Books and the bin

I have written a number of books through the years, always momentarily published and then withdrawn. One of them was entitled, To Honour God. That one was only ever intended for my family, to help them come to terms with my journey of faith. Only, by the time I had completed it, I had already grown out of it and felt like flinging it into the bin. At my beloved’s behest, I still published it briefly in paperback form in 2008, but it only lasted a few months in the wild before I removed it from circulation once more.

Twelve years earlier there was another book I likewise published in limited numbers for a time. This one was a novel entitled, The Beauty of the Lion, once an ode to my youthful despair, penned in the year between leaving college and starting at university.

I have written about this book at length over the years, mostly in lamentations, remembering how astoundingly bad it truly was. But at the time, aged nineteen, I somehow thought I had created a masterpiece, and thought it good enough to share with others, printing numerous copies on my own personal inkjet printer, before having it bound by hand.

Inexplicably, I let both old friends and new read it at the time. Most were polite, commending me for my efforts. Some offered constructive criticism, suggesting how it might be improved. Only one dared speak the truth. Taking it in his hands, that old friend thumbed through it, then took it as an opportunity to lambast me for my naivety, choosing to set the record straight on all that had inspired me to put pen to paper in the first place.

Ultimately, after abandoning the book for several years, that one too would end up in the bin — this time literally, in a public waste bin outside a supermarket near my home, from which I knew I would never be able to retrieve it if I changed my mind. Yet, a decade after that, I somehow felt moved to revisit it, reconciling myself to a manuscript discovered on an old 100MB optical Zip disk found in the loft. I prepared that version for print too, momentarily publishing it for a few short months, until stinging reviews had me obliterating it once more.

So to the present, and the manuscript before me, in which I have invested so much time and effort. An editor described my writing as gorgeous, though I’m not convinced by that. She says the novel is complex and impactful in its message. And yet: my inner critic petitions me daily, “Throw it in the bin.” That inner voice, noting my melancholic agitation, tells me to abandon it, once and for all. And, in truth, perhaps I have already, for I haven’t touched it for months now. Instead, I constantly rebuke myself: “Why did you take up this hobby at all?”

This is the story of my life. There are the books I invest my heart and soul in, and then there is the bin. Everything I produce ultimately ends up in there. Will this time be different, or will I finally find the courage to stand by a work I once believed in? Only time will tell.

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