Remember the time in school when you watched your classmates get all the attention from the teacher, while you languished in the back benches? Remember the jealousy and envy you felt?
I looked back at the web page on my mobile browser. I read those words again.
Azhan Ahsan, 21 years old, is one of the youngest authors around...
“Listen, I haven’t told anyone yet, so keep this to yourself,” I had said, giving the customary disclaimer any 13 year old would give when he’s confiding a secret with a dear friend. Ejaz nodded and listened in anticipation.
“I’m trying to complete my novel soon, and maybe using the help of _______ Uncle, get it published.” It was a solemn secret. One that had been planned, edited and proof read within the pages of my mind. I could picturize all of it : surprised friends, admiring parents, curious strangers, all yearning to read the novel written by a 13 year old. Perhaps one of the youngest authors in India!
“Actually, I’m hoping,” I said later, in a gruffer, more mature voice, “to finish this story I’m writing. Then maybe I’ll get a publisher for it.” I smiled with eager anticipation as Ejas nodded his head quietly. With all the dreams of a 14 year old, I continued walking...
“Wow, did you actually type all of this?” he said as he felt the thickness of my finished manuscript. “Ofcourse,” I said in that light, nonchalant tone.
“Dude, you should get this published man! It’ll be hot!”
I nodded my head, the glint in my eyes almost betraying the thoughts that ran through my mind. The Board Exams were mere months away. Perhaps after that, the hunt for a publisher...
On October 12th, 2008, a comment left on this blog trailed off with the words: Best of luck for your novel.
About seven months after that, another comment on Facebook was more flattering: This should definitely be a novel!
And now, the web page I’d read served as a painful reminder. For the past six years I’ve dreamed of being a published author. Before you sympathise though, let me add that I’ve done as much to realise my dream, as I have to reduce my weight. Occasional jogging and guilty pangs after a heavy dinner. Not to forget the furious six push ups once every four months.
But what I’ve lost in terms of iron will and strict discipline, I have more than made up for with ideals, dreams and ambition. Isn’t that the worst way to fail?
Over the course of six years, I have tried to write about five novels. The first one survived twelve chapters. The second was luckier, I actually completed it. If only one other person could find it interesting as well. Third time’s the charm right? Well, almost. But as one of the three editors said, ‘Write something that’s closer to your heart, and best of luck.’
So I wrote about my life, in a semi autobiography. My first reader was kind enough to read till the 30th page. Anymore than that, would be testing the boundaries of our friendship.
Spurned, I went the opposite way. I wrote about kidnappers. Well, at least the first 8 chapters. Why didn’t I continue? If I knew the answer to that question, I’d probably be published by now, don’t ya think?
I cannot speak for other aspiring authors, but the sight of successful authors leave me with a deep sense of despair. The green eyed monster is appointed captain of the ship, and I’m left with the same emotion that you’d feel when the girl you love flirts with someone else.
Just when I was about to push the thought of Azhan Ahsan away, Google decided to ruin my mood further. You haven’t heard about Anshuman Mohan yet?, it seemed to ask.
Anshuman Mohan, a 15 year old author of ‘Potato Chips’, conceived the novel when he was 13.
Sometimes you’re so blinded by a dream, that you forget what your actual cause was. It was true that I’d dreamed of being an author at the age of 13. But a few months before that, I had also written a short story. Why?
It was so long ago that I’ve almost lost the feeling. The feeling I had when an idea seized me, forcing me to think about it day and night. It forced a boy who’d never slept less than five hours, to stay up all night, just to fill six small pages with a story. I can remember the rush I felt when I concluded it. It wasn’t published. It wasn’t reviewed. It hadn’t even received three likes yet. But I felt ecstatic.
My dream to become a published author grew out of the desire to have my story heard. To share my ideas. I wanted you to read the same story that I’d built up in my head, by piecing together ideas until it became a work of art. And somehow, pure laziness and lack of focus turned me into a bitter, irritated fellow who spent more time criticising than writing.
So after six years and five takes, I’m yet again going to attempt to write a complete novel. But this time, I’ll do it the same way I wrote my first short story. It doesn’t matter if I fail at first. It doesn’t matter if more editors send me back rejection letters. What matters is that I’ll have written my novel.
I once read that an Indian author was in a bar in Hong Kong, downing tequila shot after tequila shot, trying to come to grips with the fact that his novel had been rejected for the ninth time. The tenth time proved lucky. Perhaps you’ve read his novel? Five Point Someone?
P.S. : I’ve mentioned the names of two upcoming authors, Azhan Ahsan (Love, Lust and Life) and Anshuman Mohan (Potato Chips) because – though envious at first of their achievement - I know how much effort they must’ve put in to get their book published. If you get a chance, do read their books.
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