Practice Grace AND Confidence

7 Dec

Writers! It only now occurs to me that practicing grace is an act of self-confidence. As writers who spend so much time alone with our words, we need a lot of both.

Fellow Maine writer Karen Maffeo Creamer blogs today about how to be graceful in response to one of the many small (and large) cuts we writers suffer.* Her story reminded me of a cut I once received—a very slight one, yet it felt like a shiv to the kidney.

0815161140b

If I had the confidence my Willa finds between her toes, I’d be set for life.

Newly minted MFAers are told to expect a good two years before publication. I was ecstatic when nine months after graduation, a highly respected literary magazine accepted my story (but I would pay the rest of my time-dues and then some, before fate smiled again). I shrieked and threw my hands up when I saw the e-mail, then ran outside to my husband’s waiting car—by coincidence, he was on his way to pick me up for something when I got the acceptance—shouting as I bounded down the outside stairs of our apartment building, at first alarming the poor husband. That high lasted for weeks, and that publication was an extremely important piece of early validation. Which made the knife months later hurt that much more.

“Your piece came so close,” the gentle rejection read. “Unfortunately, it’s just not quite right for us.” They wished me luck with the story and invited me to submit again. And by “they” I mean the very same magazine, and by “the story” I mean the very same story that had in fact been published already and was living in its colorful, shiny, pristine package on one of my book shelves. Yep. The same story was both accepted and rejected, both published and gently pushed away, by editors at the same publication.

0823161909

She doesn’t exactly embody grace, but I can’t post a pic of Willa and NOT one of my Tillie.

A more confident me would have laughed, felt embarrassed for the magazine’s overworked staff, and notified them of the mistake in hopes they would discover what went wrong with their review process before doing something like this to another author. The me of the time signed into the magazine’s submissions log to stare at the title of my published story with a big fat “Declined” next to it.

I would like to say that this bothered me only for a couple of days. I would like to say I never signed into that database again to stare at “Declined.” I would like to be an accomplished pianist, a retired prima ballerina, and a singer known best for my a capella performances.

Fortunately, I am lately bored by my own reflections on why I take things on the chin when I don’t have to, why I can’t laugh at the Universe’s jokes—the same story, the same magazine, “just not quite right” while it sits on my shelf—so rather than spraying more words about this incident, I will instead appreciate Karen’s reminder that Grace is the writer’s friend, and Confidence is properly measured by the good work we do, not by the one person who said No to it… OR the one who said Yes.
.
.
.
*Karen’s doing an author talk and book signing in York on Tuesday, December 13, so please drop by if you’re in the area, details here.

2 Responses to “Practice Grace AND Confidence”

  1. Karen December 7, 2016 at 3:52 PM #

    Claire-my heart broke for you as I read this. ‘Close, but no cigar’ is ringing in my ears…what the heck did that expression come from, anyway? Here’s a (better!) phrase that helps me at times like these: Some people will say yes, and others will say no. So what. (paraphrasing Jack Canfield). 🙂

    • Claire Guyton December 7, 2016 at 4:10 PM #

      Exactly! So what?! You just keep going, and you remember that the yes and no don’t have anything to do with the worth of who you are or what you’re doing. I can’t say I fully live that truth yet, but I’m much closer than I was just a few years ago. Onward!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: