“Stupid publisher,” she wrote.
Strange as it may sound, those two words made me feel better. Although they were written in an email, I could hear her saying them. I could see her saying them. Those two simple words made me smile.
I’d just gotten another manuscript rejection. I usually keep these things fairly private, but this was an old friend, a writer who would understand. Without discussing the story at all, I’d mentioned to her the painful waiting, the longing, the uncertainty and the hope I was feeling about this piece. Without saying it in so many words, she counselled patience. There may be things at work, she said, that I don’t know about.
I breathed in and I breathed out. Patience. Yes, patience. Be patient.
I am a patient person, and I’ve come to believe that no news is good news, but that lingering is an awful feeling. I imagine the manuscript suspended by an editor’s hand, hovering over the “Yes, it’s brilliant and we would be fools not to publish it pile” and the “It’s a complete waste of ink” pile. Which is it? Does it depend on whether someone sneezes, whether a gust of air pushes through a window? Does it depend on whether it`s a sunny day or one with clouds? Or is it such a piece of junk that it`s buried in a stack of papers? Maybe no one is holding it suspended anywhere. Maybe it`s been dealt its fatal blow and no one has remembered to tell me. Maybe they`ve lost my phone number. Maybe the editor who liked it has died.
It’s enough to make a person feel crazy.
During the `maybe` months, I had come to understand why so many writers suffer from manic depression and/or drink heavily. To me an answer from the publisher — even an answer I didn’t want — was preferable to that back of the mind waiting and waiting and waiting.
I was sad that this story didn’t made the final cut, but I also felt strangely liberated. Maybe this story hadn’t been such a good fit with that particular publisher after all. If it sat around for months, had been through several editorial meetings, and was still being debated, was there excitement for this project? Was there the excitement I was feeling for it? I knew I had at least one strong advocate, but was one enough to carry the project? Would one person plus me be enough not only to give it wings, but to make it soar? What if there was something intrinsically wrong with it? What if it wasn`t my best work? Do I want something out there that`s mediocre?
My sense of liberation, from an email that should have made me feel dejected, came from having a firm decision after several months of “maybe.” Maybes are torturous and maybes are usually a “no.” Yeses generally come with unbridled enthusiasm. Yeses are what good books are made of.
As for that particular story, I re-read it. I still love it. I still believe in it.
I made new copies that same afternoon. I addressed new envelopes that I filled with the new copies. I hugged them on the walk to the post office and kissed each one before dropping it in the slot. My baby was released into the world again, to be judged, perhaps to be discussed, and maybe to be published.
In the meantime, I am trying to quell my enthusiasm and to forget that my fledgling is out in the world alone, trying to learn how to fly.
© 2012 Sue Farrell Holler