see the benefit of everything that had happened. For one, it pulled me out of that phase I was in, but pulled me into an even darker phase. My writing took a heavy knock, and even though the Sadgi was completed, I was in no mood to have it published. Her actions and their reactions had affected me more than I had ever wanted to admit.

So where is the silver lining? Well, it pulled me away from a publisher that was taking us all for a ride and is now being sued for further investigation by the FBI for fraud. It removed me from a circle of people that may have done more harm to my writing than good. It gave me time to become more mature, not only in my writing, but in my moral decisions. I have become a stronger and better person because of it. It also gave time for me to re-publish my books in a time where most things are electronic and maybe the world is more ready to receive my epic fantasy writing style. Back then very little was known about fantasy… then Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings graced the screens (and many fantasy films thereafter), and suddenly I have something to compare my works with to people who have been introduced to fantasy through film.

Moral of the story: I have always done something incredibly stupid when I felt I was on the verge of something big or become a great success. It’s time to take myself to the next level in the tree of life and stop being my own stumbling block.

The Count of Celenic Earth

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