Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Yeah, whatever.
I have been [fill in the blank] lucky, blessed, cagey, stubborn, ignorant, gullible, naive, innocent, dreamy, and persistent when it comes to rejection.
“I’m sorry, you don’t have the look we’re after, the talent, the right fit for our themed issue, the proper word count, a character we could relate to, or–umm–we really wanted a happier ending?”
My child modeling days taught me about rejection. Gina Buntz and I competed for most of the jobs requiring a blond, ponytailed, eight-year-old. Gina beat me out seventy-five percent of the time. Then came the middle and high school cliques I wasn’t cool enough for. Colleges I didn’t get into. Colleges I got into but couldn’t afford. Jobs I wanted, friends who let me down and boyfriends who ditched me for someone smarter or prettier.
I’d like to think persistence and naivete to the odds have been my methods of operating my writing life as well. Or maybe it’s just the fact that writing a short story, an essay, a novel has been for me the equivalent of someone else climbing Mt. Everest or sailing around the world. Both requiring the same stupefying gullibility. Equal parts ambition and stubbornness even though I never had to move from my desk chair.
Luck has something to do with it. And talent. But timing is everything. And the endurance it takes to write your own happy endings.
Happy endings. Now there’s a conundrum. Is there ever an ending completely happy? Not unless the ending is a bad relationship, a nightmare, the hives. Sometimes it’s satisfying as in Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett marrying in Pride and Prejudice or the sigh of relief at arriving safely at your gate after a terrifying landing.
In 2009 I signed with an agent who told me reading Invincible Summers made her miss her subway stop and kept her up at night thinking about the potential publishers she would pitch to, and the foreign rights her agency would sell. She ended up leaving the agent business mid-project and asking me for a letter of recommendation to grad school. Of course, I wrote one. An ending to a happy year of someone else loving my book but not enough to see it find a home.
Recently I finished the first draft of a new novel–an end so satisfying I wept as if a large booted foot had lifted off my chest. That same week the publisher of Invincible Summers notified its authors it was closing up shop–leaving me with more questions than answers.
Now, what happens? Apparently nothing. Orphaned. Again. And it feels like my book will forever have the stigma of rejection about it thanks to two people who quit.
But not me. I’ll continue to swim upstream until I can’t anymore. I worked in the music business. I know first hand how artists are screwed right and left by bad managers, agents, and record companies. Any Motown artist you’ve ever danced to made someone else rich while they struggled financially.
So why do we/I do it? Why do we continue when the odds are so stacked against us for a pursuit/passion we cannot or will not quit? Like love, maybe we do not think of rejection every day, but we never forget it. What it feels like, how it leaves us. But sometimes depleted and diminished is all it takes to move toward the next bright light. The feeling when someone connects with the work. The enthusiasm needed to start all over again