It has been nearly five years since I figuratively wrote those two magical words at the end of my unpublished manuscript: The End.
Since then it has sat, neglected, on the proverbial shelf that is my hard drive. The product of seven long years of toil and heartache, my manuscript remains unread, unseen… and unpublished.
I remember when I first finished it. I was newly twenty and was still naive enough to think that publishing my book would be as simple as tying it up in a brown paper package and shipping it off to the big publishing houses. (My young female author inspiration came primarily from fictional turn-of-the-century heroines such as Emily Starr and Jo March, who, let’s face it, had a much different industry to contend with.)
I spent all of that first year studying the ins and outs of the modern publishing industry and trying to decide between traditional publication or self-publishing. I tried unsuccessfully to blog (build a platform, they said, so try to build it I did) and connect with other writers via social media. It was overwhelming for my introverted self, but I was enjoying the challenge and so excited to get my story out there.
Then, nearing the end of 2015, my family – around which my memoir heavily revolves – began to fall apart.
Words still fail me today in attempting to describe the fresh tragedy that experience was. Having spent so long documenting the traumas of the past, it was bewildering to find myself staring into the face of a new one. I began to withdraw from my dreamy writer world… and my manuscript, which seemed so close to finally being released, dropped quickly and absolutely into an abyss.
The idea of trying to draw attention to a story and a family that had always stood for unity in the face of immense suffering seemed ludicrous. How could I broadcast this tragic but ultimately redemptive and triumphant story of a family torn apart and then sewn back together, stitched back by the very Hand that had originally shaped it, when that family was no more?
The months began to slip away, each one taking me further away from a dream I had held close to my heart since I was 10 years old… and left me wandering, spiritually and figuratively, amidst a life I no longer knew what to do with.
It has been just about five years now. And the weight of my unpublished manuscript is heavy. The stories it tells, the ones I agonized over, seem almost foreign to me now. Who was that Ruth of so long ago, and where is the Ruth that knew her? Both seem just a little out of reach of me these days.
Writing does not come as naturally to me anymore. In fact, it has been a long time since I have sat and attempted to form a narrative, one that holds, at least loosely, a beginning, middle, and end. I still journal, and often. And I suppose I have that to thank for what has brought me here tonight, facing a blog and a memory I long ago abandoned.
What will become of my manuscript? When will it ever see the light of day? When will it assume that hallowed title of Published?
I wish I knew.
It is still a finished product, the result of seven years of work. It still tells a story worth sharing. Heavy as it may be, my burden it remains. Safe in the abyss my unpublished manuscript sits neglected but not forgotten. Shelved but not forsaken. And though it may be unread, it is still worthy of the time it took to create and the effort that went into shaping it.