Rejection Letter

I never check my mail, but the other day, my friend convinced me to take the five extra minutes to descend to the depths of Beebe Hall to see how many graded quizzes had been bestowed upon me.

I wasn’t disappointed in my expectation of returned literature quizzes. However, I didn’t expect the envelope from an unfamiliar address, bearing my address written in my own handwriting.

I was a bit confused for a moment. Perhaps I was sending mail to myself from the future!

But then I realized it was probably the result of a publication submission I had made in Magazine and Feature Writing last semester.

I didn’t get my hopes up, because I didn’t feel good about really anything I wrote for that class. When I ripped open the envelope, I found the first page of my manuscript accompanied by a message from the magazine editors.

My article had been rejected.

“I knew it!” I laughed, almost triumphant.

I smiled at my rejection letter, happy to have at least received a reply. The editor’s letter mentioned they don’t respond to everyone’s submissions, increasing my appreciation for the yellow slip of paper.

Even though my work didn’t make it into the specific magazine I had pitched to, they had acknowledged me, however slightly–which made me feel like a writer. A legitimate writer, who still doesn’t like freelance, but who might try my hand at it again. A writer, who is currently editing the 492-page manuscript of her debut novel.

I was rejected, but maybe I really do have a chance.

[In other news, my only excuse for my absence is: "How does time pass so quickly?" I can't believe the semester is already almost over. So much is happening, with even more to come. Sorry about that. I'll be working to remedy my noncommittal blogging habits.]

Embracing Intimidation

I decided to work on my drawing homework Thursday night–and I kept complaining to my forever-gracious roommate, knowing my petulance wasn’t helpful for anyone. But such restless negativity rose in my throat as I contemplated the simple, beneficial task of flipping through a packet of basic head anatomy and practicing the concepts. My brain froze up whenever I touched pencil to paper. I had so many other things to do aside from this, all of which were overshadowed by the endeavors I would rather have been working on.

I supposed I could perform the bare minimum in response to my time constraints, but I wanted to practice through all of that oddly infuriating packet. Not just for the sake of overachieving, but for the purpose of giving myself as much practice as possible–an expression of determining to work much harder than I feel I’m capable of.

So, I was frustrated, but I worked on it anyway. Not really in the sense of “grin and bear it”–more in the sense of blasting angst music and scowling at my sketchbook as I drew and erased line after line. I must have looked furious–as, in a way, I was furious–but not filled with hatred, surprisingly enough. I felt relief, in the acknowledgement that I am not at all happy with my current ability level, and that my desire to improve makes it difficult to live in the moment.

I’ve been reflecting on this week and its predecessors. The ups and downs. Fleeting moments of excitement and aggravation, comforting assurance and cold mediocrity. It reminds me of gymnastics, actually–something I used to be obsessively passionate about in high school. Perhaps one of the most important lessons the sport taught me was that bad days eventually lead to good ones.

Struggle ends in growth.

I think it’s just been a disconcerting transition. I have been so incredibly inspired the last several months, but as this semester continues, this optimism is slipping away, and I find myself faced with a choice. It’s time to either buckle down, or to give up–to shift to second gear or to back out while I still have time. I have to decide if I’m ready and willing to weather the storm. To persist when doubt creeps in, plans fail, and motivation dies. To refuse to let go when holding on begins to hurt.

And to embrace intimidation.

This week, I have learned intimidation is not necessarily bad when used in the context of the creative arts. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my drawing classes this semester are full of people much more skilled than me, and this sometimes (or often) sets me ill-at-ease. But art class is not a competition, and my peers really are fun individuals to get to know and grow alongside.

Feeling mediocre and inferior in the shadow of greater experience is natural, and those feelings are valid. But they must be taken further. A tumblr post by Noelle Stevenson really encouraged me regarding this concept. True, intimidation can drive an individual to discouragement, but it can also be a powerful motivator to push someone to strive to be better, work harder, learn more.

So, I must encourage those already much better than me, as well as have the courage to believe in my own ability to improve. Despite my chronic impatience, I must make every effort to enjoy the journey–an endeavor which has never come naturally to me.

For this, I am exceedingly glad I don’t have to sort through everything alone.

God keeps me sane. Keeps me hopeful.

A Mind Full of Questions

The last couple weeks have been pretty chill. And intimidating, discouraging, and terrifying.

whatamidoing

But nothing has really even happened.

I’ve been returning from  my figure drawing classes exhausted and pensive, having spent the last three hours keeping waves of inferiority at bay. My classmates have much more experience in not only drawing, but in technique, design, color, an so on–having taken many more classes still unknown to me.

