This is Part II to the story I began yesterday. The one in which it was clear to me this all went down last year, but not at all clear to you.
I began to have this nagging feeling.
I imagined this book I had written being published. Going out onto shelves. Being read by approximately fifteen to twenty people somewhere.
And I felt uncomfortable.
I was like some heroine with rosy skin and a lot of gumption who, for a ride out of town, goes to bed with a man she thought was a cowboy--but he's got a trunk full of jewelry and this weird black bandanna and boy, does the drawing on that Wanted poster look a lot like him.
The outlaw may have gotten her out of Dodge, sure--and she may have picked up a few things about shooting and cattle roping along the way--but now she's in Tucson, and who wants to stay in Tucson the rest of their lives? The goal was San Fransisco.
I realized that if there was going to be a book out there with my name on it, I didn't want it to be this one. This book was the outlaw. And I didn't want an outlaw out there calling himself Mr. Vesuvius. What I wanted was to own a brothel. Down by the bay.
It wasn't that I was hung up on all the outlaw's imperfections--his sometimes clumsy prose, his awkward pacing, his penchant for cliches. I just knew the outlaw wasn't for me. I had used him to try to impress Mary-Alice, down there in the shade with her white skirts and her parasol, and not to do my soul work.
I can say this now, but at the time I resisted these feelings. I resisted my gut instinct because it was not what I wanted to hear.
Then, a few weeks after sending off my manuscript, an email popped up in my inbox. From the agent. That agent.
And while she had good things, encouraging things to say about my little outlaw--who truly I was fond of, despite his shortcomings--she ultimately did not feel it was ready for publication.
(I was not expecting this to still hurt now. But it does!)
I gave myself a few weeks break. I was hurt. I knew enough about publishing not to be too hurt, but it was hard.
And then I started writing again.
I could say it like this: I felt a little bit broken, like the fallen woman I was, but I knew I must be strong. Therefore I gathered up my calico skirts in mine own two hands, slammed a glass down on the counter and demanded Mr. V fill it high with moonshine, and did a right Scarlett O'Hara.
God as my witness, I'm going to start writing again!
When I sent off that manuscript, I was sure I wanted it published. I wanted it so badly it ached. But in the weeks that followed, as I began writing other things, I felt like I got my sea legs. I learned, first of all, that I could write other things besides that one book. I felt initiated as a writer. The story of being a writer is the story of facing rejection. And that sense I had had, that nagging feeling--the one they say in Babe should never be ignored, remember? Changed from a sense of unease to a sense of confidence, of purpose.
I didn't get what I really really wanted. Or what I thought I really wanted. And I was ok. In fact, I was a little relieved.
During those weeks of disappointment, I had to go to a place in my soul that I didn't want to face. I had to recognize the truth: That some people, some talented people even, write all their lives, write very beautiful works, and never get published. And that it was possible that I could be one of those people.
This is not pessimism. It is only the truth. I had been ignoring this truth all along. The Indians were riding in with their arrows raised and I was saying, 'Look! Ponies!'.
But the curious thing is, the disappointment gave me strength to face them.
"My outlaw is not so very shiny. He is swaggering and spitting and not showing a lot of the truth. And now look, I've got Indians coming. At least I can shoot my own gun. "
I had to write for me. Because it was what my soul wanted to do. It made me happy. It gave me a sense of purpose and accomplishment and peace. Whether someone wanted to publish it or not.
Money, success, achievement, the approval of others--those things are all out of my control. If I place my happiness there, I am literally giving my happiness away for others to use as they will.
I think when we create we are honoring the divine within. Even more than that: I think creating can be entering into a communion with a divine presence. But you can't find that tender place if you're writing to impress your parents or Mary-Alice or Michiko Kakutani.
You do it because you have to. You must. And it is a reward within itself.
For anyone who writes or creates art, I highly recommend this Ted talk by Elizabeth Gilbert.
So thank you, my little outlaw. Now when I ride into San Fransisco, I will do it knowing how to shoot a coyote from a moving horse. Dodge will be but a distant memory. You took me as far as you could.
It was far enough.
(I am sorry for those of you he swindled into thinking I may have been offered a book contract. I thought I had made it clear, and I did not intend to trick you. I blame the outlaw. He's always sneaking something).
And: I cannot rightly publish this post without giving thanks to my Dear Mr. Vesuvius. Writing books costs me many hours away from home on the evenings and weekends, and them children never did tend themselves. Mr. V gives me constant, unwavering, unimaginable support and encouragement. He pours me the whiskey and offers his words of simple wisdom, and then I can get back on the horse. And I am so incredibly grateful.