I have an ocean of tasks that I must do for job-job, but I decided that before the week knocks me off my feet and pulls me under, I would come here instead to snatch a moment of writing.
It looks as though these snatches are all I’m going to be able to pull off for awhile, and while I wish I could promise some zazz or a moment of fire or a glimmer of grace, all I’m hoping right now is that the act of typing will help me remember that I write. I am a person who writes. (Am I a writer? Oh, who knows. Not me, not right now.)
Just now as I was typing, wouldn’t you know, my little mail program beeped and I (of course) looked at it. I swear, as much as I enjoy fibbing, I’m not making this up for the sake of this entry: the email was a big fat form rejection from a big name journal, one that I had been a little hopeful about because they’d held it for awhile. Bzzzzzzt. Nope. Thanks for playing.
Funnily enough, I was at the Auburn Writers’ Conference this past Friday-Saturday. The keynote, Joshilyn Jackson, gave this wonderful, hilarious talk about her own path to publication, which was chock-full of big-time New York rejection, and how the book that finally made it was the one she wrote when she’d given up on sending out– the one she wanted to write. She spoke about the struggle to be taken seriously when we take on the mantle of Writer. She signed my book, BIC HOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard). I took some lovely workshops, wandered the charming streets and campus of Auburn, met some generous, excellent writers. Definitely a conference to put on your list.
But: I read from the book that I’m working on, and here’s the thing: it didn’t go so hot, actually. Dead silence for fifteen minutes. Lesson learned: Don’t read work-in-progress, ’cause if it doesn’t go well, you will sprout all kinds of fun new neuroses about work that you really, really need to love.
So here I am, just a day after all that rah-rah wisdom, huddled back down under the blanket of writing despair, wondering, yet again, if I made a really, really bad turn all those years ago, if it’s time to take a turn in another direction, toward something less… I was going to finish that sentence with an adjective, but I think it may work just like that: a life without writing would be something less.
Part of my problem is that I really don’t like to be “out there,” as a dear friend once told me at a party, as I scrambled away in a panic from the center of the room and into a shadowed, anonymous corner. By “out there,” I mean, yes, I don’t physically like to be around the humans, save a select few. I don’t like crowds, and I don’t like any kind of spotlight, which is why, on most days, teaching is a special kind of torture. So are public readings. I have to adopt a persona to get through any of it, and it turns out that acting one’s way through the week can drain the ol’ energy reserves.
Of course, I also mean that I don’t like to put my writing self “out there” (she says as she types on a public blog. Oh, irony). Nothing profound in that, I suppose. Everyone knows rejection’s a stinker. Some days I can fight it. I duck and weave, punch back, hook hook. I get back up, dust off the sleeves, spit out the blood, tape up the rib. But as I get older, as the gray hair and cheek wrinkles spread like an Ebola outbreak, I fear that one of these times I’m not going to get up.
It’s October now. I again see my father in the leaves. The earth spins onward, and gravity holds. I am still here. And I am here, typing, trying to make something out of this mess. Didn’t quite get there, but here’s to the next time.