To review, reform

Over the last few weeks I have gradually been reaching the conclusion that I am not destined to be an author, but this realisation has suddenly been forcefully hammered home by a scathing review of my novel, Satya. Now there can be no doubt. I was perhaps unprepared for a review as direct and unflinching as this one: now I cannot sleep, for my heart pounds ferociously and I feel sick. I don’t blame the reviewer—a complete stranger—for the truth must be laid bare. They have simply reacted to all that I wrote—and now they feel stupid for wasting their money on an unknown author who persuaded them to give it a chance.

This is not the first time this has happened. Not long after To Honour God was published, an acquaintance of ours sat with me while he told me what he thought of that book. Alas, he had nothing positive to say about it at all: he hated it and went on to explain why. Perhaps that’s why I abandoned it a few months later and pulled it from print. Perhaps that’s why I have seen nothing good in it ever since, even as others sought to persuade me to release it once more. Most of my friends disliked it and the most courageous of them put their reasons to me quite eloquently. Truth be told: I am not author material. I am an eternal rambler, weaving incoherent tales.

I had other stories I wished to tell, but now the desire to write at length has left me. In one sense that is a shame, for I thought they were worthwhile. On the other hand, perhaps it sets me free. Writing is a time-consuming occupation. Perhaps I can put my time to better use. Perhaps I will abandon this hobby—I know those around me will rejoice as I pull myself away from my computer. Perhaps my Qur’an teacher will celebrate if I learn my surahs instead. Perhaps our children will stop complaining that I am always working. Perhaps the garden will feel less neglected. Perhaps I will be in better health. And perhaps readers will not feel tormented by my words.

To review, reform. To plot a forward path. To plan the final years of my life. That is what is called for now. Shall I spend the rest of my life writing books that nobody will read? Shall I waste countless hours perfecting a work that to everyone else is mere detritus, best consigned to the manure heap? Shall I flush money down the toilet sending books into print that no one cares to buy? Shall I carry on in vain like the countless millions who pen novels that will never see the light of day? Why bother when sacred knowledge calls, while a teacher grows impatient, while an eternal promise flees from grasp? Why waste a life dreaming of being a writer, when life cries out for so much more?

It is the middle of the night. Perhaps these are incoherent thoughts. Perhaps they are absolutely true, correct, sincere. Perhaps in the morning after sleep finally takes me, I will awake refreshed and look back on the night’s rambling as mere folly. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But these are the thoughts that have been accumulating within for weeks now. Perhaps I needed to publish that old work of mine once and for all, and then move on, safe in the knowledge that it was a dead end leading to nowhere. True or false? Who knows?

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