Thursday, October 6, 2011
When Rejection Makes Us Young Again
For the writers among us who want to be published (and for everyone who has ever been spurned, or loved):
A request for a full manuscript offers the same giddy anticipation of Christmas morning—a package waiting to be opened. Will it contain coal, poo, or something shiny? It is hovering, an energy waiting to be born. A stone on a hillside waiting to be pushed. A request feels like the lurch of sighting the admired boy in the lunch line, seeing oneself in window glass and wondering "Am I pretty today?" And then he turns to look at you.
The loveliness of that request, that look, can carry one through the day, like those lazy afternoons in high school when the boys streamed out across the playing fields and the sun fell low. There's a crispness in the air and everything is possible and melodious.
It's all longing, and all your youth is longing.
Then the rejection, sudden, which feels inevitable when it arrives. Always, there's a heat within it. It feels like a slap, but one devoid of any true anger and love. It's a slap that shouldn't sting, but it does—every time. There is an immediate urge to cover the screen or the paper with your arms, and you wish that they were swan's wings. Your heart is beating in your face.
The sting fades faster each time, but it's still a sting. Suddenly you don't want to look your children in the eyes. The day is beautiful, but you feel a bit faint and lifeless, like someone abandoned you at the dance. All that possibility. The lovely things that might have come to pass. Is there a fine place to hide?
You remember what the boy said. He is your oldest son. He reads everything.
He says: "When is your book going to be published?"
"Not yet," you say. "Not yet."
"Well, you'd better be writing the next one in the trilogy. You'd better start tonight."
He turns in the doorway and adds, "I don't want you to write the next one. I need you to write it."
Your arms feel like the wings of birds at your side, this time not for shame.
The longing never goes. You are young, and want everything. People will say "no," and you still want. You have the recklessness of the toddler who smacks his head on the stairs in his efforts to climb. You continue to pet the dog that snaps at you.
Fool child, who keeps climbing trees and falling out, falling with tarry hands and brambles in your hair and the taste of the moon. Good for you. Someone should still be climbing trees on this earth.