My artistic education has mainly consisted of derping around with a computer art tablet for a year, finding what references or tools I can and practicing when I have the motivation. Granted, I’ve been drawing and writing obsessively through the duration of this time, and my work has seen drastic improvement since then–but I’m still so far behind.

Thursday afternoon, I attended an artist talk as part of an assignment for my drawing classes, in which an artist whose work was being featured at the university gave an informal presentation about his art and methods. As he talked, I wondered yet again what I was getting myself into. 

And then we went to see the gallery of his work. I silently threaded through the crowd, taking in the artwork, devoid of companions to discuss it with, trying to figure out how one properly appreciates art. The pieces in the gallery were fascinating, but I had to force myself to really look at them. I felt so out of place.

I tried to mask my growing surliness until I had made my rounds through the gallery, and then marched straight back to my dorm. I shut the door behind me and paced. Angry. Asking God “Why?” over and over again. Why did I feel this way? Who was I to think I ever had any place in the world of the visual arts? Why was I embarrassing myself like this? Why did I want this? Why was this so important to me?

I’ve always wanted to tell stories, and I still do–very much so. Create characters, engage, inspire, encourage.

But who am I to have such audacity?

The last couple weeks, I’ve been uttering, “What am I doing?” as a stress relief–laughing off my discomfort and insecurity. But that night, it was an honest, furious question. What have I done? What in the world do I think I’m doing?

Where will this path end up? Will my decisions this year burn me in the end?

This is just the next stage, I suppose. Life can’t always be optimistic ambition and inspiring happenstances. Sometimes, we’re sent reeling, asking “Why?” But challenge is part of the package.

Good things are worth fighting for, after all.

Greetings, I’m a Science Major. How do art?

I didn’t expect to feel so strange as soon as I walked through the door: so naive and babyish–like my presence was confusing and unexpected. I guess it would have been, since, until a couple semesters ago, I had spent the majority of my time around the science department.

This semester, I had decided to take the suggestion of a friend and enroll in Figure Drawing, an upper-division drawing class. I had finished the prerequisite, after all.

Monday evening of syllabus week, I hurried to class in the dark, looking forward to actually having an art class with friends. As it turns out, having friends in the room made it even more intimidating when the realization hit me that I had inserted myself into a class of upper-division art majors. Perhaps a little too audacious for comfort.

I wanted to be there. I want to learn to be able to tell stories well through both the written and visual arts. But still–what business did I have being there, griped a sinister voice in the back of my mind. Who was I to get involved in classes for people as talented and skilled as art majors? Was it even my place to have so naively decided to take this path?

Yet here I stand, announcing to the world little by little that I have determined to pursue writing and illustration when I could have played it safe and become a physical therapist. Even as competitive as the physical therapy programs are nowadays, that option was my comfort zone. 

As the professor explained the course and its requirements, the class drew a still life. I had gone through this earlier that afternoon in Drawing II, and I was determined to apply the advice I had received then to make round two better. After an hour or so, we took a break, getting up and roving around the drawing horses to look at each others’ work–an exercise I’m still uncomfortable with. I hoped no one looked at mine for too long. My sketch had improved, and I was mildly happy with it, but also very disappointed. The pieces of the other artists burst with life and expression and style. Mine felt quite a bit simpler and more rigid. A “good try.”

Mediocrity breathed uncomfortably down my neck. I have so much catching up to do…but I guess this also means I have a great deal of room to improve. “If your dreams don’t scare you…” right?

I have no doubts as to whether this was a mistake or not. I ask myself over and over again, “What am I doing?” but more as an effort of stress relief. Not that I’m actually having concrete second thoughts.

I already know I’m most insecure in art and writing classes, as those are the subjects I care most about. They are areas in which I most want the skills to evoke meaning and purpose from my work, and not to be overshadowed by crippling inadequacies.

I think about how much I will learn and improve this semester, and I am determined to plow through any amount of intimidation to get there. In theory, at least. I’ll take the waves as they come, and buckling down to receive them should grow at least a little easier with time.

I may be naive. I may be insane. But this is what I want.

And even in the midst of my insecurity, I feel good about this decision.

 

Onward

I felt somewhat displaced New Year’s Day–like an empty-nester, my friend observed.Jbioroboticist

Normally, 2013 ends quietly with me sitting on the couch with whichever members of my family are awake, watching the ball drop in New York City. Afterward, I step out the front door to see if any of the surrounding neighbors’ fireworks are visible, and then return to whatever I usually do after midnight.

