An Ambitious Expedition
Field Report – Once every few hundred years or so, history gleams with a story of inspiring ambition. Hinged on the moment that an individual decided to do something that others claimed was impossible.
While I have no illusion that the expedition I now find myself on will establish a new jewel in history’s cruel embrace, from my insignificant position in this vast literary landscape, I have at least a vague notion as to what it is to map out an overwhelmingly ambitious task.
I have been on expeditions before – carrying a new manuscript into the wild lands with the familiar tension of determination and apprehension. I am aware that each time I share the story with others, I am effectively tearing a piece of my armour away and exposing a new vulnerability. Never so much, though as when I share my story with an established book reviewer.
Ah, book reviewers – those gatekeepers of public opinion. The Dukes and Duchesses of the greater literary kingdom. They are obviously readers first. Ever-searching for the next great read, yet it is often by their hand that authors rise or fall. What some may fail to realise is that an author will always give two things to a book reviewer – a book and a dagger. Often, they will smile and hand back the dagger.
‘Not this time.’
Their smile is reassuring yet reserved. Their relationship is with the text, not the author. Just because they have no need for the dagger this time, doesn’t guarantee that this will be true in time to come.
For the most part however, reviewers are kind. Particularly those who have been doing it a while. They understand the relationship and the work that has been undertaken prior to their assessment. They understand that there is an enormous chasm between an excellent book and one that is very good. It is always to their credit when they temper honesty with generosity.
At this point in my new journey, I think I have been quite fortunate. I have visited more reviewers than ever before. I have travelled from village to village with more determination than ever before. And I have been met with more encouragement than ever before.
I have travelled further into the wild lands than I had ever dared on occasions prior to this. As such, I now find myself in a small village, seated in a cosy but unfamiliar inn. There are only three or four other travellers seated about the place. Perhaps that many again who have already retired for the night. We all keep to ourselves, not because we don’t enjoy the company, but because the intensity of our travels dictate solitary rest during rare moments like these. These are fellow writers, and here we have momentarily gathered before the dawn will separate us once again.
And so here I sit. Staring into the flames of a nearby fire. Feeling the deep freeze within my bones begin to thaw. Reflecting on my journey to this point and heartened by the positive feedback I have already received. I have put a lot into this expedition but as the strangers about me also know –often this means very little.
In these lands, luck is a harsh arbiter. Some say that the harder you work, the luckier you become. I’d say none of these people were writers. I will say one thing though – luck or no – the most ambitious people in history do share a common trait. None of them gave up.