It’s the worst emotion for someone like me. It’s intricately bound up with expectations and desires, and I don’t handle disappointment well. Can I tell you something? I finished a novel two years ago. I’ve talked with a potential publisher twice. The editor at the publishing house is really interested, and yet every time I’ve gotten ready to send, I’ve stopped.
I thought for awhile that I had submission terrors. That I suffered from an internal certainty that once the piece was out there it would turn out to be shit when someone else judged it. But then I realized I’ve been sending other, less polished things out, short stories, nonfiction pieces, and some have been accepted and others rejected, and I’ve been fine with it. Content, bummed, whatever, nothing too strong. I remember that I have in the past sent out a whole novel and thrown two thirds out after the publisher received it. So it wasn’t fear of rejection holding me back.
It was, I have come to realize, the fear of this period in between submission and response. The response could be acceptance (whee!). The response could be rejection (boo!). The response could be “revise and resubmit” (OK cool). (In fact, I most expect this third thing.) But there’s a probable lag of six to eight weeks before I hear anything.
And living with the novel completed but in perpetual editing, so that I was still in control of the situation for two fucking years was better than waiting to hear back. That’s how much I hate hoping.
And here’s the truth. I will be disappointed if the novel is rejected, but not crushed. I’ll be content if I need to revise. But I’m liable to go into a manic tailspin if it’s accepted, because I will have spent so long on tenterhooks unable to fully distract myself.
And there’s billions of things I can do, and that I shall do in the meantime. I’m teaching three classes, with all of the attendant grading right now. I’m still volunteering heavily at the ballet, and now I’m hoping to do some grant writing for them. I’m working on this autism book with another Mom at my kids’ school. And oh yeah, I have a couple of kids, not to mention another novel in perpetual editing, a blog, and several short stories in progress. And a husband with the patience of Job.
Yet at the pit of my stomach all that time, I’ll have to carry hope, because it will not leave me. When I say I want to live hopeless, I don’t mean I want to live in a boring wasteland with no possibility for a future. I mean that I don’t want to endure this painful uncertainty where I cannot be either happy or sad with regards to something so important.
And hope’s twin is disappointment. No matter what happens, whether it is rejection, acceptance, or revision, it will not come to me in the way I have anticipated. It won’t matter what various million possibilities I have considered, I won’t have thought up exactly how the response will be worded. Which means that even if I receive exactly the outcome I desire, I will still be disappointed. Historically, I know this. It’s one of the reasons I hate Christmas. I don’t mean to, but I find fault with even perfect gifts sometimes, because I didn’t imagine them a certain way. I can be such an ungrateful bitch at the holidays, and it boils down to this hope problem. I try to, but cannot completely, turn off expectation and simply live in the moment.
I will be able to best predict the negative outcomes. I’ve received enough rejection letters in general, and I’ve spoken with the editor at this publisher enough times to know what she’s liable to say if I don’t meet her expectations. But I don’t know what acceptance will sound like. Or look like. It’s liable to come in e-mail. Sure to. .. but there I go. My mind is out of control with possibilities and predictions.
I’m a fucking novel in progress.
But I’m writing. And I’m getting out of the house. So you may not have to lock me up in the crazy bin. But you should probably send care packages to Scott and the kids. They have to live here, yah know?
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.