The other morning I stuck these in the oven for Art Child’s breakfast. When she woke up and came in the kitchen she asked, “Is today a special day?”
Ooof. I was never the picture of the Happy Housewife, never cooked breakfast daily, but I used to actually make breakfast regularly enough that no one thought anything of it to wake up to eggs or muffins on a weekday. The above wasn’t making breakfast, this was popping open a tube and sticking overly sweet pre-made discs of dough in the oven. I’ve been pleased with how I’ve forced myself to relax over the past several years; not everything has to be from scratch, the world doesn’t end and I’m less stressed if I’m busy or my back is hurting so I buy leaves already trimmed and washed in a bag for salad. (Still make my own dressings, that bottled stuff should be banned.)
For Art Child to look at those biscuits and think we were either celebrating or there was a state test she forgot about…let’s just say it made me take a closer look at myself, in a broader sense than in the kitchen. Have I relaxed and adapted or have my standards dropped?
Both. Yes, it’s good to relax, not put so much pressure on myself. Some of this “relaxing” is due to enforced lessons of hurry-up-and-wait, both in the world of writing and in the world of medical needs parenting. Wait for responses, call-backs, appointments with specialologists scheduled six months out, test results, watch and see how things develop. As a parent in the specialized medical world, generally bad news comes fast and good news comes slow. As a wanna-be writer, it’s the opposite. Again, these are generalizations, there are exceptions both ways. In either world that bad news feels like a sucker punch, even if you’re sure it’s coming. And in both worlds, sometimes the ball gets dropped, and you don’t hear news until months after you could/should have. Either way, you learn that most things are not the emergency they feel like in your own mind.
And yes, my standards have dropped. I think it’s been necessary for my sanity. When I first began writing and sending queries, it was done through snail mail with SASEs. It often took a long time to get a response, but 99% of the time, you got one. I took long breaks, lots of gaps in my efforts to write and submit queries. The next time I was querying, most were done through email, and more agents were straightforward that if they weren’t interested, they wouldn’t respond. Ugh! For a little while. Then I got used to it. I had to. It’s like sending in a job application, right? If they’re interested, they’ll contact you, if not they won’t. Put into that perspective, it makes sense–though it’s still absolutely appreciated to get a response, positive or negative. Lowered standards or preserving sanity, call it what you will. If they requested a full, you were pretty much guaranteed a personalized response.
Now? Even on a request, people are now seeing bare bones form rejections, the same as on a query. This latest go-round I saw agents who don’t respond at all even to requested material. I have a hard time with this one. Requested means you sent a query and opening pages, they (or their intern) liked it enough to send you a note and ask for the full manuscript. I checked with other wanna-bees to try and read the coffee grounds between the non-existent lines, and it isn’t just me. A request for a full doesn’t mean anymore than what it is, so don’t start practicing your acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in literature, you crazy-overactive-imagination-writer, you. And yes, I know I shouldn’t be saying this out loud, let alone posting it on my blog, the internet is forever, some magical publisher or agent in the future could come across this and say hey! I was going to make Mrs Fringe an offer, but now I won’t. Obviously she’s whiny and difficult, a gnat of a wanna-be. How dare she try to hold on to any standards, think she deserves a little courtesy of a response?
I don’t mean to be difficult, though I’m fully aware that I’m whining. In many ways I’ve been lucky, received a fair share of requests, and gotten many lovely responses, personalized and complimentary. No one has ever told me my writing sucks and I should go submerge my head in my tank, stick to writing grocery lists. Thank God, because I am the worst shopping list writer on the Upper West side–three chicken scratches on the back of an old appointment card, and walk out of the store with $200 transformed into three environmentally friendly reusable bags.
I decided it’s time to slow my slipping standards, so I went to the Farmer’s Market the other day.
Saw mushrooms that looked like they belonged in the art fair.
Made a wish on a particularly resilient dandelion
Said a little prayer
And set about making a fresh baked breakfast of rhubarb muffins.
Oops, no sour cream. Ok, not dropping standards, adapting with greek yogurt.
And then I couldn’t find one normal muffin pan. I found my teeny mini muffin pan, too small for those rhubarb pieces, and too annoying with such a thick batter. I found my muffin top pan, too shallow for the rhubarb. I found tart pans, springform pans, pie plates, and cookie sheets. No muffin pans.
Give up those expectations, and adapt.