On disappointment, hunger, hope and on how it all leads to me overworking myself (again).

By @mauriamorals

For the past few weeks I’ve been asked the same question quite a few times. People wonder how I managed to write, edit and sell a novel in about 8 months.

They want (and need) to know.

Some seem to think I either came out of the woodwork or found a secret recipe for it all — that I am Cinderella, and I’ve found the magic wand. Especially since the title seems to have slipped from mouth to mouth, and the novel is now moving around our national young-adult bubble.

It isn’t much, but I’m proud of my work. I’m proud of having done such work, despise the fears and anxieties it has brought.

Actually, this is the question that’s been sitting on my curiouscat for over a month now.

This is also the same question that drives me to answer in this format.

Holi! Puedes hablar un poco sobre el trabajo que hay detrás de tu libro Sobre Dioses y Gula? Cuándo surgió la idea? Todo el trabajo de escribir, corrección, maquetación, ilustraciones… No sé un poco todo lo que le ha llevado a ser lo que es :)

Trans: Hey! Could you tell us a little bit about the work behind your book, Sobre dioses y gula? When did you come up with the idea? All the writing correcting, editing, illustrating work… I don’t know, all that’s led you here :)

Their curiosity is well-driven, but it leads me to places I truly don’t want to go to. The truth is I did work really hard for this. I’ve spent months working on my own, researching and working with no end to make sure I could come up with the best way of editing and publishing my latest novel. Point is, I’ve also cried a lot in the way. I’ve sacrificed a living. I’ve sacrificed time with my people. I’ve had arguments with my family, and been look down upon.

Sometimes, it is me the one that is looking down on myself. And yet, while looking for an answer to this well-intended question, I don’t think there’s nothing I can say but

I overwork myself for crumbs of poisonous success, because that’s all I’ve ever learnt how to do”.

But that’s beyond the answer I could give them, right?

So, for days as well, I’ve struggled to come up with an answer that could be both truthful and satisfying. Useful, even. For something that isn’t: “learn marketing, learn writing tips, learn photoshop, learn about coding and social media trends, positioning. Also, make sure to post enough content about yourself to keep people entartained with the image you can project”.

I’ve been trying to make lists that seem encouraging, rather than a frustrating and strict list of tasks, too. And I’ve been trying to sum up all of my actions for the past eight months as in to create a map for people to use as well. Because I think that’s what the person who asked really wanted. Because I feel like staying quiet makes me look weird, too. Why wouldn’t I tell you how I did this?

But here’s what I can’t seem to be able to say: while doing so, all these writing of lists and drawing of maps and coming up with tips, I still haven’t found anything that people should try to mirror.

Short story is: whatever is going on, I don’t have much vocabulary or language to explain it. I’ve refrained from trying.

But the long story is: I woke up in the middle of a pandemic, after months of struggling with my writing and the publishing industry, having waited for an editor to write back on a manuscript, working a part-time job as a teacher and wondering if I could ever afford to live. Not to live somewhere, or in a different way. To just live. And I woke up, got dressed, got to work. I was cooking meals and doing the laundry. Days went by while I was doing the dishes, staring at my hands.

When COVID-19 struck, and I was home, alone, looking out the window, I realized nothing had changed. Most of my nights were just full on existential crisis watered down by podcasts; all of them spent wondering how the hell I could live off the only thing I truly (by heart) know how to do.

It felt like having had fallen down the stairs ages before the world was ending— spiralling stairs, for imaginery purposes.

Down there, brain splattered on the floor, I asked myself: “didn’t I climb all the way there, and do all of this, so that I could write? I did all of this so that people could read my work, and why aren’t they reading it? Where, exactly, am I right now?” Just laying somewhere, completely broken and terribly scared was the most accurate answer I could find.

I know how to do many things, don’t get me wrong. I’ve managed to learn pretty good carbonara recipes, this year. I’m getting better at keeping myself human. And I am a teacher because I enjoy teaching, and learning through my little monsters. But still, didn’t I go to university for four years to end up a writer?

Oh, of course. Sorry. Sometimes I still forget the logics we were fed for years were but pretty little white lies to keep us overworking ourselves towards new horizons we could never truly step in. My bad.

This is a short essay on disappointment. A little essay on how, through fear of disappointing and being disappointed, I’ve been shaped into the 24 year old girl that is writing this. Writing from the bottom of that stair, wearing a gray old cape and a paper crown.

This is a lesson I haven’t truly learnt yet.

This is my anger, and my sadness, coming towards you all at once.

I was probably thirteen when I decided I wanted to be a writer. I had recently read Twilight. I sat on my computer and wrote fanfiction. I started writing my first novel right away, while I was reading A Great And Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray.

I dreamt of worlds, and showed them to my school friends. They liked them, even if they never truly liked me.

One day, my maths teacher stole my notebook because I wouldn’t stop writing. That was everything I wanted to do. Writing. And I wanted it so bad, I loved it so much, it did interrupt my maths education. But I couldn’t care less for numbers and school, and we all knew. So she took my hand-written novel away, and had me begging for it in front of the rest of the teachers.

Before she gave it back, she also made me promise I’d give it up for a while, and focus in a broader type of education.

Of these and many other moments, moments when my mother would literally scream out of the top of her lungs for me to come back to my senses and just study, I learnt that the world was trying to stop me from becoming myself. That is, of course, if myself is the me that writes. Or if the me that writes is the only me there is, which is unlikely.

On top of it all, I was a young LGBT+ child who knew that you have to fight for everything. I was brought up in a family that valued hard work and sacrifice, so those were what drove me when writing. I spent days on end, weeks even, just to end up abandoning that novel. Or having to. After all, I ended up failing maths, and I was forced to study harder.

