I remember a few years ago waking up in the middle of the night and hearing a lot of barking and a big ruckus from my dogs. I got up, looked out of the kitchen window and rather than seeing only five dogs in the yard, I was horrified to see six!
I say horrified because one of my female dogs, who was just seven months old at the time, and not spayed, was in heat and a short, ugly dog from somewhere in the neighbourhood, had somehow gotten into our yard, and it wasn’t just to hang out with the other dogs. It would have had to search all along the fence to find a weak spot and then dig under it or contort itself to get through an impossible space.
The next day I called the vet to find out what we could do; all we could do was wait and see. I told her the dog was a lot shorter than ours, so I didn’t think anything could have happened, but she assured me that I would be surprised at how these dogs find a way. They not only persevere to get to the female, but then it seems that they will do anything to reach their goal. I wonder how many of us have that kind of perseverance in our businesses and our personal lives. How many of us set goals to achieve something or resolutions at the beginning of the year, but when the going gets a bit tough (i.e. we encounter a fence) we throw in the towel and go back to our old ways of doing things?
I’ve just persevered and finished Vaucluse, the book that you may have seen me mention over the last two years. Two years! That seems like an eternity especially since I wrote my last book in thirty days. In fact, I wrote that while I was struggling with Vaucluse. But Vaucluse has been a journey of discovery, of disappointments, and of triumphs, somewhat like business.
It is the story of Henry Peter Simmons who owned the plantation from 1816 to 1843. When I first discovered that he was buried in the middle of a development in Vaucluse and saw his grave I was intrigued and started researching him. That was back in 2008. I had no intention of writing a book about him or about Vaucluse; I was just curious. How I wish I had taken the time to do more research then because by the time I decided to write the book and started my research in 2016, access to some of the tomes in the Archives was lost because of their fragile state.
However, thanks to the internet, our National library and the libraries and museums which have the money to digitize historical records, I was able to piece together a lot of the puzzle of Henry Peter Simmons, Vaucluse and Barbados in that period. I set numerous deadlines to finish the book. I used SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound) objectives and gave pep talks to myself, but most importantly, I persevered. Believe me, many times I felt like giving up, especially when I couldn’t find important pieces of information that I desperately needed, but thankfully giving up is not in my DNA.
I remember spending hours combing the internet and even contacting people like Prof. Jerome Handler, who has done significant research on Barbados, to find Henry Peter’s last two famous (and rare) letters to the Prime Minister of England about their plan to abolish slavery. Finally, I located them in the British Library and paid a small fortune for the two PDFs of about 52 pages in all.
Digitizing our records and selling them could be a source of revenue for our archives. Thankfully, the land registry department has started the process of digitizing the ancient deed books, but in some cases it is too late, as some are sealed because of their condition. Hopefully there is some technology available to preserve and reproduce those records.
Writing Vaucluse has taught me many lessons:
I have learned to set goals and SMART objectives, but even if I don’t achieve them the first time around, to set new ones and continue.
I have learned that it is necessary to find various ways to achieve my goal and not to be afraid to do things differently. I normally write a book from beginning to end but this time I wrote the beginning, the end and then the middle according to the information that I found and when I found it.
I have learned that everything may not be as I want it before I go to market, but I have to go with my best effort.
As I wrote Vaucluse, I realized that I would never find all the answers to my questions. I may never know exactly when he emancipated his own sons (unless I find those records); all I would know is that it was before March 1834 when the last slave records for the plantation were prepared. I will never know why he left his “two natural coloured and reputed” sons his plantation and who was this “friend” Isabella Young, that he left an annuity of £400 a year to and the use of his plantation if she wanted to remain in Barbados. There are many things I will never know, but I do know that if I kept trying to get it all perfect, I would never release the book.
I have learned again to never give up because perseverance seldom fails. So having persevered and endured to the end, I am pleased to announce that I will release Vaucluse later this month on Kindle and in paperback by September.
Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She was the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (2014-2016) and is the Barbados Facilitator for the WINC
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