Thursday, June 28, 2007

Give me the writing life!

Ahhh the writing life. Every day dawns bright with opportunity.

So many of us put our butts in the chairs every day and put words on pages. Sometimes the words get along, sometimes they sing. Sometimes they fight like bullies on a playground. Other times they just simply refuse to cooperate. Sullen and unresponsive they sit like lumps of spitballs stuck on a blackboard and dare me to find a way to make them turn into something significant.

Usually I click delete and close the document. I know when I'm beat. Words, my toughest opponents, roughest coworkers ever my pleasure to work with.

Non-writers think writers are solitary figures, working alone with our thoughts. Instead we have all of the words in the world whirling around us, daring us to catch them out of the air and confine them to a page, to a paragraph, to a sentence. "Put me into something original. I dare you," they smirk. They pound their little alpha-chests and scoff, "Who do you think you are to try and wrangle me?"

But when they cooperate, ahhh. When they embrace their fellow words, sing a little Kum-ba-ya, and gather around the campfire of an essay, imparting their wisdom, their inspiration, their treasure.... Oh what beautiful music to their creator.

Today was a day of rejection. An essay I poured my heart into didn't work for an editor. It happens. It happens alot. After all of these years, rejection is a shrug of the shoulders, an "oh well," and acceptance that I won't be buying that exquisite $5,000 sewing machine I fantasize about. I probably won't be ordering much pizza or take-out and I'll probably be refreshing my taste buds with peanut butter sandwiches instead of steak. But I will be writing. And I will be thinking about that essay. I'll either be figuring out what didn't work or think of a market that will appreciate it, or maybe some of both.

The week hasn't been all rejection. Christian Science Monitor accepted another essay, another of my favorite word songs.

My first acceptance -- 1981 -- Bluegrass Unlimited -- a terrible, horrible article about the Blanchard Valley Bluegrass Boys. I put everything in that article including the kitchen sink. When the check arrived I screamed, I cried, I danced on the bed of my sleeping husband. He worked nights and wasn't quite as thrilled at a check for $126 as I was.

But of course all writers know that it wasn't about $126. It was about validation. About succeeding at something so elusive, something as fragile as butterfly wings. Something I wanted so badly I still get tears thinking about that break-through moment.

I don't get quite as worked up with each acceptance these days. Yet, seeing my work in print, makes me smile. It is a smile that goes right to my soul.

So tomorrow I'll be back fitting words together and hoping to come up with a lovely picture -- like those thousand piece jigsaw puzzles my husband loves to slave over and our cat enjoys sleeping on. Will my picture be of cute kittens? A lovely landscape? A lighthouse? My mother's hands?

Ahhhh, the opportunities are endless.


Marijke Vroomen-Durning said...

I can understand what you're saying. My first article was for The Canadian Nurse, in 1999, on how nurses can use the Internet to their benefit. I wasn't paid, but it was my first experience working with a query, and editor and then seeing my name in print in a journal that went to my peers across the country. I was so thrilled.

I still get a huge kick out of seeing my name in print. I hope that delight never ends.

Ruth D~ said...

This is a great take on the challenges of writing, and the pleasure of validation, however minimal it is monetarily. The very first piece I ever submitted was to Christian Science monitor, and it was accepted. Beginners luck, but very encouraging. Once you have some validation under your belt, the subsequent rejections aren't as discouraging.