I am a fragile flower, a delicate spidery web, a candle flame barely burning. One little puff and out I go. Touch me with two fingers and I crumble. Leave me in the sun without adequate moisture and I shrivel. Or, easier still, send me a form letter rejecting my painstakingly written query letter and I will crawl under my desk, push aside the outlet strip and refuse to come out and write another sentence fragment (at least until it’s time to cook dinner.)
I say to myself, “Self, why must you insist on something more? Isn’t it enough to raise four children, two of them adopted through a process so arduous you cried on the bathroom floor more than once and questioned the very existence of the Almighty God, and two of them the most exquisite babies conceived against impossible odds and born into dimly lit bedrooms with midwives in attendance? Are these miracles not enough? Is your husband of twenty years, that hard-working, calm, funny man who laughs at your jokes and didn’t divorce you when you gained 75 pounds not enough?”
“Self,” I say, “You have a spacious house (nevermind the clutter and dust), a safe neighborhood, shelves full of good books to read, new highlights in your hair and hot pink sneakers . . . and yet, it is not enough? You grappled with your faith as a teenager, wrestled with God through college, had a fist-fight with Him in your twenties, decided to trust in Him even when He tried your patience . . . you believe, you trust, you feel the comfort of God’s presence in your life and receive the occasional touch of grace to remind you of His care and it’s not enough? Is all this not enough?”
I’m a giant castle built with blocks and when one teeters, they all crash to the ground. The teetering block, that thing I thought I’d discarded years ago in a fit of despair, it keeps reappearing, insisting I pick it up, incorporate it into the construction of my life. I never asked to be a writer. I never studied writing, never majored in writing, never dared to call msyelf an author . . . but I write. I can’t help myself. I cannot be silent. The words march in my head, keeping their own beat, pounding pounding pounding until I line them up in sentences and make them behave like paragraphs. Then, sometimes, for a moment, everything is still and ordered and quiet and I am satisfied that I have expressed something just as it appeared to me. I have written and I am at peace.
I wish I had an obsession with handbags or designer shoes or something that did not come attached to the occasional rejection letter. A hunger for leather could be appeased. But this desire for publication is mean. I come apart like a seam only basted, not stitched. Today, today I am coming apart, unraveling, verging on tears, prowling in the kitchen for something to feed the gaping hole that food cannot fill. Today is a bad day, a day when I think that something might be wrong with me. I want to write, to describe the world from my viewpoint. I want to be read, too, to know that someone catches the ball I’m throwing into the universe.
Yet, I fear that I am completely delusional. I recoil from the business aspect of writing, the pushing and shoving your way to the front of the line, the impossible locks you cannot undo without the secret combination. (For instance, in the form rejection letter I received today, the editor gave me a list of ten possible reasons my query was rejected. Ten. This is maddening.) I’m not a member of the secret club, but if I could get in the door, I know I am capable of writing what they are buying.
Or I’m completely insane. You decide.
I quit. I think I will devote myself to creating the perfect muffin recipe (moist, yet nutritious), getting the laundry even brighter and whiter and organizing my sock drawer. I will purge the storage room of excess stuff, paint frames black and hang up photographs, degrime the corners of the floor. I will repaint the family room (away with you, red stripes!), alphabetize the spices and sneak stuffed animals out of the my daughter’s room undetected.
Yes, it will be a very satisfying life, one free of rejection form letters and editors who overlook me in their search for the Next Best Thing. You win, Universe. I get the message. I quit.
I hope you’re happy.