Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Acceptance and Rejection in Writer's Lives

The other day I heard someone talking on the radio about how writing is an odd thing in that one must pretend to be a writer for a long time before one actually is recognized as a writer. People don’t pretend to be doctors or nurses or social workers, they go to school, study, apprentice and become one. Writers, however, spend a lot of time writing and telling people they are writing only to be asked, “Have you published a book?” We know that the negative answer to that is a diminishment of the assertion of being a writer and so each moment of suggesting that one is a writer is fraught with anxiety. Still, we pretend that we are a writer and we say it often in our mind or to a small circle of friends, waiting for the moments when we say it publicly and it is, at last accepted.

In addition to the facade that must be presented of being a writer prior to any actual recognition of that fact, there are the entwined issues of acceptance and rejection for writers. The other week, I received a rejection. I hate that. Especially lately. Through the wonders of email, I put together a packet of materials, send them off with great care into the great mysterious space of the U.S. Postal Service and then after that physical effort and that physical act of love to the world, I receive a single email in my box. Always, when I see who it is from, I leave it with a blue dot next to it for two or three email sessions. I can’t bear to read it. I want neither the joy of acceptance nor the pain of rejection immediately. I prefer to live in the anxious moment. Finally, when I can bear it no longer, I click on it and read enough to know if it is going to make me happy or sad and then I surf away from that email. I need the time to absorb what has happened. These actions are always the same for acceptance or rejection.

Rejection, however, lasts longer as a blow to ego, as an affront to the facade of being a writer. The last rejection plummeted me into a depression that lasted a good four or five days. I didn’t write or submit anything. It was not pretty. I was beyond console. Acceptance and its concomitant joy never lasts as long. Earlier this week, an essay was accepted for publication in a web journal. I was happy. For perhaps fifteen minutes. Then the crushing sense of what else has to be written came in and the joy dissipated.

Similarly, a poem of mine arrived in a journal that was just published. I haven’t opened the plastic yet. Part of it is looking through the plastic and knowing my work is in there. I want to savor the moment of opening it and I’ve been too busy with other things lately. Still I know, once that plastic is broken, once those pages are read, the joy of publication will be over. All that will be left is me with a piece of paper, blank in front of me, and the computer, waiting for the next ding, the arrival of an email with the next rejection.

No comments: