I used to be a writer. I used to think it mattered what images I saw in my head. I used to spend considerable time finding just the right words to capture those images on paper. I used to stare off into space, seeing the faces of my characters in what felt like a movie strip. I could see how they walked, and laughed. I could see the color and texture of their hair and the lines in their faces.
I used to care what these characters thought, how they felt and acted, and what motivated them to do what they do. I used to sit for hours joyfully creating whole worlds that my characters and I would inhabit. I loved babbling away on paper. It made me very very happy to write.
So what happened ? How is it that I can hardly bring myself to the keyboard anymore. Where has my inspiration gone? Why have the cinema strips gone dark?
My husband says I let rejection slips sap my creative spirit. He may be right. Today I received another rejection on my second novel. The agent I had sent it to spoke of the pleasure that she had reading my opening chapters. But as she wasn’t "passionate about the voice or the plot, " she was going to pass. I think I have received the exact letter from a dozen other agents, just in the last couple of months.
If you are not careful or you don’t have a Teflon personality, those rejections can poison your spirit.
Try as I might, I’ve let the rejection letters seep like toxic water, deep into my heart. They have helped to ruin my love of writing. They have convinced me that writing fiction is a total waste of time, because I’m never going to have anyone to publish or read it. If I want it published, I have to do it myself. I have to spend the money to publish it and then find the energy to carry the books to bookstores and signings. I have to scramble to get reviewers who will take my writing seriously. I have to stand up to the constant feeling that I am not a “real” writer because my fiction has not been recognized by the major literary marketplace.
No matter that my first novel (a mother/daughter story called Dreaming Maples) was very well received. No matter that the novel was nominated for a Pushcart prize. That doesn’t matter.
I could be sitting here now with tears brimming. I could be crying over the fact that what I used to love doing, what used to feed my soul, all that creative energy, has fizzled away.
But last week I met this dynamic woman -– Suzi Banks Baum -- who writes 1,000 word a day. She happily publishes on her blog. She doesn’t talk about rejections. She is too busy writing and bringing together a bunch of other women who write about motherhood and art and the creative force. In the words of one of these women, Suzi has “pulled us all into her powerful orbit" where she holds the women in a circle of creativity. Recently Suzi served as editor for a collection of women's writing in a book called An Anthology of Babes. The book features the writings and visual art of 36 women who combine mothering with their art. This is a book you should buy and read from cover to cover. It’s electrifying to feel the energy and passion these writers and artists have.
This book, and Suzi, and the collection of writers she has assembled, have had a profound effect on me. For the first time in months, I am excited to start writing again. Once again, I am getting inspired to see my filmstrip rolling.
So if you need a jumpstart on your writing, buy this book. And if you like to read inspiring essays, buy this book. It's well worth supporting this dynamic group of women artists.
There's one other reason to buy the book: part of the proceeds from book sales help to support two organizations that provide vital services to women in Berkshire County.