The following is Part II of “My Love/Hate Romance with Writing.” You can read Part I HERE.
On the very last day of the Roanoke Times columnist submission deadline, I sent in the requested three samples of writing. I was still ambivalent, but rather than not submit at all, I decided to lower expectations by sending one essay that I felt was my best work and two other average pieces. I thought if the paper liked my informal everyday voice the pressure on me would be lessened, but I also realized that applying half-heartedly smacked of self-sabotage.
It took me three weeks to decide to submit, and then three more before I heard back from the editor. During that time, I tried to sort out which part of my resistance was an upper-limits reaction and which part was realistic self-acceptance. After much pondering and counsel with friends, I concluded that it was a combination of both.
Although my husband and a few close friends knew that my comfort zone was being rattled, mostly I kept it to myself as I went about my normal business. During that time the only hint about what was going on that I let slip out on my blog was more of a self-affirmation than a weblog entry and went like this: It takes me twice as long to write for business than it does to write for fun, which is why I try to make fun my business and my business fun.
In early February I received a congratulatory note saying that I had made it through the first round of the selection process. I was flattered, but my hands began to shake. My worst fear was that I might be asked to do a column and would find that I had nothing to say. So, in the next couple of weeks I began drafting what I jokingly called my “acceptance speech.”
Most days, I felt sure that I didn’t want the position. I complained to my husband that the stress it would create would “ruin my life.” Even so, I strived to be comfortable with the idea of rising to the occasion if I was picked. I knew I was capable of doing such a column if I could just adjust my thinking about it. I wondered about the modest pay it promised, referred to by the editor as “diddley.” If it was more substantial, would I be more motivated? But money was not the issue. I was doing part-time respite care for the agency I used to work full time for, and selling freelanced writing here and there. Knowing that my writer’s muse was as fickle as a cat already well fed was my biggest concern. To be paid any amount of money for something I hadn’t yet written made me want to bite my fingernails.
After a total of two months of my “she loves me, she loves me not” flirtation with the Roanoke Times, it came to an end when I faint-heartedly scanned my email for the editor’s name and found this from him: “I would like to thank you for your submission and your interest. Unfortunately, you did not make the final cut.”
I called my close friend and fellow writer, Alwyn, because she was the one who asked each time we spoke, “Have you heard yet?”
“But you really did know what you wanted,” she said when I told her. “The next time a similar opportunity presents itself, you’ll be more ready because of this,” she went on to wisely suggest.
Ironically, as a blogger, I was already writing and posting column-sized entries several times a week. Being one who hates to waste the fruits of my own labor, several days after learning that I was not one of the new Roanoke Times columnists, I posted a version of the above mentioned “acceptance speech” on my blog. It was an essay about a belated New Year’s Resolution, an overview of my recent writer’s lifestyle, meant to be a possible column introduction. At least four of my regular readers commented that while reading it they worried that I was announcing my retirement from blogging. The opposite was true. If I had gotten the columnist position, my blogging time would have been severely cut back.
After reading the emailed rejection slip from the editor, I did feel some disappointment, but mostly I felt like I had received a “get out of school early” card. Although the paradoxical theme in my life of wanting to be heard and left alone at the same time would not be resolved anytime soon, I breathed easier knowing that nothing new or difficult would be asked of me. I wanted to retreat to my bedroom with a cup of tea and a People magazine to either withdraw or celebrate. I imagined that some of the shyest actors nominated for Academy Awards might be relieved not to win and not have to face the podium where they would be expected to deliver a witty speech as millions looked on.
The good news in all of this was that I made it as far as I did, and ultimately, I didn’t get a flat out rejection from the paper. Like all the first round finalists (45 people out of 145 who submitted) I was told to keep my eyes posted for future emails because I might be called on to contribute something at a later date.
I did head for the bedroom, but not with a People magazine. I went with my notebook to write. I knew from experience that when the ups and downs of my life settle back into place there’s usually a good story left to tell, something the writer in me has never been able to resist.
Originally posted on Loose Leaf Notes on March 19, 2007.