When I was a subeditor, I would mark things up on the pages I was working on and hand them over to a senior editor named Steve. I was new, but my supervisors had noted that I was diligent, a very fast learner, and had a slightly alarming tendency towards perfectionism. Steve would laugh at the things I’d picked up, saying, ‘You have to let some things go—you can’t fix everything.’ He’d counter the things I flagged with stet (telling me to ‘let it go’ in editing parlance: let it stand as it’s printed; don’t make the correction; leave it be) or sometimes he’d scrawl I can live with that beside my notes in the margins in his cramped handwriting.
I’m not very good at letting things go, even after all this time.
I’ve been on Goodreads for a very long time. Since June 2007, says my profile. I’ve always been meticulous about tracking my books using the site, and it’s been very helpful when I’m at a book sale and just couldn’t remember whether or not I already own a copy of a book.
I’m pretty sure I always mark a book as read when I finish it and usually I remember to put down the date I finished it as well. Data from the last few years should be very accurate. It’s both a puzzle and a mild source of embarrassment when the statistics show that I sometimes read fewer than twenty books a year in the last five years or so.
Tidying up the bedside table on a rainy afternoon, I realised that this book, The Masnavi, by Rumi (translated by Jawid Mojaddedi), has been sitting there since the end of last year. Oh, I pick it up every now and then, read a few pages, then put it back down. I think it’s the rhyming couplets that’s giving me a headache—sometimes it takes some effort to parse what’s being said.
I appreciate the attempt at authenticity—I picked up this version of the translation because I thought if I were to read The Masnavi, I might as well go for the real thing and not the watered down version some white dude ‘translated’ into love poems. So here we are, three-quarters of the year in, and I’m still trying to understand what a Persian mystic is attempting to teach us.
If there was one thing that I was sure that I had always wanted since I was young, it was to write.
When I was younger (oh, a long time ago now, it feels like the distant past) I could write on and on and on, my handwriting a messy scrawl across pages and pages and pages. I was self-conscious about it—I almost never showed any of it to anyone. Handing in writing assignments was almost physically painful since it felt like I was giving a piece of myself away, but still I wrote.
Somewhere along the way, I grew up. I couldn’t write for myself any more, not even in hidden paper journals I’d never show anyone, or locked blogs only accessible to me, or password protected documents in password protected computers. The spark was gone, and I couldn’t find it no matter how hard I looked.