It’s taken me a long time in my writing to get to a point where I am actively seeking publication. I’ve almost always wanted to be published, but I honestly never started sending my work in until March of this year and even then I didn’t really get serious about it until this summer.
Though expected, rejections are hard. You begin to doubt your ability or if you’re meant for this very difficult business. I will always write because I love to write, because it soothes me, because I have characters in my head who won’t let me not write. But, whether its good or not is always up for that eternal debate.
When I get in that place, I force myself to remember the best compliment I ever received on my writing. It was in high school in creative writing class. Most of the people took that class for an easy A, but there were a few people like me who were in there because they truly loved to write.
The class was taught by my favorite English teacher who had been my freshman and sophomore teacher. As a senior, I was glad for the opportunity to be in her class again. I respected her opinion very much, and to this day would list her as one of my best and favorite teachers.
We were in our short story unit and we had a prompt, though I have long forgotten what it was. I wrote mine about a young woman who has to take her grandmother to a nursing home. In the story, the young woman is trying to convince the grandmother she doesn’t need to be there, while the grandmother is arguing that there’s no where left for her to be.
I honestly don’t know where the story came from. At seventeen, I still had all four of my grandparents and they were all four in relatively good health. The only people I had ever known in a nursing home were my great-grandparents, and they died when I was very young; I had no relationship with them.
When my teacher was handing the stories back, she came up to me, kneeled at my desk and said. “How do you know that’s how an old woman feels?”
As a shy, awkward, and hopelessly unsure girl, I thought I was in trouble. I thought I had broken the ‘write what you know’ tenant and she meant that I shouldn’t be writing about what I couldn’t possibly understand. I thought the ‘how do you know’ was an accusation.
So, I shrugged and I’m sure my face turned red. “I don’t,” I replied.
She shook her head. “Yes, you do. This is my mother.”
Then she left me my paper and that was that. Even eleven years later, the idea that I touched my teacher in that way still amazes me, still reminds me, my writing is good. (Well, it can be good). And if my writing could connect with someone like that so many years ago, surely there’s something in me now that has that same ability.