When you love your job it’s like peeling an onion. There are always more layers to discover and explore. When you hate your job it’s also like peeling an onion – but all you discover are more tears.
When I was 28, I thought that making my living exclusively by writing was the goal of my life. Or if not “exclusively,” primarily. Dimly, and without ever lingering in thought too long about the specifics, I imagined teaching, being a teacher almost exactly like my least-engaged college professors, the ones who showed up to workshop with a large coffee and some xeroxed Raymond Carver stories and then sat there for two hours while their students talked, sipping the coffee and sometimes nodding. The rest of my time would be spent alone in a library or a home office, some room with a computer, a desk, a chair. I would write novels and then, later in the day, make dinner. Maybe sometimes if I felt like it I’d accept an assignment from the kind of magazine no one really reads but that basically exists to pad the bank accounts of already-rich writers, travel and specialized beauty magazines, you know, ”[So and So’s] Wacky Adventures In Bangkok,” ”What [Whoever] Really Thinks Of Several Slightly Different Spa Treatments.” I’d slide on up into that echelon effortlessly. My inherent greatness would be recognized and one day I’d wake up and just find myself there. I mean I’d also have published novels, in this fantasy. The parts of this fantasy that pertained to my personal life were just as inchoate and illogical. I thought and maybe (cringe) even said out loud, “I’ll have my first baby after I finish my first novel.” As though those were two goals you could easily work towards simultaneously. As though they were not two distinct and unrelated life paths.
I wrote on my blog
about how I’m not a complete idiot about my career as much anymore. (via emilygould
Going through a drawer I found the submissions/applications log I’ve kept off and on over the years. Just in case you think it’s all been roses I’d like to report that Yaddo rejected me (as recently as 2011). McDowell rejected me. Hedgebrook rejected me twice. The Georgia Review rejected me and Ploughshares rejected me and Tin House rejected me, as did about twenty other journals and magazines. Both The Sun and The Missouri Review rejected me before I appeared in their pages. Literary Arts declined to give me a fellowship three times before I won one. I’ve applied for an NEA five times and it’s always been a no. Harper’s magazine never even bothered to reply. I say it all the time but I’ll say it again: keep on writing. Never give up. Rejection is part of a writer’s life. Then, now, always.