But still, I made do.

I finished two stories before I even dared to finish a novel. I roleplayed for hours on end, to make sure my creativity was nurtured. I edited on Photoshop, creating my own book covers. I won a few creative prizes while still in highschool. I felt flimsy but still unstoppable. Because I was a teenager, and I studied, and wrote, and still I had the stamina to put up a fight when my parents decided that they would set a timer on my computer so that I would stop wasting time.

Writing, they said, wastes time.

Design was a waste of our time, too.

So they tried to take it all away to make sure I focused on way more important things: formulas and numbers that would grant me the grades they wanted. Still, my grades went under the weather, as I also struggled with my teenage heartbreaks and an isolations I couldn’t quite understand.

Numbly, I decided to follow every rule, and take it one step at a time. I was building a ladder, I thought to myself. The stairs, leading to a room of my own. It would take time, yeah, but if I worked hard and sacrificed just the right number of fingers, I could make it. It was just entirely up to me. So I used every possible legal void to get away with writing, with creating, too.

Wherever there was a loophole, I’d find a way to make a new straw house for me and my work.

This all comes to show that I learnt from a pretty early age that I have been through multiple worlds ending, whether that was this or the next. And that it was on me, to be successful or fail. It was on me to rebuild, with whatever was left, and in a completely new circumstance, the house I had been building for so long.

The house I’m building, and the spiralling stairs I’ve fallen from.

I’ve been building this fucking house for around twelve years now. And let me tell you something: I am beyond exhausted. Some mornings I wake up and it smells like coffee. Some nights, I go to sleep to cold breeze because a window broke but I’m too tired to fix it. And still, I wake up, and I try to find a way to fix it.

Now, when the house fell this year, I told myself it wasn’t all on me. But it hasn’t always been like this. For longer than I can remember, I’ve been telling myself this is what hunger does to people like me.

This craving that I’ve been feeling for so long won’t go away, that much I know. But I also don’t want it to go anywhere else.

I chose this path, with its crooked stairs and breaking windows. Even when I didn’t plan on falling down and breaking my brains to find the loophole that could save me, I still chose this.

I chose to write this on a Saturday evening because I am desperate. And maybe so is everyone. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe not everyone lives like this, and I’m just finding out that most people don’t see themselves wearing a cloack and looking up to the last thread of light that comes into the room.

Most like Emily Dickison, I’m just really desperate for words, for love, for hope — something I can collect to brave the seasons. Like Virginia Woolf, I bite my fingers in dispair. Like Adrienne Rich, I’m terrified of the things my love could do if I loved something in the right way.

And maybe I should just get to therapy, and blurt this out to a professional. But I can’t really fucking afford therapy. I can’t even afford rent. Not this house I dream of. I don’t truly belong there. I can’t afford any house, so I’m looking at my hands wondering what to do with them and how to move my crooked fingers the right way to make you love me back.

How do I type an answer to your question, dear, that won’t scare you to death?

But, let’s be real, that is not something you can tell people when they try to congratulate you for your hard-work. You’re supposed to dance along to the song, and give a gracious answer.

Still, here’s my honesty: I made it all up.

I’m the greedy Lechera. I made up the house, the stairs, the windows. It’s all in my head. On my head. I’m carrying it somewhere, and I’m tripping, and falling down, and then it’s all breaking. I’m staring at the spilled milk on the floor, and the cow is long dead.

I woke up, wrote a novel in a month, decided to ignore my fears and post it online. Some people liked it, and they smiled, and I’ve been dancing along to you, guys, to ignore the burning outside. Because this is what I wanted but my feet burn.

This is all a telltale, and I haven’t learnt the lesson yet.

I wrote a novel in march because I was disappointed I didn’t get a publishing contract for Ariadna and the Dead Possibilities. I wrote this story in spite of the world ending, again. Because I had been there before, at the end of the world. And because I’m so used to it I’m almost numb.

That is, of course, until I’m not. And it comes in waves, feeling too much. My only solution is to write it all down.

I write like I’m screaming at the top of my lungs, the same way my mom begged me to wake up and realize writing wont’t pay the bills; won’t get me a man.

I write like an open wound being stitched up.

I write because I don’t want to stop, and even if I did, I wouldn’t know how.

Despite of it all, I still wake up in the morning and that’s the only thing I want to do: I want to put it down, tell people how I survived the winter, the night. I want to knit the blanket that can keep us all warm. That is the first list of tasks I started writing, and I’m not finished. Not even after twelve years.

And the world disappoints me every time, and then it surprises me just the same. Like it did with Sobre dioses y gula. And I am really grateful for being able to take the huge leap of faith I hadn’t been able to take for a while.

What I mean to say is that there is no way I couldn’t have predicted any of this. There is no list of tasks you can do to get here. I don’t even know where I am, or what I’ve done to get here right now. Everything is blurry. But I know I sure as hell have worked my way here.

I’ve paved this road. I’ve been paving this road for years with the same hands that learnt how to cheat that timer that my parents set up. But I can’t tell you how to pave yours, not in a healthy way, anyway.

I could ask you to try and do better than I’ve done.

But that is everything I keep thinking about, while trying to answer: the house, my maths teachers, the timer my parents set, my notebooks and that terrible feeling in my guts that makes me feel angry and unsatisfied and terribly happy at the same time.

Sadly, nothing I can say is useful but I hope it is, at least, comforting. I hope it is comforting to read that despise our fears, we all get a chance to dream.

Thank you for your question, though.

I hope I can answer it sometime.

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