The story goes (well, one of many) that Paperback Writer was written after Paul McCartney boasted that he could write a song about anything, and as an example, picked up the nearest object, which happened to be a paperback book. There are other, more reliable, stories about the song, but I like that one best!
Concerning a semi-fictitious author struggling to get his book published, Paperback Writer is one of my favourite Beatles songs. Here’s the first verse:
Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? It took me years to write, will you take a look? It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear, And I need a job, So I want to be a paperback writer, Paperback writer.
Back in my mid-teens I started writing a comedy-fantasy-hippy-random-who-knows-what book of fairly disconnected plots or non-plots, indulging my wild and wanton fantasies. I wrote about 6 pages or so. I showed it to a friend at school, who liked it and asked me if I’d ever read The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as she thought my few pages bore some vague similarities to it. When I said ‘no’, she advised me to avoid reading the Douglas Adams classic, so I wouldn’t get influenced by it and lose the individuality of my book.
But my book was never going to go anywhere. I was far too immature, my life far too messed-up, to see through such a long commitment or to put together anything cohesive.
Even more importantly, it was before the days of laptops. Computers have helped unleash my passion for writing in a way that manuscripts and typewriters could never have achieved. Thank God for computers.
This wasn’t the time for my book to be written.
The next time I thought about writing a book was in my early 20s, after my exploits in America and the surprising explosion of faith towards Christ that had happened in my life. The book would be a melange of anecdotes, adventures, the story of my conversion and hitch-hiking tips (after all, I had a fair bit of experience, having hitched an estimated 25,000 miles by car, truck, train and even boat)! It was to be called The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to Heaven (I think there may be a theme here). However, I had no real focus for the book, I was still not ready for that sort of long-haul project, and laptops still hadn’t been invented.
(I think I’d heard of word processors by then but I didn’t know what they were and wouldn’t have known what one was if it had hit me in the face.)
I did use the title The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to Heaven, for a short personal testimony tract, which I used to give out prolifically in my former evangelical zeal. Not my style now, but they had their place.
This wasn’t the time for my book to be written, either.
Only a few months prior to that, though, in 1987, I had a dream. Not a vision for racial unity and world harmony, I’m afraid – something far more mundane and me-centred. It was during my travels in the USA, not long before falling into faith. I didn’t often sleep out without a tent at that time, but I’d ended up in this serene orchard on a sultry night in the middle of nowhere. I slept a la belle etoile in perfect peace, protected by fruit trees, buffered by mountainous backdrop.
I can’t even remember which State I was in – not even a clue. But I vividly remember waking up in the orchard with Paperback Writer randomly playing in crystal clear stereo in my head, with a feeling that it was in some way relevant. That somewhere in my subconscious, in my soul, I knew I was destined to write a book.
Now, nearly 30 years later, I have a clear idea of the book I need to write. In fact, not only have I started, I’m a few chapters in. It’s a mainly autobiographical collection of reflections on physical and spiritual homelessness and homecomings. The working title is Everyone Needs a Homecoming. It includes many of the themes referred to above – but not the wild and wanton fantasies, which have been left behind in the wreckage of my old life. Sorry to disappoint anyone who was hoping to hear those.
My literary inspirations include Brennan Manning (Ragamuffin Gospel), Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz – thank you, Nancy A, for introducing me to this book), and Henri Nouwen (The Return of the Prodigal Son).
Now I’m ready for the long haul. I’ve been semi-joking that it will take me 20 years. It might do. Half-hour here, half-hour there, squeezed in between work, family, running and all the other stuff of life.
But I’m hoping…
that it’ll be like when a computer programme’s downloading and it says ‘6 hours remaining’, and then 5 minutes later it says ‘3 hours remaining’. Maybe it’ll be like that. An exponential diminishment of time remaining to finish my book. Maybe this time next year, instead of saying ’19 years to go’, I’ll be saying ‘only 5 years to go.’
Now we have computers and laptops, without which I could never organise my thoughts and ideas. And I love my new little Lenovo hybrid laptop/tablet, for which I’m very grateful (feel free to pay me for this ad, Lenovo, or to sponsor my book).
This is the time for my book to be written.
It may be a paperback. Or it may have such narrow appeal that it will simply be available for free, online. Either way, I’m loving writing it, even if I’m not going to be the next Manning, Miller or Nouwen, and pray that the book will in fact be some kind of small blessing or inspiration to at least a few others.
I have a great sense of excitement at fulfilling this part of the destiny God’s given me.
Whether published online or as a physical book, whether it’s read by 3 friends or 3 million strangers (it won’t be), the sentiment / the dream / the song remains the same:
So I want to be a paperback writer, Paperback writer.
And the moral of the story, the point of this post, is:
Hold on to your dreams and visions.
And discern the right time for them to be brought into fulfilment, as they surely will, even if it takes thirty years (or, like Moses, as many as forty).
(Wondering what this blog is all about, and who A Child of Grace is? Please read my About page. Thanks! Roger N)