Sunday, September 17, 2017

Rejection 15



I feel one season ending and another beginning, and I'm not talking about the summer to autumn transition. I have spent the year writing hard things that I needed to examine and release from my body. I took the step to send those words out into the world to see if they might get accepted for publication somewhere.

So far, they have been rejected by each place I have sent them. I have been upbeat about the rejections. In some ways, I have been relieved that they haven't been published. I have done the work and been accountable by submitting them, but as time passes, I understand that this particular season of writing and its results are primarily for me and my healing. I mustered a lot of courage to consider writing the words and the considerable more by sending out any of this work. I sent it all out. That in itself is a victory.

This particular rejection from Full Grown People stings more than the others. I have set my sights on getting published there. It's a personal goal, and so to learn that the editor is “taking a pass” on this essay feels more personal. I know it's absolutely not personal, but right now if feels like it. I feel a bit discouraged.

Three hundred rejections feels like A LOT of rejections. I know what 15 rejections feel like. How will 300 feel? It's also an incredible amount of writing.

I keep wondering, what do I have to say that will get accepted at this site? I feel emptied of things to say. This is actually a good thing. It means I've written myself dry. It's time to set down the submission writing and pick up the novel writing. I am learning how this writing life ebbs and flows for me: devote time, energy, and mental space to a project for awhile, feel its natural ending approach, pick up something else, repeat. I need the cycle to do its work, so I can be ready for the next thing.

By calling the submission season closed, I won't be distracted as I enter the novel writing season. That particular season closed last year when I'd worn myself out amassing 80,000 words and began writing draft two. I was spent. I needed time to rest, recuperate, and refuel. Writing essays refueled me. They moved things around in my mental attic space. Now there is room for me to consider the lives of my characters more attentively.

I'm ready to dive back into story telling. Acknowledging the sting of this rejection helps. I trust that I'll have other things to say later that will be considered publishable. I am not there yet. But I'll get there, and I'll be a better writer for all effort.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Dream Big, Live Small

I've been contemplating a new way to live my life. It's an integration of all the heart and soul work I've been doing over the past few years. I have learned a few truths:
  • Difficult circumstances are temporary states.

  • You learn what you're made of during said difficult circumstances.

  • The bad stuff has a unique set of lessons to teach that cannot be accessed any other way.

  • Debt stinks and drains. 

  • Life doesn't have to be on hold whilst paying down said debt.

  • Small gestures of kindness make a big difference. 

  • Goals create structure.

  • Writing is my world.

  • Dreaming is free.

Basically, I have considered these nine truisms for me and come up with this: 

I am happier than I have ever been because I sense my purpose and am devoted to that pursuit. I am letting go of things—thought patterns and old habits—that no longer serve me. As I let go of the things that don't work, I'm picking up others—mostly relationships—that nurture me and allow me to nourish in return. I have learned the value of being on the receiving end of the giving equation, and have grown in my ability to accept help.

I have big dreams: travel the world with myself, my daughter, and with friends; write and submit essays, short stories, books; get published. I am unconcerned with name or brand recognition, big publishing houses, or big book advances. Sure, in my fantasies, those things will come. But in my real life, I want to live a small life where my love, smiles, and contributions make a big difference in the corner of the world I occupy.

This smallness is not the same kind that author and lecturer, Marianne Williamson, references in this, my favorite quote:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I am no longer playing small as I have done in decades past. There was a time when I identified with this deepest fear of being powerful beyond measure. I did play small. It fit within others' expectations of me. No more! The smallness I am referring to now is the confidence that the extra cans of soup and green beans I pick up as I grocery shop will be a helpful donation to the pantry at church. That the small donation I sent to a non-profit after the rally trauma in Charlottesville is a worthy contribution. Before my family was the recipient of an anonymous giver's small gifts during our stints of unemployment, I didn't believe that small gifts could make a difference. I know they do now. And I am committed to giving of myself in common, ordinary, small ways knowing that they actually do make a difference. 
 
I received the most stunning thank you letter this week from the organization I referenced above. It's opening paragraph blew me away and reminded me that this sort of living small is the right fit for me:

If you had just thought of our students, of Charlottesville, we would have appreciated it. If you'd just sent a message of support and strength, we would have been moved. But you sent us a gift, made a monetary investment in ensuring the future of Jewish life at the University of Virginia, and for that, we are humbled and grateful...Your gift...was part of that support. And though healing doesn't happen in an instant, your gift makes an actual difference in the strength of community we will continue to nurture and sustain here in Charlottesville.(I would have removed the justs, but that's a different blog post.)

This was a humbling letter to receive because a. I gave what I could-- a mere $10, and b. writing letters is what I do in my day job. I want the letters I write to take donors' breaths away like this one took mine.

Every line of Williamson's quote is sterling, but I am especially drawn to these words: “And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I am learning that what is written here at 300 rejections plays into this idea. I admit my fears and struggles, and it creates space for others to acknowledge their own. It is humbling and extraordinary every time I ponder it. Living like this sets me up to show up, do the work, and wait with anticipation for what's to come. To think, once this way of living terrified me. Now it's pure exhilaration. I know there's nothing to fear.

This girl is learning how to dream big behind the wheel of a Tesla

“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.” ―William Martin



Thursday, September 7, 2017

Rejections 10-14

Rejection 10 arrived in my email on a sunny day. My friend was driving, our children were in the backseat, and we'd spent a lovely mid-day with a mutual friend. I checked my email and found this:



Could the day get any better?!?!

When I'd submitted the essay online, the publication provided a check box to request feedback. It wasn't guaranteed, but it was a possibility. I absolutely checked the box. Abbey, the editor, gave me a gift. She called my piece "interesting" and wished me luck in "placing this piece elsewhere." I am so glad I took the risk to put this piece out in the world. I would much rather it be rejected and learn that it was deemed interesting than to choose not to submit it and always wonder how it rated.

This isn't the last time I'm going to submit this work. I've got a few more rejections in me before I hang up this particular piece's towel.

I wrote recently about going through old piles of writing from as far back as fourth or fifth grade. In that stack, I was reminded that long before I created the 300 rejections blog, I'd slowly been writing and submitting work. I also applied for a creative arts grant for artists who are raising children. As I put together my application, I remembered other work I had submitted that was not published.

Since I'm the Chief Executive Officer of 300 rejections, I get to make up the rules as I go, so I am retroactively counting these other rejections:

Rejection 11Over the Shoulder,” Spoonfuls of Stories with Cheerios, children's story contest 2009

Rejection 12 Real Simple Essay Contest “What was the most important day of your life?” 2010

Rejection 13 From Skinny Nanny to Well-Rounded Mama: A Journey to Acceptance,” Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine 2013

Rejection 14 Birthing the Mother Writer,” Literary Mama 2014

So there we have it. I have been submitting work longer than even I remembered. I am so grateful for the exercise of preparing materials for the grant. I'm already a winner with the confidence I gained in the process.

Rejections to go: 285

What in the world will be written in the next 285 submissions? It's so exciting to think about. Thanks so much for going on this journey with me.