This morning I received another rejection from a literary magazine. I’m at the point where rejections dig deeper under my skin than they did in the beginning. They lead me to question my purpose and all the hours I’ve spent writing fiction, all the minutes I’ve chosen writing over my children, my husband, my loved ones. What was the point, you know?
If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Lucky for me, I believe in the virtue of persistence. I consider myself a persistent person. Yet, in those moments after receiving a rejection, the persistence flickers. Why am I putting such effort into a calling that’s so far from guaranteed? Why am I taking precious time from my life (and life is, inevitably, short) and spending it on a gamble?
Sometimes, I wonder about putting my youngest in daycare and getting a job. I’ll have to start at the bottom again, but I’ll be both a career woman and a mom, and maybe I won’t feel the need to write. So I go to Craigslist and I browse the jobs, and I fall deeper into despair because every employer wants experience I don’t have. Since becoming a mother 6.5 years ago, I haven’t held a job and I’ve never worked harder. I’ve started and run a tea business, I’ve written many short stories and several novels (one of which I’m currently re-writing, one of which needs more work, one of which I’m chalking up to a learning experience, and one of which I’m still undecided about), I’ve blogged, I’ve written freelance, I’ve composed poetry, and I’ve taken care of my kids.
I. Am. Burnt. Out.
Aside from this slightly neglected blog, a poetry blog, a few links to published work, a few manuscripts, a few old tins of tea, and a long string of rejections; what do I have to show for all this work?
I don’t have passive income, years of post-college employment history, or a book on the shelves with my name on the cover (yet). But I have what I value most. I have my children. My beautiful family. If I scrapped all of my writing projects and “just” took care of my family, would it matter to anyone but me? Would anyone care that I wasn’t writing or making money? Would anyone miss the potential growth my words may or may not bring?
If I didn’t write in stolen moments, I would be a more present mother. I would play more with my kids, read more to my kids, teach more to my kids. And yet I’m holding onto the notion that writing, in its delayed-gratification way, makes me a better mother. Even if they don’t know it yet, someday they will understand that I did what I loved, against all odds, in spite of rejection, without anyone else’s help. I did it out of pure love for the art of literature. No matter what happens to my unpublished manuscripts, I listened to my heart. I followed it. This is the legacy I want to leave.
“But that is the book that I am writing. That we try and we fail and we try again. That we dust ourselves off and continue on. I am writing the book that I need to read. That despite my fear of failure, despite the fear that I am somehow a fraud, despite the suspicion that I am less than, I will keep trying. I will lean into what is good and hard and terrifying. I will turn to my better angels and sojourn on. Because the other option? The other option is only an approximation of life and not really life itself. And I want a really big life.” – Meg Fee
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