Monday, February 20, 2012

Still Used of Fishing Line and Glances

“Thank you for your query regarding your novel. Unfortunately, however, I don’t think it’s quite the right fit for me, so I'm going to pass. I wish you success finding other representation.”

They tell you it’s a path fraught with rejection, but you take it anyway.  You’re initially too busy battling your own fears and limitations in creating the thing—this arranged collection of words—even to remember that, when you get to the water, you’ve got to slip it on a hook and cast it out and wait for a nibble.  So you’re shocked, when you get there, to see how vast the lake is.  Which way are the fish? You cast for the horizon.

Cast – (v.) to cause to fall upon something or in a certain direction; send forth: to cast a soft light; to cast a spell; to cast doubts.

And so, after what has already been a long and somewhat excruciating journey, you wait in the sun’s heat for a yes.  You’re parched and sweaty and stink a little from the effort, and you remember you’d been warned about this part.  But no warning truly prepares you for how many Nos there are in this water. Or for the tiny death you experience with each rejection (even the kind ones). Or for the growing suspicion that you are delusional and look stupid loitering at the water’s edge.

To succeed in getting a novel published, you need not just one Yes, but a string of them. Yes, the idea sounds promising, maybe—I’ll take the time to actually read some of it.  Yes, I liked that part and I would like to read more. Yes, I think I can convince someone to publish this. Yes, someone has agreed to take a look at it. Yes, that someone is showing it to the five other people who need to say yes. Yes, they’ve all said yes.  All those levels of Yes make for many opportunities for no, for little deaths.

Cast – (v.)
  • ·         to direct (the eye, a glance, etc.), especially in a cursory manner: She cast her eyes down the page.
  • ·         to throw off or away: He cast it in the wastebasket.

In your mind, the Rejector looms large as a somewhat deified being, a Fate-Determiner—

Cast – (v.)
  • ·         (Obsolete) -- to consider.
  • ·         to select the actors for a play, motion picture, or the like.
  • ·         to bestow; confer: to cast blessings upon someone.

—who is whimsical, or perhaps even somewhat chip-shouldered and vendetta-fueled. 

Cast – (v.)
  • ·         to throw or set aside; discard or reject; dismiss: He cast it from his mind.
  • ·         to put or place, especially hastily or forcibly: to cast someone in prison.
  • ·         to throw down or bring to the ground.

You make a point of imagining him/her as dealing with uncooperative toddlers and/or bitey dogs, coping with loss and disappointment, putting pants on one leg at a time.

The trick, they say,  is not to base your self-worth on the little white slips of no that arrive in the mailbox or inbox, or on the total silence that means no (but feels like no-with-an-eye-roll). You yourself are not being rejected, but merely that thing you felt worthy of creating and nurturing and making whole, when you could have been, oh, say, reading classic literature or learning to speak Italian or nourishing personal relationships or candystriping or striving for world peace or playing ping-pong.  But, you know, nothing personal. So, you’ve got to separate yourself from it. Tricky, indeed.

Cast – (v.)
  • ·         to part with; lose: The horse cast a shoe.
  • ·         (of an animal) to bring forth (young), especially abortively.
  • ·         to throw forth, as from within; emit or eject; vomit.

You need to stand back and evaluate. It is somewhat of a math problem:

            YOU – BIG DREAM = ?

What is left? What IS that? [squinting]

You see a lone being in a vast field of wind-rippled grasses.  It’s you, fearfully and wonderfully made.  

Minus the BIG DREAM, what is life?  The image you envision isn’t bad: there’s a home with a roof that shelters and provides a soothing pattering when the rain falls.  Soil, sun and flowers agree, and there is a long season of color.  Seeds in the ground become—low!—vegetables.  There are swings to push children on. In the winter there are page-turners to read by the fire and puzzles to assemble on your dining room table.  There are people to love and cherish and to love and cherish you.  It is not only enough, but more than enough.  And, standing back like this, you can see clearly that, in the end, no one can take your name from you.

So, you take your spot at the water’s edge and cast again, because what do you have to lose?

Cast – (v.) to throw or hurl; fling: The gambler cast the dice. 

Definitions of "cast,"  rearranged and minimally altered, from

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sand Bubbler Crabs, or Jackson Pollock at the Beach

Sometimes it takes a literal change of perspective. When you lie on your couch under the sick blanket, you see things sideways.  It’s an ordinary weekday morning, but you can’t determine which weekday without your To Do list in front of your eyes.  It's kind of not any day, not that you recognize. You lie there, marveling at the way the sun through the family room windows plays glorious across the wall your husband painted goat’s-beard-yellow almost a decade ago, and at the way the blue-brown-gold painting you’ve liked okayfine appears suddenly striking when reflected in the mantlepiece mirror.  You live here; how have you not noticed this before?  You remember that you rarely see things from this perspective (couch) at this time of day. This chance vision is a perk, a gift of sorts.  Meanwhile, your tea swallows like a knife as you wash down the red button of an ibuprofen.  You lower yourself back into sickly position. On the television, Anthony Bourdain takes you to an out-of-the-way Korean restaurant in the Inner Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco, and the world as you think of it grows a touch in your head.  You think of the world outside these four walls, the world outside your world.  You think of this: 

The photo had recently appeared in your Facebook feed, this radiating beach galaxy comprised of perfectly-formed sand spheres.  Clearly a painstaking work of art.

But no—and, AMAZING!—these are just incidental balls of nutrient-drained refuse rolled aside during low tide by itty bitty Indo-Pacific crabs, a mere centimeter wide. 

Right now, you realize, on some Singaporean shore clear on the other side of the globe, the foaming tide is beginning to roll in, and the night’s collection of Sand-bubbler masterpieces is set to wash out to sea. 

But, you wonder, what if one of those little crabs is a dreamer?  And suddenly, you’re back within the four walls, back on the couch with your blankie.

There’s a kind of paralysis that can hamper the pursuit of a dream. There are many names for it: Laziness, Lack of Discipline, Poor Time Management, Facebook; and also, Fear of Failure, Fear of Success, Acute Sense of Vulnerability, Major Identity Crisis. (Some symptoms: Staring Off, Writer's Block, a love/hate relationship with Distractions.) Add to the list: Fear of Everything Washing Away Unseen at High Tide, a.k.a. Fear of None of It Mattering.

You look back at the television.  Anthony Bourdain, sufficiently hammered (a job perk) and likely sensing his own high tide coming in, indulges in a late-night burger before returning to his hotel, "only to live on to fight another day."

And what of the sand-bubblers?  Hmm.

You take another sip of tea, which is mere plasticware after the ibuprofen, and then pull the blanket up to your chin.  You think of how the sun has shone glorious in the family room, even when you were at your desk, too busy battling fears, identity crises, and Distractions to notice. You know you'll return to that desk when you're better.  Fight another day. But right now, Anthony Bourdain's jet-lagged in London, and you're going to check it out.

Stunning Sand Bubbler Crab art provided by my children.