I grew up in Brooklyn, not far from the water. I had a little terrace off my bedroom, where I spent as much time as possible. Some things don’t change, heh. I could and did stand out there and watch the fog roll inland. Once it reached my area, you couldn’t see through it, but oh you could feel it, a curiously damp blanket you breathed in along with the smell of low tide and the sewage treatment plant, 7 blocks away. For a while, as a young adult, I lived in Washington, where fog was redefined for me. Never in any other state have I seen fog as thick as they get in the Pacific Northwest. When I drove home from work at midnight, the highway would be at a slow crawl because you literally couldn’t see the tail lights of the car ahead of you if you were more than a foot away.
Is it too melodramatic to draw a life analogy here? Probably, but I’m doing it anyway. There are certainly twists in the road that no one sees coming. Illness, accidents, job loss, house fires, even winning the lottery. Then there are the expected markers, the things you work to achieve–jobs, promotions, education, children, children growing up, literary contracts. Oops, that last one doesn’t fit, does it? Not this time, anyway.
I was careful. Careful to always acknowledge the many factors outside of my control, the certain percentage of luck and timing in this type of endeavor. But I believed. Enough blind faith to face the dreaded blank page and fill it, over and over again. To submit, accept rejection is part of the process, and keep submitting. To dissect personalized rejections and believe they meant more than a bland “no thanks” form letter. In writing (fiction or otherwise), there’s a lot of talk of “voice”–the importance of. I do have a clear and definite voice, as do my characters, and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on it. Some love it, some hate it. I always considered it a “win” either way. In Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino wrote. “It is not the voice that commands the story, it is the ear.” I believe that’s true; as I’ve said many times, writing is about communication, the two way street between reader and writer. For me it isn’t about telling a story just to tell it. What’s written has to resonate, to where the reader feels they’ve not only learned the character’s story, but felt their own. The onus is on the writer, so maybe my it’s my ear that’s off.
For months now, I’ve been trying to work towards acceptance. Acknowledgement and acceptance that it isn’t going to happen. Can I just say this is fucking hard? No, I don’t have to. But there’s a point where it feels unhealthy to stay on the same road, at the same speed, and expect the visibility to improve just because I want it to. I don’t want it to be 40° outside at the end of April, either, but here I am wearing a turtleneck and winter coat, because otherwise I’d be freezing.
I’m hoping to come out of this fog and reach acceptance. Then what? I’m told I could have had quite the career as a stand-up philosopher–yanno, a bullshit artist (thank you, Mel Brooks). I wonder where I should send those queries.