I went through a period in my late twenties when I was writing almost prolifically and sending my work out a lot and getting published a little; it was when I acquired the skin necessary to deal with rejection. I would get the rejection slips and immediately start editing the rejected pieces so I could mail them out again (it was all by old-fashioned mail at that time – yes, I am that old); it was like clock work. I kept all of the rejection letters in a file and all of the lit journals info on index cards; I learned how to let the rejections roll away and I just kept writing. Then, life got in the way and things fell apart.
For almost two decades, I put my writing and all of the aspirations that went along with it, to the side. I grieved and drank and wept and worked a lot of different jobs; I got married and divorced and tried to figure my shit out, all the while feeling pretty empty and struggling to put pen to paper without much success. I still called myself a writer, but I wasn’t writing.
In 2010, when I stopped working, I had the grand plan that I was going to write a book about my RP journey; I was going to write every day, become successful and be a real writer. None of it happened; my husband even gave up our second bedroom to make a writing room for me, but I avoided the room and the computer, and watched a lot of daytime TV instead. I moved my desk into the more open and spacious front room of our apartment, thinking the space would help me feel more creative, but that didn’t work. I started this blog, thinking that it would make the idea of writing a book less daunting, but I posted very sporadically and felt like the blog was an obligation rather than the pleasure and the solution I had hoped it would be. Maybe I wasn’t ready to write about blindness. Maybe I needed (a lot of) time to figure out who I was outside of the regular working world. Maybe I was just lazy. All I know is that I wasn’t writing and I had obliterated my grand plan.
I blogged in a very half assed way for years, not feeling like a writer, or much of a person at all really. Then, an old friend of mine suggested that I step away from the blog for a while and get back to what I call my first love as a writer; poetry. That’s what I did. I let go of the pressure I had put on myself to create blog posts and I started writing poetry again. I pulled out old poems and bits of poems that I had started years ago; I started revising and editing, which led to me writing new pieces, which eventually led to me sending my poetry to journals and magazines. I was skeptical of my value, but I was writing.
The first round of submissions, after so many years of being dormant as a poet, was exciting; I felt productive and creative and alive and I was certain that my rejection skin would come back along with my return to the literary world. I was lucky that in the first round of submissions, an amazing and supportive poetry editor – who now has her own lit mag (Wildflower Muse) – took the time to read my poems and even look at my very neglected blog, and accepted three of my poems for publication. When I got the acceptance email, I cried; I felt as if my return to writing was not in vain. But, then the rejections started coming and it turns out my rejection skin was pretty thin. I started thinking that I had been mistaken, that my writing was crap and I was crap and what the fuck was I thinking trying this writing thing again. And, then I got another acceptance, and more rejections and another acceptance and more rejections, and I felt my skin thickening. I realized that the validation isn’t in getting published, but in the creating, in the writing. I am not going to lie, it feels really good to get published, but I have to learn, again, how to get the rejections without taking them in and allowing them to define my worth as a writer.
I discovered this week that my rejection skin isn’t entirely intact. I had been waiting 6 months to hear from a journal that actually pays poets for their work; the idea of actually getting paid for my poetry was tantalizing and I got my hopes up, and I got rejected. I let it get to me. I spent a day and a half feeling like I was worthless as a writer; but then I rejected those feelings. I looked at the pieces that were rejected and saw where they need changes and got down to the work of revision. The rejection file is much thicker than the acceptance file, and it might always be, but I will keep writing.
My return to writing poetry opened up my life as a writer in ways I never imagined; I was introduced to a community, though the internet and social media, that I had always felt separate from. I returned to writing my blog with enthusiasm and passion, and have become more involved in the blogging world. I am getting accepted and rejected, followed and unfollowed, but it is all part of being a writer, of living a writing life.