What’s worse– no, not worse, but harder– than a week with rejections? A silent week, of course.
By this time next Saturday, several things will have happened. Maybe. I will have heard, definitively, from a couple more people in New York. I will have had a chat with a longtime professional partner and just maybe hatched radical plan #1 for the publishing of The Book of Bunk. It’s very possible, if I sense the interest from you all, that I will hatch radical plan #2 right here on this page. That one may lead to the posting of the first sample from the novel, so you can finally see for yourselves whether all this blather is worth the ether it’s floating on.
This week, I waited. I finished my new story Monday, and I can’t start the next one– very different, playful, wait ’til I tell you about it, no ghosts but some magicians and a tow truck and the revenge of Glen on valet parking– until I’m finished grading my students’ end-of-quarter stories. Classes are over, which means all that marvelous, rejuvenating student energy has also gone out of the days. No one has abbreviated my name in some appalling new way (H-Dog, Hirsh-blurg, Proffo) in more than 72 hours, except on Facebook, and I’m not counting that yet. Just hasn’t Kindled the same response in me. There’s no real spring break on the quarter system employed by CSUSB, just a stretch of quiet that nags more than it soothes. The only cure I know for worrying over the fate of the writing I’ve completed is to write more. And since I can’t yet, I’m drifting.
Yesterday, I gave a talk via teleconference to a class at the University of Ottawa about The Snowman’s Children. The students asked excellent questions, and the hour passed glitchlessly, pleasantly. Until the end, when one dark-haired head-back (the camera in Ottawa was aimed toward the professor’s desk at the front of the room, so all I could see of the students was their very stylish, Francophone headbands) asked that most inevitable and familiar and important of student queries: “What advice would you give to a new writer just starting out about getting published now?”
And the answer that fell out of my mouth was, “Run.”
That got a little laugh. Enough of one for me to recover myself. Smile, as if I’d meant to be funny. In a way, I did. I started to say what I always say– do the writing, all the time; never say no for anyone; keep the rejections or don’t, but get your work back in the mail or someone’s e-mail in-box the second it is returned to you; hang around; write some more, every single day– and then I stopped. And I think I smiled. And I said, “It’s going to be hard. And you’re probably going to have to be as creative about that as you are in producing the work.” And then I said, “It’s worth it, anyway. Do the work. Keep writing.”
And the thing is, I still meant it. Do you know the Guy Clark song from which I filched the title for this post?
“There ain’t no money in poetry
That’s what sets the poet free
I’ve had all the freedom I can stand,
You got your cold dog soup and rainbow pie
All it takes to get me by
Fool my belly ’til the day I die
Cold dog soup and rainbow pie…”
If you want to write– if you love it, and it fills your days, and you realize the wonder, the genuine joy, of attempting to make or at least impose a semblance of sense out of waking and breathing and loving and suffering and Facebooking and headbanding and drifting and dreaming– the writing itself will be enough.
It will even get you through weeks like this one.