The Publisher brought me into his office. It was a big, oval office with a white floor. No carpets, no paintings, no family pictures – just a simple desk with stacks and stacks of scripts and papers and leaflets almost overflowing on the sides and dropping to the floor.
This man was clearly in love with his work. He was one of those people you could call “dedicated” or “passionate” towards his job. Ironically, it was also why he had taken a chance on me in the first place. He had chosen to work with me because he considered me one of the few remaining “dedicated” and “passionate” folks.
Well today I arrived and parked my car on the side of the road to avoid paying the parking fees. Today was a normal day compared to other days. The only difference was that today I walked into that oval office empty-handed. Usually I would be carrying a draft with me or a revised script, but today I had nothing but my mere image to present to my Publisher.
I posed in front of him and he looked at me in a strange manner. It was almost a funny manner as if he was waiting for the punchline to come. But it never did. I had nothing funny to offer him – in fact, I had nothing at all to offer him. Here was the problem, and it became quickly apparent to him that it was an irremediable one.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘what do you have for me?’
I didn’t answer.
‘Where’s the script? Where’s the draft you got?’
Still no answer.
His face turned a vivid red and he slammed the desk with his right hand. ‘Don’t tell me you have nothing for me!’
I was lost for words.
‘It’s been months, months that you haven’t written anything consistent to show me! What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to present to the market and the people?’
I exhaled a faint ‘I’ve stopped’ from my mouth.
‘What was that?’
‘I said I’ve stopped writing.’
‘Oh? Since when?’
‘A few months. I’ve decided I am now on a writing hiatus.’
‘And why is that?’
‘I’m not completely sure, but I think it’s because I need to re-invent myself.’
‘You mean, as an artist?’
‘Maybe. As an artist, as a person. I’m not completely sure yet.’
‘Well it’s certainly not the news I expected to hear. No Publisher is ever thrilled to hear one of their writers has given up writing.’
Given up? That seemed a bit harsh. It sounded cold to me. Giving up was like throwing away everything the word ever gave me or produced in my favor. It meant throwing away the dark nights, the sleepless hours, the bar fights, the lost college years, the family deaths and the lonely afternoons. It meant washing away every scar, every heartbreak, every breath I exhaled into the pages.
No, I wasn’t giving up.
‘Then what would you call it?’
Taking a break. Taking a step back and reflecting. Reflecting on how far I’ve come since I started journeying with the word. But he wouldn’t understand that. None of them would.
Some of the greats did it. Some of the greats stepped back and parted ways with the word for some time. Some of them even turned their backs for a long time – years – before finding their way back to the word.
‘Well, it looks like your mind’s made up.’
‘Let me just ask you a final question.’
‘What are you going to do for money? How are you going to manage without any income?’
‘I haven’t really thought about it yet. I guess it’s all part of the re-inventing process.’
‘It’s a great shame to lose you. It’s a great shame to lose your works. It’s a great shame to miss out on what you could potentially offer this house.’
My works? I hardly recognized the last few pieces I wrote. It was like staring into a mirror and finding a different reflection. The essence was no longer there. The body and soul were stripped from my work. What I wrote was a defamation of myself, a defamation of my being.
But now was a chance. Now was an opportunity presented to me to start again.
Or at least I saw it that way.
‘Take care,’ he said while shaking my hand. ‘Don’t be a stranger.’
Little did he know I was already a stranger. A stranger to myself, a stranger to the work I produced, and a stranger to the word. I was reborn into this world an anomaly, an alien entity that did not know how to deal with the blank page.
So I walked out of that building a stranger, an emptiness, a blackness destined – or maybe just hoping – to be filled by the colors of the world I had just embarked into. And maybe somewhere along the way I could write something meaningful about it.