Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sisters and Brothers of the Rejection Slip

As is the case with so many of your sisters and brothers of the rejection slip, you from time to time indulge the fantasy of being able to earn enough from your various writing ventures to support yourself in some manner a tad above subsistence on peanut butter sandwiches, tuna casseroles, and pasta sauces made from target-of-opportunity left-overs.  Such thoughts come with particular thrust when, as yesterday afternoon, you were slightly off coordinates in attempting a flip turn in swimming, got unanticipated water up your nasal passages, and were suddenly presented with a stunning scenario that caused the mysteries of an at-arms'-length novel to penetrate with such sharp clarity that, nose still useless and slightly burning,you rushed home to get the vision on the screen and, as if not yet trusting computers, printed out the pages.  It is an on-going joy to have such moments, nose to the contrary notwithstanding, giving you not only enjoyment from what you do but a pride in it.  The pride and joy may even last for another day or until you reach the budgeted time to get back to the novel for N number of hours.

Ah, to have the time to bully your way through such minor obstacles as Chapter Two or Chapter Three.  You after all have the final chapter, or at least the resolution in mind and you know the primary causes, and you now have reached the point of knowing so much about the background and intent of your antagonist that you truly like her and are sympathetic toward the person she has become.  Surely, with all the knowledge of the story, you could have done with it in no time at all, had you the time to spare. 

But you really don't think so.  Perhaps this is a cultural thing, your working class heritage, although it must be pointed out that there were times in your life when your entire income stream was derived from your writing.  It is not so much that such times are lost to you but rather they are remote, a you who holds up well enough to the current you but not in any way exemplary.  The fact is, you were always better in terms of learning and working and doing and relating to others and to the world about you when you were broke.

Teaching has done wonders for your income stream, at times, and it occasionally allows you the sophistry that you are in some manner paying back the toss of genetic dice that gave you what you have, but the fact is, teaching teaches you.  It taught you for instance to greatly admire over ninety percent of your students, even that kid from Chicago who kept insisting he didn't have to do the assignments because he is an artist, or the lady who felt you were picking on her because of her spelling and punctuation.

Editing has done well by you and thus it is your fiction that all writers should know how to edit, but it has given you regular cause to look at some of the very lapses you on occasion indulge, including sentences that meander about like the Mississippi River on a rampage.

The fact is, these elements, these not quite writing elements are the very things that keep you clothed in a world of nakedness, keep the semblance of life close to hand while you yearn for lazy summer days and work in the yard under the shade of a sycamore, sipping from a pitcher of lemonade and catchings sounds from your iPod Touch as you work out the technical problems of a novel that, for all you regard it, will be lucky to "sell" one thousand copies.

The further fact is that you do this because you have to, because it has taken you beyond the state of merely wanting to; that was gone a longtime ago.  Like it or not, there is a delicious, delightful sense of danger that Life might close in on you while you are printing out and copyediting the nonfiction project to send forth; Life may have some detours where this present novel is concerned, and it surely will think of ways to distract you when it comes to writing those two short stories you think of only as Bank Robbery and Mother's Day.  And the final fact to be reckoned with is, good as the six hundred sixty-page nonfiction manuscript is, dramatic and plausible as The Secrets of Casa Jocosa is, mischievous and daring as the short stories are, they can never be as good as your first visions of them, when you fell in love with them and literally and figuratively took them to bed and bonded with them, but perhaps, just maybe, not having enough time to work on them as a full-time writer will make you continue in your solicitude toward them, make you listen to them so that even in the Y pool, trying to execute that flashy looking flip turn, you will get messages from them and you will be forced to hie off to get the messages down in some readable form.

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