“I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death, where you’re going no matter how you live, cannot you part.”
― Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters
For most of us who write, our “one necessity” is telling our stories. And eventually, we’re going to get to a point where it isn’t enough to just tell the stories to ourselves, or to our writing groups, or to our close friends. We’re going to want to reach a wider audience, to be published. For any writer, rejection is hard. For the nonfiction writer, especially someone writing from personal experience, I would argue that rejection is even harder. When I write a short memoir or personal essay, I am writing about ME–my story, my journey, my struggle, my experiences with the world–and a rejection no longer feels like it’s just about my technique or if I had inadvertent typos or if I read formatting specifications incorrectly. It feels like my very self is being rejected.
I’m a pro at rejection. At last count, I had received 48 rejection letters in a row. I joked about it, swore I’d throw a party once I hit fifty consecutive rejections, but each and every time I opened my email and read “thanks but no thanks,” it stung.
Which makes my first acceptance even more special. Stonecoast Review, a literary journal, accepted my lyric essay “Retrograded Mercury” for their second issue. It can be read at stonecoastreview.com. (I find it ironic that the issue came out last week–while Mercury was in retrograde!). The essay is about coming to terms with love and faith in the face of trauma, and relies heavily on water imagery and poetry. What is most gratifying about the acceptance is that I wrote the piece as an experiment. My first writing love is poetry, even though I’m not that great at it, and in writing “Retrograded Mercury” I was trying to push the limits of genre and merge an essay with poetic form. Experimentation is what I love most about writing nonfiction; to have an experiment be taken seriously by a national lit mag is the most blissful feeling imaginable.
I received the link to the magazine in my email right before work, and called everyone to tell them. I literally danced around my house, and I am NOT a dancer. Then, while driving to work, the reality hit me. I had to pull over and sob. I DID it. Finally, something I wrote, something that is at its epicenter ME, will be read by other people. I am a writer.
I’ve called myself a writer for a long time. I’ve written for as long as I can remember. But at that moment, seeing my piece in print, I fully felt like a writer. It isn’t just a necessity or a compulsion–it’s a verified aspect of my being.
I hope there is more to come. I’m working on a book and am hoping to send out other essays as soon as summer hiatuses are over. I expect more rejections, and more heartache. But at least now I know publication is possible. And it’s enough to keep me going.