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quitting the slough of despond

Wow – did THAT feel like a long dark tunnel. Or maybe a short dark tunnel. In despair yesterday, I called dear friend Chris in Vancouver, and after listening to me babble, he said, “Where’s the confident woman I know? The insecure minor partner has taken over the business!”

She did. I forget she’s there, sometimes, she who used to have so much more power over me, the one who thinks herself talentless, lazy, undeserving. She’s much quieter now, but she’s there. Finally, Chris got me to say to myself what I say all the time to my self-deprecating, fearful students: “Who gains when you are silenced? If you don’t allow yourself to tell your story, is the world a better place?”

All this because one publisher turned me down? Well, yes, but more, it’s this stage of the authorial process that  I’ve only been through once before and have, like the pain of labour, nearly forgotten. This is a kind of labour – you’ve gestated this mysterious creature for a long time, in darkness and solitude, and now it’s time to bring it forth into the light. But how? Where and when? It can take years. And I’m an impatient person. Plus – when this manuscript is rejected, it’s not just my research and my writing, as with my first book. It’s my very life, my young self, her thoughts and words.

So, a few days, a week maybe, of feeling fearful and lousy, which I’m sure led my body to follow suit. I get back pain from tension, and my back was killing me. I wrote to friend Laurel, “You’d think after all those years as an actress and then as a writer, that I’d be used to rejection.” And she wrote back, “WHO GETS USED TO REJECTION?”

This is what provoked the crisis: Yesterday morning, I found, to my astonishment, that an old friend had just taken a job at the top of the very press I was going to contact.

I didn’t want to jeopardize our friendship, but at the same time, it’d be madness not to contact her. I emailed, explaining the coincidence and simply asking for the right name to send the work to. And then I collapsed with anxiety on the phone to Chris. While we were talking, she wrote back, telling me to send the manuscript to her and she’d forward it to the head of the firm. Incredible – exactly what every writer wants, a friend in the right place. Worse crisis. Complete fear. If they don’t want it, it’s over.

Chris talked me down. I sent her the ms. And then ran across town to help my daughter with Eli, who has a cold. We took his broom and his lawn mower for a walk down some back alleys, stopping to look up inside every drainpipe. I didn’t know drainpipes were fascinating, but now I do. Also squirrels, amazingly interesting, and airplanes, and leaves, and shadows, and dirt. Dirt is really interesting.

And came home to say to myself, Oh give it a rest. If they don’t want it, I’ll incorporate whatever editorial notes they have for me and try another press, or I’ll self-publish. What’s important now is that I start work on something else. Enough time in this melodramatic place. Onward.

Thank you to the beloved friends who called or wrote. It means so much, when you have stood yourself in a corner and are busy smacking yourself in the face, to hear a calm voice.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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