There’s smoke in the sky. Wildfires on all sides, it seems. The air is filling with ash, tinting the sun sets a beautiful weird orange.
In preparation for the Christmas calendar that I make every year for the family, I sorted through digital photos, effectively reliving a year’s worth of memories: my kids playing in the snow, a beach birthday for my dad at Jetty Island, my kids reading books with their grandparents, my son’s first go-cart ride, my daughter dressed up as a princess/warrior/knight, my son playing the piano.
The photos remind me of the myriad ways my family has grown and lived, despite the bizarre way that this COVID lockdown creates an artificial sensation that everything is floating in stasis, without progress. The truth is, we are still moving forward.
In writing, I had a short story accepted by Analog (release date as yet unknown), I was interviewed by Popstar! Magazine in their September Issue (pg 23), and I sent my first three chapters of Grayhawk Rising to an editor. (Please, please, let her like them!)
I’m polishing up a new fantasy short story to join my submission queue and trying to straighten my desk (and my life) before jumping into planning my next novel. Life moves forward.
The kids and I started school this week. We began slowly with math and language arts and piano practice. This allowed my son to warm up, rather than feel stressed and overwhelmed by firing on all cylinders for our first day.
We spent 40 minutes on Wednesday remembering the difference between sharps and flats on the keyboard and getting a very clear idea precisely which note was “A.” George shed many tears as he worked on this particular online music theory game. I knew if he gave up on it, as he had already done with it several times before, he wouldn’t build the skills that we had drilled together.
I wanted to help him. It took some serious effort, deep breathing, breaks to calm down, but that kid finally beat the timer and finished the level. I’m extremely proud of him.
It’s funny, because when he was weeping with frustration, a part of me cringed and thought about the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and wondered if maybe I was pushing my little guy too hard. After all, he’s only seven. I tried to be as gentle and encouraging and attentive as I could while still being firm with him and not allowing him to give up. I knew how amazing he would feel if you persevered and succeeded. And he did. He beamed.
He earned that victory with sweat and determination. It hadn’t come easily, and that made it precious.
“Persevere” is one of the best bits of creative writing advice I’ve been given. Writing and publishing take a lot of time. Often, when we think our story is ready to wow the world, it actually isn’t. When it gets critiqued into pieces or rejected by an editor or an agent, that could mean it’s not yet up to snuff, or it could mean it didn’t suit that particular person’s taste.
We absolutely can’t give up if we want to get serious about this stuff. That means sending stories out in a continuous cycle, writing new pieces, polishing that new material into a shiny state, but refraining from crossing the line into obsessive-compulsive nitpicking. (Elise, I’m looking at you!)
I recently had a short story rejected with a warm encouraging personal note from an editor of a big magazine. This story was conceived in a rather hasty manner, drafted in 24 hours and submitted originally for the Writers of the Future workshop. I felt extremely shaky about the story. But at the time of its first creation, I had to show it anyway because I didn’t have any more time. Dave Wolverton (a.k.a. David Farland) had a lot of good things to say about the story, even in its rough state, which told me: I can write. I can feel the shape of the story now. It’s visible even in my messy drafts.
I polished that story, sent it out, and later got this warm rejection from a respectable publication. Yes, as weird as it sounds, we call some rejections “good” (You can call us writers desperate if you want to).
And after I got that rejection, what did I do? I sent it off to somewhere else the very same day. I’ve found that the sending-a-story-somewhere-else response is one of the best cures for Rejection Blues. BTW, if you are constantly sending stuff out, you are constantly being rejected. And very occasionally accepted.
It’s tough, but perseverance helps you grit your teeth and stick to it. And if you need a pep talk, message me and I’ll do some life coaching with you! 🙂
Oh, and more news from my family – my husband was laid off last week. It came as a total surprise, and he’s been assured it was not a reflection of his performance. His company has experienced major slowdowns due to COVID-19 and this was their second round of layoffs. He’s in the process of sending out his resume and connecting with colleagues for referrals and recommendations and although we don’t have another job “lined up” per se, I feel encouraged that there really are engineering firms hiring at this time.
And you know something funny? The morning of the day that James was let go, I woke up with the sense that I needed to trust God to provide for us. And although I still burst into tears when James later told me the news of his unemployment, I have since felt a steady peace that is the direct opposite of my normal reaction to news like this.
We’re undergoing some major shifts in seasons in our kingdom of Stephensgard at the moment.
What changes are sweeping through your domain?