What a week this was–Christmas and its aftermath. Traditionally, one of my favorite weeks of the year. I typically take time off from work and let my eyes go all woozy and unfocused at the Christmas tree. I might crack a new book or two in between a few long, muddy hikes and spend at least one full day padding around in my pajamas. This year, however, the last week of the year was punctuated with extended-family drama, a smattering of snark and a dusting of disappointment. Family dynamics can be complicated. Some years are like that.
Which brings us to today, New Years Eve. Only second to the Fourth of July as my most despised holiday. As a rule, I don’t go out on New Years Eve and I’m not much of a resolution girl. Once I kicked resolutions to the curb, I spent years talking about New Years “intentions” in my best soothing yoga voice. It wasn’t much later that I realized intentions were just resolutions dressed up in yoga pants. Now, I keep it simple. I think of a few words to shape the year ahead. Here are my three words for 2018.
WORD ONE: SUBMISSION noun \ səb-ˈmi-shən \
This blog was born nearly eight years ago. Eight years! That’s a long time. Over those years, I’ve had a couple different hairstyles, both of my kids graduated from high school, one kid graduated from college, the other has entered college and here I’ve sat, writing more off than on, a little here and there but rarely regularly. Until this past summer, that is. It was late July when I challenged myself to develop a real, honest-to-goodness writing practice. For accountability, I splashed it all over social media each week. You know what? It worked. I have posted a new Three Things blog for 24 weeks now–that’s nearly six months. I’ve generated tons of content, wrote a lot of shitty first drafts as well as a few things that have the potential to be shaped and shifted, edited and expanded into something better.
Something worthy of submission.
It’s been five years since I submitted any of my writing for publication. For most of this year, the mere thought of submitting anything anywhere would set my insides to churning. The phrase “my next step is to start submitting work again” would get stuck in my throat like a pokey little chicken bone. I like to think that my writing has improved over the past six months. It’s not rocket science–you just show up and write, each day, week after week, badly at first and then, maybe a little better. Just as my biceps begin to bulge with consistent training, my writing guns are finally beginning to show.
It’s scary as hell. But I’m doing it anyway.
WORD TWO: REJECTION noun \ ri-ˈjek-shən \
Rejection is as necessary of a step in the life of a writer as is the actual writing. That’s not hyperbole, just a real life fact. A writer with whom I’ve taken a workshop recently shared that she received 38 rejection letters for a book that was eventually published, received acclaim and has now been optioned for a movie. Thirty-eight. And that’s probably below the average. A year ago, I wasn’t ready.
I’m ready now.
Rejection sucks. We can all agree on that, yes? I’ve wasted many years of my life worrying about whether or not people like me. I have shrunk and silenced and molded myself to suit others at my own expense. I worried more about ruffling feathers than unfurling the brilliant expanse of my own. I bet you have, too. It’s part of the human experience–we all just want to be liked, to fit in–at least somewhere. A quick glance at social media will confirm that.
Not that I’m a total rebel–I still want to be liked. The difference today is I’m unwilling to make myself smaller or better behaved to get there. The difference is that I accept the necessity of rejection on my path to a life well-lived. Getting older is not all moans and groans–this clarity of conviction comes with having trodden many years on this earth. The best writers–all artists, actually–have always been a bit disruptive and provocative.
You know those “vision boards” that became popular awhile back in the new age, Oprah-influenced, woo-woo circles? I love a good collage as much as the next person, but I never felt the urge to sit around with scissors and glue, cutting and pasting magazine pictures onto poster board of stuff I wanted to “attract” into my life. Instead, I’m planning on hanging a “rejection board” on the wall of my office, where I do most of my writing. I’ll make it aesthetically pleasing–maybe one of those soft, fabric-covered boards with criss-cross ribbons meant for tucking lovely notes and photos in. On mine, I’ll post each and every rejection letter I receive. If the board fills up, I’ll know I’m doing my work. To submit means to be rejected and to be rejected means I’m on my way.
The thought of exposing myself to this necessary rejection still makes my innards rumble and roil. But I’ll do it anyway.
WORD THREE: ACCEPTANCE noun \ ik-ˈsep-tən(t)s\
This is a big one.
Sure, I’d like to think that somewhere amidst all the submitting and rejecting of my work, there might be a tiny speck of acceptance tossed in there. If it comes, I’ll tape that letter of acceptance smack-dab in the center of my sweet rejection board. I mean, how great would that be? (Really great.) But when I think of acceptance this year, I think of it mostly in terms of accepting what I can and cannot control.
Acceptance that I cannot control other people’s reactions. I cannot control whether or not they like or understand me. I cannot control their acceptance of my writing, no matter how much of my naked self I’ve exposed to the harsh, unforgiving light of the world.
I accept that I can control what steps I take to prepare for the life I want. And most of all, I control my reactions to everything that happens to me–all the yummy, sweet, love-soaked stuff as well as the hideous, bitter, angry rejection stuff.
Through it all, I’ll remind myself (and you, every now and then) that every last bit of it is an important part of life–this messy, achey, swoony, hard-as-nails, breathtaking life.
It’s so hard. But I’ll do it anyway.
Happy New Year, lovely people. Celebrate safely. I need all of you around to write about.
Now, tell me your three words.