Part the Fifth –
The thing is, I mean, there’s times when you look at the universe and you think, “What about me?” and you can just hear the universe replying, “Well, what about you?”
― Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time
Welcome to the latest installment of Cried But Did The Thing Anyway, where the author recounts a recent experience of living up to the title of her blog.
So, I received a response from an agent this week, regarding my novel submission. You wanna know how that went?
This isn’t my first rodeo. I received a handful of rejection for my previous attempt at a novel, and the responses I got while trying to sell some short stories are too numerous to mention. But this WAS the first rejection for this book – the book that I wrote through 2013, a year that was very hard for too many reasons; the book that I feel is the first good-quality novel I’ve written; the book that is volume one of a series, so there’s no option to dump it and go write another one. So, yeah, it hurt.
One of the benefits of being a writer is that you see stories everywhere, and you often get to look over your own shoulder, watching yourself as if you were just another character. Sometimes, it’s almost an out-of-body experience.
Here’s a girl, looking at her phone, pressing a few buttons, looking again… and you can tell by her face that she got bad news. This is a good moment for the camera to zoom out, showing more of the crowded downtown she’s standing in, at the intersection of two pedestrian streets packed with shops. Pan out, show that everyone around her is going about their business – shoppers, buskers, charity fundraisers, office workers who stepped out for lunch. Yup, one of those Filmmaking 101 shots that emphasize loneliness. Always works.
Follow her with the camera and zoom in again, once she’s standing outside a glass-fronted diner. Maybe film over her shoulder, catching her reflection in the glass, and then change focus to the menu she’s reading. Film her as she walks away, finding she can afford nothing on that menu.
Next, we get to see her in a grocery shop, wandering between aisles listlessly and leaving without a purchase – this time, because she didn’t want anything in there.
The decision is between two options. Option one is to go back into the shop, and buy a lot of cheap unhealthy food. Option two is to skip food altogether and head to the library, where she was going to write today. It’s two in the afternoon, and she hasn’t eaten anything today yet, really looking forward to the diner that she couldn’t afford. Now, she’s leaning heavily towards option two, even though she knows that if she keeps going without food, her fledgling headache will grow into a vomit-inducing monster. But the hunger, the headache, and the nausea – any physical suffering, in fact – would feel more appropriate to her state of mind.
This kind of thing happens, doesn’t it? You get a smack in the face from the universe, and even though you CAN take it, you feel that maybe you don’t want to. So you let yourself fall over, maybe play dead for a while, in the hope that it’ll stop any further blows. But let me tell you something. It doesn’t work that way. Whatever’s about to hit you next won’t stop just because you’re acting helpless. These shots have already been fired, and those suckers are locked onto your heat signature. Stand up or fall down, they’ll get you.
So take it on your feet, dammit.
Go and get that lunch some place you can afford, and then grab the coffee you wanted, and smile at the cute barista, and then maybe lose it a little bit and spend five minutes quietly crying at one of the tables outside… and then head to the library, as planned, and write those words. Because you’re badass and you can take it on your feet.
The next day, when you think you’re over it, get struck down by self-doubt, and learn, first-hand, why it’s so very often accompanied by the adjective ‘crippling’. Because it does, in no uncertain term, cripple you. You thought you were taking it on your feet, and now, suddenly, you can’t even get to your feet anymore. Because maybe you’re not as badass as you thought.This almost could’ve been a blog about how I withstood a blow from the universe, shrugged it off and kept going, like nothing happened. After that pep talk up there, I would’ve loved to give you myself as a heroic, bulletproof example. But that wouldn’t have been honest.
So I told you things the way they were. At first, I thought it took me an hour to recover from a painful blow. In the end, it took me about twenty-four of them. I take pride in the fact that not all of those hours were spent sleeping, self-pitying and watching TV. I hit my writing target yesterday. Today, I felt that writing new material will take my characters to a bad place – so I did other things on my to-do list, including this blog. (Rain thanked me for that, at length.)
The iconic speech from Rocky says that it’s all about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It doesn’t say which speed you have to be moving at. Maybe, at the time when you get hit, the speed doesn’t matter that much. Maybe the only thing that matters is that you don’t stop. I don’t intend to.
…Back in the film about a girl reading bad news from her phone in the middle of the crowd, we moved on from dramatic shots of listless wandering, to a novelist montage, complete with libraries, coffee, and handwritten manuscripts. I’ll see you on the other side, darlings. I’m told the next scene features a book deal.