Today’s guest post comes from Tracie Welser, a graduate of Clarion West. Many thanks to Tracie for her contribution, and congratulations on the subject of her post!
Scenario: a seemingly Impossible Thing occurs, and you freeze. Then your body ceases to behave normally, and your jaw works up and down but no sounds escape.
The first time I believed an Impossible Thing, it only lasted for a moment. I was sweeping the front porch. I heard a loud noise inside the house and turned to the window. There I caught sight of a four-wheeled chair rumbling past on the hardwood floors of the living room. I’d just purchased a new home, and the seller had suggested to me that the house was haunted by the ghost of its former owner. As the chair rolled five feet or more across the room, I froze, and my mind struggled to reconcile the evidence of my senses with logic.
For one bizarre moment, all true logic left me, and I believed an Impossible Thing: my lips actually formed the words, “It’s real!”
Now the punchline: I opened the door to discover my fat black-and-white cat, Eddie, standing on two legs and still dragging the battered chair as he tried to extricate his front claws from the side where he’d been scratching. He looked up at me and mewed forlornly.
I felt pretty stupid, and I was glad there were no witnesses.
The visceral frozen sensation (followed by dawning realization of the truth of things) brought on by the seemingly impossible is almost exactly like my reaction to first acceptance as a Real Writer.
Last week, my first sale to a professional publication happened. While I waited for yet another rejection, an editor across the pond at Interzone composed a lovely acceptance and sent it to my inbox. When I opened, voila! and whoa!
“I’m delighted to say that we like […] very much, and would like to publish it in Interzone as soon as we can.”
My reaction? I can’t believe it. I sat back in my chair and stared, looked away, and then read it again in disbelief. Maybe the room spun a bit.
I know I’m not the only writer who feels this way. Why I am surprised that an editor likes my work? Am I not a writer?
What did I expect would happen, after all the hard work of ideation, drafting, revising, desperate appeals to fellow writers for critiques, revision, and finally, the supreme effort of hitting “send”?
I expect to fail.
I send subs out, collect rejections, conduct rejectomancy, send submissions out again, expecting to fail.
At some point, I think I learned a defense mechanism to withstand the reality of rejection: I numbed myself to the possibility that my darling creations actually stink, and someone Out There is going to read my story and laugh or toss it aside, bored to tears. Or, my worst fear, that someone will tell me in explicit detail just how terrible it truly is.
What I’ve gradually come to accept is the reality that acceptance isn’t an Impossible Thing. It’s a probable Thing, likely even. I have talent that’s been nurtured and encouraged, and I’ve fought through the crippling imposter syndrome that kept me from submitting for years. I’ve even developed some of the discipline that’s required to get the work done and out into the world.
On a side note…
What NOT to do right after you receive an offer of publication:
Rub it other peoples faces, even if you really want to.
Expect your mom to get why this is so exciting even though you still can’t quit your day job.
Quit your day job.
What to DO:
A crazy dance in your living room, call/text/tweet your friends and fellow writers to celebrate.
And then, start all over again.
You still have work to do.