Friday, August 17, 2007

Rejection Slips Redux

I was getting back to the subject of these and others like them, and others still to come, indeed from things not even remotely considered. In fact, a story I had lost some years ago with the suicidal crash of a long-forgotten computer is very much back in mind thanks to my having embarked on the editing of Brian Fagan's latest project, The Cro-Magnon: Portrait of an Ice Age People. No great stretch there, my characters are all Cro-Magnon. It is easy to imagine some editor somewhere tearing open the submission envelope, looking at the first page, and calling over his or her editorial shoulder, "Hey, you wanna check this out. Some guy in California, I think it's a guy, he's got a story about a band of cavemen. Says right here on the author info, Califuckingfornia. First they give us Arnie Whatzisname, then they give us Paris Hilton, and now it's a band of Cro-Magnon. And we're supposed to go like Wow! Cutting edge stuff. California!" Given my past experiences, I might do better on the third or fourth submission. In fact, I'm guilty of a slight deception because, if you enlarge that letter on the top of the pile, it says they'd like to publish a particular story, I think it was the one I call "Talk Radio." Moral: not all rejection letters are rejections.

But I became distracted. My distraction took me to one of my two favored locales in this
remarkable and fractured city. I would call the area Middle Milpas because it is just about midway between the beginning on the Cabrillo Boulevard beach front and the ending, where it doglegs left past the Santa Barbara Bowl and becomes a street named after a venerable Chumash elder, Anapamu.

I in fact became distracted by this, which caught my eye, sent me careening around the block, and into an illegal park, whereupon I got fortunate.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a photographer would have made more of this, just as it is true that good stories are not accepted because of factors that have nothing whatsoever to do with what you sent in. It is lovely to have your work published but it is lovelier to have done the work and then sent it forth. If you need validation from someone, let that person be you.

One is wired to receive images from outside, and from other people. If these images translate into an idea that generates energy, you're on your way, reaching for the means to transform that vision. At that stage, you are as happy as you will ever be, pursuing a vision that came from within you. Even if you execute the idea beyond your wildest expectations, that is transitory. The real pleasure is acknowledging the insistent presence of the idea, then committing yourself to trying to get it. Only people who don't understand the process want perfection, and even they cannot tell you what perfection means. The real goal is to effect beautiful errors and accidents.

Three collateral observations:
1. No one you know admits to being a bad driver.
2. No one you know admits to being a poor lover.
3. No Ph.D. you know believes his or her thesis is unremarkable or does not deserve to be published.

Go figure.

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