Thursday, December 1, 2011

On The Topic Of Rejection & Embracing the "Structural Mess"

Have you ever been rejected so many times you sort of want to keep trying just to annoy that person? Like you kind of want to get them to like you just so you can then reject them? That is how I feel about a certain writing program right now. I'm not going to name names, but two years ago I submitted a writing sample to "said" MFA program. I talked with current students and teachers and tried to "schmooze" at an open house only to find myself "regretfully informed" a month later. Granted, I can see now that my writing sample was not my best and the program takes a whopping SIX students. I have nursed my ego back from that one (and several others) but when a one-day master class at a well-known writing center taught by a writer/professor of "said" program popped up, I tried again. This time, I felt much more confident. My sample was stronger, more my voice, and my story was so much more dramatic. So much more life has happened in the last year and a half. Surely, this would get me into this class! And then I saw it, my future taking shape. I would get into this class (I have gotten into every advanced writing class I have applied for at this writing center). Then I would bond with this professor. I would submit a new application to that MFA program. I would be accepted with flying colors, start in September and in two affordable, short, years I would have an MFA degree and a completed book...and then I got this letter:

Dear Master Class Applicant:

We regret to inform you that you have not been admitted into....

Now, if I would have received this news yesterday, I may have curled up into the fetal position while intermittently shaking my fists at the sky. But, someone already beat them to it. 

After a particularly rough day aided by a cold and a wicked case of PMS, I had one of those therapy sessions where it feels like they have moved mountains. Even if you have not experienced this in a doctor's office, you know what I'm talking about. You know those moments where you connect the dots? So that's what you mean by how repressed feelings will come out in uncalled for and angry actions! So, I got in touch with some deep shit, shit I didn't even know about and then I was back out in the world, oh and just for effect, let me add that it was pissing rain. I then went to my writing workshop class where we were set to discuss a piece I submitted last week. Since I was not feeling well, we discussed my piece first, in case I needed to leave early. So just a quick recap: cold-PMS-deep therapy session-pissing rain-first up for critique. After years of writing classes and groups and workshops I have perfected the art of receiving feedback. I never defend. I stay silent, take notes, thank them for reading, let my work stand on its own...but yesterday I was in no fucking mood. 

The comments were the following:
"Lots of strong, vivid writing but structurally a mess."
"I really loved this but found it confusing."
"Structurally, I was lost."
And my favorite...
"There's just so much."
"There's so much, I thought this was a beginning to a second book."
"There's just so many overwhelming events."

To which I wanted to scream, "I KNOW! It was so much."
I wanted to scream, "It's a structural mess, because I AM A STRUCTURAL MESS!"

But, I did not cry. (No, that I saved for later.) But I heard them all and the worst part was, I knew they were right. I admitted that I didn't know why I jumped around in time when I wrote. I didn't know why I found it so difficult to tell a story from beginning to end, linearly. And then as I said it, more realizations from that therapy session kicked in. Maybe I jump around in time in my writing as a way to avoid feeling the emotions. Maybe by jumping back and forth in time, I avoid connecting with those feelings.

Light bulb.
On the subway ride home, as I was staring at the flashing light for Jay St. Metrotech, it suddenly came to me, a thought clear as day. Maybe if I get out of my own way, I will finally see what plan the Universe has in store for me. Cue the tears. (Don't worry, Dad. It was a good kind of crying.) I realized that I spend so much time trying to "make" something happen. I work myself into total exhaustion, until I am run down, sick, wet because I didn't pay attention to the weather forecast because I was too busy when I left my house for work.I keep trying to make this writing career, and make this "better life" in New York, and make myself be more open, make myself more happy, make myself more fit, more thin, more carefree. And I finally had that moment where I realized I keep trying to steer a car that I'm not really driving, like those disheartening cars in drivers ed class; the cars that make you feel like you really know what you're doing until you suddenly feel the car brake and look over and see your instructor with their hand on the "oh shit" handle, their foot pressed down on their set of brakes, and them shaking their head. That drivers ed instructor is the universe. I am just the kid without a license thinking I know how to merge onto a freeway when all I've ever done is driven around the neighborhood. 
I came home, wet, rejected, sick, but lighter. Of course, then Mike threw his arms around me and I did the whole curl into a fetal position thing, but I let myself do it, and it felt good. Today, my cold is almost gone, my energy is back a little, and I came to work and just organized, cleaned, filed. I shredded papers. I went for a walk. I treated myself to fancy coffee. I received an email denying me to a writing class. I ate a piece of chocolate. And then, I started writing...

5 comments:

Sarah O'Holla said...

Dude, best blog post ever. Your "light bulb" moment is so true! I actually finally wrote the climax of my WIP this morning and literally had my eyes closed while writing. (Scrunched up like I was in pain). It's not easy to write emotional scenes even if they are fiction, because there's always some element of non fiction connected to them. So glad you wrote about this experience!

Mike said...

I think you (we) are driving the car. But maybe we can only really control lane changes(the little things). We don't really control the speed, the on ramps, off ramps, or the destination. Mostly we are along for the ride. But if we keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open we can figure out where we are headed and help steer.

Jenn and Casey said...

I love this. I'm so glad you are writing. KEEP WRITING! :)

Lindsey said...

Such great comments! Thanks for reading. Been difficult to get my butt in that chair and stay there when the tough scenes comes. Thanks for the encouragement and thought. Mike, thank you!

Carmen said...

i loved the students driver image. all of my anxiety dreams have to do with crashing a car or somehow losing control of it...