The Post Publication Blues Of “RAINBOWS ARE FOR LOVERS”-Wale Okediran
FLASHBACK; 33 YEARS AFTER, A WRITER REMEMBERS
“You will be met at 5pm.” I had been told.
As such, I was filled with apprehension when the Lagos – Enugu flight WT 264 was still in the air at, 7pm. It was my first trip to the “Coal City’ in more than five years and I was scared of how to find my way so late in the day. Whoever was waiting for me could have given up and gone home by now – I thought to myself. But surely, somebody has to meet me or else…”
To reassure myself, I took another look at the letter from my publisher – SPECTRUM BOOKS. “Your book – RAINBOWS ARE FOR LOVERS would be launched at the Anambra State Book Fair during which you would be expected to make a speech and autograph a few copies of the book,” it read. Suddenly my heart sank. In my hurry to make the trip, I had not prepared any speech!
It was July 1987 and it was growing dark – very dark when the Nigerian Airways Aircraft “Ikogosun Warm Springs” finally landed at Enugu. As I frightfully made my way to the arrival hall, I suddenly saw a well-dressed man holding up the logo of Spectrum Books. Saved at last; – I thought. “I’m Joe Dikedi, Spectrum’s Area Manager for East” the young man said as we pumped hands and hugged like long-lost friends.
Half an hour later, I was in the presence of the indefatigable Managing Director of Spectrum Books – Mr. Joop Berkhout. “Hello Wale. Tomorrow is your day” the big man quipped as we tackled dinner together in the tidy environment of Safari Gardens Hotel.
The following day at the Enugu trade fair grounds the famous author of Jagua Nana and other Novels, Mr. Cyprian Ekwensi launched RAINBOWS ARE FOR LOVERS. And as he held up my hand, cameras flashed and TV Lens zoomed close to my face. Yes; this was it. After several years in the wilderness, I was finally a published author. I was still standing there relishing the wonderful moment while trying to swallow the ‘golf ball’ that had suddenly developed in my throat when a voice made me turn round. “I’ve seen your book and I’m sure, you’ll go far’’ Cyprian Ekwensi who had been writing before I was born remarked.
“Thank you, sir,” I replied before asking him how to autograph a book.
And so, for the next couple of weeks after the publication of my book, I found myself in varying moods of elation, depression and anxiety. Will my book sell? What would literary critics say about it? Maybe they’ll just tear the book apart and advise me to concentrate on my medical practice. Then what about my mother and aunties? Would they find those natty bedroom descriptions unbecoming of their golden boy? All these thoughts kept whirling furiously in my head like windmills in a storm as I continued to torment myself. Even, the favorable compliments from my wife and friends could not allay my fears. ‘What do you expect them to say’ I asked myself.
Then one day, I came across a recent issue of the Writer’s Digest and the diagnosis of my strange ailment clicked. I was suffering from Post Publication Blues. Although I was already familiar with the symptoms of another Writer’s ‘disease’ – The Rejection Slip Blues, (having collected a sizeable number of rejections slips during the last three years) this new affliction was new to me.
“The solution to Post Publication Blues is to start another story” Even Hunter advised in the Writer’s Handbook, another valuable book. But try as I may, I could not get myself to write a single sentence and my typewriter soon gathered dust and cobwebs. Even Sidney Sheldon’s words of encouragement in the same book failed to soothe me. According to the inestimable best -selling author. “If you’ve been bitten by the writer’s bug, then I pity you for there is no way to escape the agonies and despair of creation. What you write will never be good enough to satisfy you and you will always be striving to reach that impossible perfection.”
A few evenings later, while tossing listlessly in bed trying to read, the words of another celebrated Author, B.J. Chute caught my eyes: “when the final draft of your manuscript is ready, the words are all that matter. Money, status and fame are by products. Nice to have but nothing permanent. What is permanent is what you’ve written”.
And as I reflected over these words, the fog started to lift. I was now breathing better. It suddenly became irrelevant whether or not my book sold. Neither did the opinions of critic’s matter. All those are temporary. What is permanent is my work. I was now dramatically cured of my affliction and a new feeling started to overcome me.
“Where are you off to?” my wife asked as I tried to sneak out of the bedroom moments later.
“To the Study, dear. I just want to put down a few words.”
“If only you could be half as romantic as all those things you write about” my wife moaned as I left the bedroom.
And so, for the next three hours, in the solitude of my Study, I banged away at the typewriter as the juice of creativity started flowing again. I was now back doing what I enjoy doing most – creating my own exciting world peopled with my own wonderful creations. Everything else seemed irrelevant. I could direct my characters the way I liked. I could burden them with sorrows and disasters, fill them with joy and love, destroy them or make them live. In short, I was playing God. It was an exhilarating feeling which fame or money can not eclipse.
*This article first appeared in the August 8 1987, edition of The Guardian, Lagos, Nigeria.