Last week brought a flurry of messages from around the world, from people I’m lucky to count as my friends. One in Athens told a tale about her 90-ish mother’s still-eager eye for young men. “Miss you,” she tacked onto the end. Me too. Laughter flew back and forth between Trinidad and myself over the latest absurdity in this covid-mad world. Leonard Cohen’s poem, “There is a crack in everything … that’s how the light gets in,” popped up on Facebook and every line touched me deep inside, posted there by a California friend who had no idea how much I needed to read those words right then. An Icelander’s photo arrived from Sifnos, the Greek isle we both love. It was of the exact spot, a close-up of where we’ll meet when finally we can, of the very meal I’m quite certain we’ll share then. And an email came from our Sifnos travel agent about our planned visit there next spring, the one I’ve lost track of how many times these past months we’ve been forced to postpone. This last message, the surge of hope it brought with it, made my heart leap. In fact, they all did. Every message, every bit of conversation that followed, filled me with joy. This whirl of seemingly random connections from all directions, ones that arrived as though choreographed, felt almost cosmic to me.
And the thing is, without some words I once wrote, I’d have no idea that any of these people, save one, even existed. Would never have heard their names. Without the book I wrote about my love for the island of Sifnos and how my attachment to that place so far from home came to be, their lives and all the kindness and fun they bring with them would never have touched mine.
How happy I am now that I persevered through the days, months and years of toil it took to turn an idea into The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle, the 287-page volume we can all hold in our hands. That I took what was a jumble of experiences, thoughts and feelings and created from it a story that can make sense to someone else. That I waded my way through the myriad steps and the stress it took to turn my rough manuscript into this finished book. That I found the right people to help me with all that. That I pushed onward despite what every writer I know tells me they face too – the doubts, the fears, the utter breathless near-panic at one point in my case. The worry that your best efforts might not be enough. That you really have nothing interesting to say. That your story might be missing something important and fall flat. Or worse, that your words might, totally contrary to your intent, cause someone distress or even harm.
How glad I am that I didn’t stop after that first book came to life, did a second one, Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales, and created this blog whose 111th post you’re reading right now. How fortunate that back at the very beginning of all that I paid heed to the Muse that grabbed me by the hand and, in a moment I remember as though it were yesterday, gave it a firm shake and said, “There’s a book here and you are the one who must write it.” How well-rewarded I’ve been as a result.
When writers press Publish and send their work into the world, they have no idea, really, what will happen next. There’s so much every one of them wonders about. Will it be well-received? Will it sell? Will it even be read? Will it find anyone who cares about it at all. If someone does read it and happens to like it, how would they ever find out?
At the birth of The Sifnos Chronicles, I wondered all that too, and wished for it what I thought were appropriately modest hopes and expectations. But what I didn’t expect, never dreamt as a possibility at all, was that it would lead me to discover in all corners of the world so many who live and breathe Sifnos as much as I do. That conversations long and short would follow, between Canada and the Pacific, Israel, India, across Europe and far beyond. And Sifnos, of course. That true friendships with those I’ve been privileged to meet in the flesh and those I’ve not yet, would follow. That one day I’d be in an ongoing gabfest among four of us on three continents about koulouria, the Athens street snack one of us was about to bake in her oven right then. That these were the riches this book was about to bring into my life.
To other writers out there, the nervous, the hesitant, those who wonder if your words and ideas are worthwhile at all, this I say now … when that Muse strikes you, listen. Persevere. Push on through the obstacles in your path. It’s worth all the effort.
I promise you’ll see that in time. I just can’t tell you how.
SHARON BLOMFIELD IS THE AUTHOR OF THE SIFNOS CHRONICLES: TALES FROM A GREEK ISLE AND SIFNOS CHRONICLES 2: MORE GREEK ISLAND TALES. THESE BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE AT TO BIBLIOPOLEIO, THE BOOK SHOP IN APOLLONIA, SIFNOS, AT TITHOREA, A GREEK FOOD SHOP IN ROCKWOOD, ONTARIO, CANADA AND ON AMAZON.