I’m going to be brutally honest; I never had any intentions of publishing “Polaris Musim Dingin”. It’s true, you can ask my editor about it. It took months for me to let the very idea of publication simmer in my head before I finally relented, and let the book meet its readers.
A lot of the reasons might have been because this is the first book I wrote without someone in mind. You know—when I wrote my debut book, “3 (Tiga)”, I was thinking of a very special friend of mine who had once thought of committing suicide.
Similarly, I was thinking of my mother and my grandmother when I was writing “Unspoken Words”. Even “Maybe Everything”, the latest book I had penned prior, was written with my ex in mind.
Having written three books in a row for someone else, “Polaris Musim Dingin” immediately felt purposeless. I was of course enthralled when I set off to write the manuscript, but the book never had any subject I could dedicate it specificly to—which eventually led to my reluctance of publishing it altogether.
A book I cannot dedicate to anyone in particular, I had thought to myself, must be lacking something. I couldn’t publish this. Not when I wasn’t even sure what the book is all about, even after I finished writing it.
I had written in my recent Instagram post, that I wrote “Polaris Musim Dingin” during one of the darkest moments in my life. And that was not an exaggeration.
Back then, I had just quit a job I didn’t feel particularly attached to. In a world that forces you to wake up, go to work, go home, and sleep without paying so much attention to your social life or mental health, life can feel very, very lonely.
Yet that was exactly the circumstances I had at hand.
All my friends were busy with their own lives, and I was hit with a wake-up slap when the job I had so persistently fought for suddenly turned its back on me. WIthout going into the details, this left me with a very concerning, deteriorating health problems that sent me to the hospital more often than not. All of a sudden, I was hospitalized almost every other month, and I felt horrible about myself—I felt horrible about living.
That was the moment when I quit my job. And, during the 2019 Lebaran holiday, right before I start my next job at a different company, I decided to write “Polaris Musim DIngin”.
When I set out to write the manuscript, all I had in mind was this vivid scene of a young woman, sitting on the window seat of a train. She was staring out the window, or at least trying to make out what is beyond the bright white glass—the only thing she could see on the frosted glass as the train plowed through the heavy snowstorm.
And that is how I got the idea of the very first scene in “Polaris Musim Dingin”. I was there with that young woman, living in her journey through ice—recounting all the steps she took in my head as I typed away on my laptop. During the whole journey, I was entranced. I only left my work space every time I had to use the restroom, or every time I had to eat. Before long, one sentence became one paragraph; paragraphs became scenes; scenes to chapters; and chapters to a manuscript.
I completed the first draft of “Polaris Musim Dingin” in exactly 7 days—two whole days faster than when I wrote Unspoken Words.
And even though writing had always been a solitary endeavor, writing this book felt even more so.
So why, I wondered, why did a manuscript that got me so emotionally invested, to the point that I threw everything out the figurative window and completed it in such a short amount of time, feel lacking in the first place?
At first, like I had surmised at the beginning of this writing, I thought it was because I never dedicated this manuscript to anyone in particular. Unlike my previous books, I didn’t get the idea to write the book from other people in my life. And I thought that was the reason I couldn’t feel any emotional attachments after completing the draft—like it was just hollow words, bounded by threads and glue to form an anatomy of a book, but without the soul to bring it to life.
But when I sent the manuscript to my editor, he said he liked it.
More surprisingly, he encouraged me to publish the manuscript.
Even now, after I could see the books populating the shelves everywhere, and after I received positive reviews from readers, I could still hardly believe myself. The mystery tugged at the bottom of my heart—of why a manuscript that I had almost forsaken and buried, could be so well-received, contrary to what I had assumed.
“I told you, people will like it,” my editor once said.
And yes, while the book is certainly not perfect, and while of course some people will not like the book, the responses I’ve received thus far had been overwhelmingly positive.
Did I regret publishing the book? Of course not—not when I could see people enjoying it. Do I know the reason my I didn’t like the manuscript? I have an inkling, but I may not be able to discern the reason for sure. Will I go through the trouble of spending 7 days holed up in my room, throwing up sentence after sentence to write and finish the book?
Come to think about it, maybe I was right all along. So far I had been quite adamant about publishing my works because I was writing someone else’s story; because I believed in their stories they have to tell, and I believed that people should listen to them.
But “Polaris Musim Dingin”, for all intents and purposes, is not a story I wrote to commemorate, or to act as a tribute, or to tell someone else’s story. It was a story for me. It was a story about me and my struggles; me and my long journey of accepting who I am, and of arriving at the destination I had set out for, and realizing that all that long adventures were, in fact, my way back home.
Maybe that’s why I felt uncomfortable publishing the book in the first place. Not because I didn’t have any emotional attachments to the manuscript—but on the contrary, because it was perhaps my most personal manuscript yet, seeing as it was inspired from my own struggles in life.
Alas, “Polaris Musim Dingin” is now available at every major bookstores in Indonesia. It is also available digitally, and I’m pretty sure you can snag a physical copy via any trusted e-commerce. The book is out by all definition, and it’s certainly too late to have cold feet now.
Yet, I couldn’t help but to think, as a selfish afterthought, if I might excuse myself for saying so, that everyone who reads “Polaris Musim Dingin” is plowing through each of their own journeys. Yours might not look like a pure white tundra from beyond the frosted glass in amidst the winter storm, like “Polaris Musim Dingin” is, but an epic undertaking nonetheless. And many of the journeys out there are, in fact, journeys to find oneself.
That is the reason why I wrote the things I wrote in the dedication page of the novel:
“Untuk mereka yang sedang menempuh perjalanan panjang.
Terutama perjalanan-perjalanan yang membawa mereka pulang.”
May “Polaris Musim Dingin” accompany you on each of your journeys. For a short amount of time. For an eternity. As a light reading. As a serious reading. Whatever that might be, I hope that my book and I could be a part of your journey.
Keep on fighting the good fight.
Keep on living for another day.
Where to find
Alicia Lidwina 2020