The old me probably would have cried. I would have let the feelings of rejection overtake me. I would felt my heart harden – that feeling of something dark and solid and heavy growing in my chest. I would have viewed it as a referendum on my entire life: on the quality of my work, the level of my commitment, the degree to which I am even likeable. The inner dialogue may have gone something like this: “This agent doesn’t want to represent my second novel. He hates me. He hates my writing. I’m a hack. I was such an idiot to think I had a chance at this. I’m dull, unoriginal, unqualified, a bad writer. I have no idea what I’m doing. He’s probably laughing at my feeble attempts. My boyfriend probably thinks I’m a joke as well. And so do my friends. I’ll probably get fired from my job. Why do I bother trying? I’m not good at anything. And I’m fat.”
The tailspin into which an email like this – an email from the agent who represented my first novel, this time saying that he didn’t believe he could successfully represent my second novel — would have put me is quite real. I can totally imagine going off the deep end. Feeling it in my chest, in my heart and in my stomach. Like a punch.
But when I got this email last week it felt like a wave. I felt slight disappointment – a hotness in my face. A contradictory shiver. Something caught in my throat. I let them wash over me. I needed to experience them. It’s not my job to push them aside, quiet them, or deny them. I told my sister about the email later that night. I told S. My voice didn’t even quiver.
I really believe if I hadn’t committed to finding the love in all areas of my life, I would have been in that tailspin. If I was in the place of hating on my job, if I was unhappy at home, if I was doing the writing out of obligation, if I wasn’t listening to my gut and pursuing other passions in addition to my passion for writing, I really think I would have been up a creek. I would have been checking the phone line to make sure it was still working. I would have been testing my email connection, on the off-chance that some technological glitch was keeping his response to my manuscript from getting to me. I would have been breathless; I would have had stomach-aches; I would have been raw from overexposure.
When I got the email, in addition to the slight disappointment, I also, admittedly, felt the slightest relief. I had been waiting to hear from him. I had been awaiting feedback since May. And although I told myself over and over, I let it go…I couldn’t really let it go. I was still waiting. And I wasn’t really believing. It was easy to name the goal, because I’d done the work. But I never really saw it. I even went to visit a bookstore that I thought would be a great place for a book party, and even then, standing on the landing where I imagined I might read as my family and friend congregated below, I still never saw it. I didn’t feel it. I can’t help believe that these outer circumstances are a result of my inner state. I wasn’t feeling it, I wasn’t in love with this idea of being an author with a publishing deal in this context, the belief wasn’t there. So the belief wasn’t exhibited in by those in my outer circumstance, either. And that is something I need to sit with. (There definitely are people who believe in me. But it’s more of a blanket belief. And for that I am grateful.)
The reassuring thing about belief is that I can see and feel other things I want in my life much more than I could ever see or feel a book deal or a party. And I know that my words will get out there one way or another. And those words will serve the greater good.