This New Year’s Eve looked about the same, except that it was far different than my previous December 31sts. Earlier that afternoon, on the last day of 2013, I finished the first rough draft of my book (synopsis can be found here). It is the longest work I have ever completed. I have been seriously pursuing this story for about a year and a half, and finally, phase one has been attained.

I’m attempting to leave the draft alone for a week, an endeavor I’ve already failed once. I worry I didn’t accomplish what I had been aiming for, that I didn’t stay true to characters, didn’t make them compelling enough, made certain plot points too convenient, littered the work with painfully unnecessary scenes…and the fretting continues. I want to go back immediately and seek to remedy everything I’ve potentially overlooked or messed up, but I need to wait for it to cool off before picking it back up again.

So, now it’s 2014, and I’m overloading with excitement to see what the next 12 months will entail.

With the pursuit of publishing my debut novel, a three-week trip abroad to Hong Kong, Vietnam, and South Korea in the spring, summer research in Arizona, upcoming search for art schools, and the development of my next book, this year is shaping up to be unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.

And I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Ridiculously overwhelmed.

It will be terrifying and challenging, but most definitely one to remember.

Praise God. The glory is His.

Fiction Blip: Trouble at the ICNS

This is a sort of concept/plot development scene I wrote a while back for a story I’ve been developing recently. I’ll get to officially start on it when I’m finished with the novel I’m currently working on. 

Sesame was ripping off his seat belt and starting to unlock the door before James had even stopped the car.

“Hey!” James barked in surprise, pulling sloppily up to the curb. “Wait a second!”

Sesame waited for him to stop at least, then launched from the passenger seat, thrusting the door shut behind him and running to the entrance to the ICNS.

“James! Hurry up!” he whined nervously, bouncing unhappily on the balls of his feet.

James fumbled with his own seatbelt, and practically tripped out the car, shoving his keys in his pocket. He trotted up to the double doors, but Sesame had given up. He took off around the side of the building, the edges of his unzipped purple sweatshirt flapping behind him.

“Sesame, hold on!”

“Our friends are in trouble and you’re being slow!” Sesame called, spinning slightly and waving an impatient robotic arm in the air.

“You’re not going to find a way to get in,” James said, jogging to catch up with him. “Unless they blew a—” his statement died in his throat as he noticed the gaping hole in the side of the building. No debris littered the area. It was as if something had simply erased a section of the wall.

“What is that??” James quickened his pace as Sesame stepped through the hole several feet ahead. The facility was disconcertingly silent when James climbed through the opening and found the door across the room equally erased.

He and Sesame hurried down the empty hallway, making straight for the recruit’s living quarters. They were mostly empty, except for the room at the end of the hall, of which the door was propped wide open and Patrick’s desperate voice issued from inside.

“Hang in there, buddy” he pled, his voice tight with pain. “You’re going to make it, ok? Hang in there.”

“Get back, Patrick,” Varnet ordered. “Go lie down and stop moving around so much.”

+

As Reality Sets in…

Of all the classes I took fall semester, I classify Magazine and Feature Writing as the hardest of them.

The class itself was very enjoyable and laid back, with reasonably spaced assignments. The pain in it was the frequent requirement of submitting my work to publications–As if I was entirely confident in my ability to write professionally, as if I could take rejection without a heavy heart and pick myself back up from the depths of my embarrassment, as if I had the audacity to extend my work forward into the mix of submissions from much more skillful writers.

Freelance is stinkin’ terrifying, and I didn’t realize this until I took that class. In the beginning, I was shocked into wanting to hide in a corner with my scribblings and never give them out to be read over, thought about, ignored, rejected. Now I feel a little better about it.

I have wanted to write professionally since I was eight years old. I made a goal to publish my stories, because I don’t want to keep my inspiration to myself. So I will take the risk. I will pursue this goal even as reality leans in.

I wrote on my novel this afternoon, and after finishing this blog post, I intend to keep working on it. I am nearing the end of it, and then I will be launched onto the next step–unprovoked submission to a writing market, probably to be rejected several times before I find a place.

As I am nearing this phase, I am again faced with that deep, troubling question: Why does my voice matter?

Why should anyone care about what I have to say? Do I have what it takes to make my voice heard?

At this point, I hold firmly to the belief that everyone’s voice matters, and that, by definition, so does mine. I can expect rejection and frustration in this journey, but I know God has me.

A passion so longstanding is worth fighting for, after all, and I intend to see it through.