Thursday, February 18, 2016

Ask the Moon: There's no such thing as rejection

Today begins a new feature for us: “Ask the Moon.”

It’s surprisingly hard to think of a writing topic to address each and every day. Some days I feel like I have dozens of ideas to choose from, and some days I’m blank. I think we all know how it feels to stare at a screen for long minutes when nothing comes. And really, this is a blog about writing, by a writer who wants to be, well, writing. Poems and stuff.

In the interest of time, I’ve asked readers to submit questions they would like to see addressed here. A number of them have come through with some fascinating—and challenging—queries.

If you have a question about writing or editing, or if you would like the language of a rejection “translated” from editorese into English, you may contact me on Twitter @karenkawrites or via e-mail at

Melissa asks …

How do you remain optimistic about your work despite rejection?

There’s a simple answer to that, Melissa. I’m kick-ass.

No, really—I’m a terrific poet. I say things that are worth saying, and I am bold and innovative in the saying. I have meticulous control of line and form and rhetoric.

I spell correctly. I grammar … good.

And much of that is true some of the time. But you know, I do believe in myself. Whether or not I pull off what I’m hoping and trying to in a poem, I know my motives when I come to the page, and they’re pure ones. I’m trying to make discoveries through language.

Like every writer, I have differing levels of success from piece to piece. Sometimes I’m quite pleased with what comes out on the page. Sometimes I end up with a mess on my hands.

Worst of all, sometimes I am pleased and I don’t realize I have a mess on my hands—or at least not until much later. Let’s not talk about those times.

With each poem, I can honestly say that I made an attempt and I took the work of thinking and drafting seriously. That’s true if I’m on a writing retreat and I have all of the space and time I need to work on words, and it’s true if I’m trying to write left-handed because on my right there’s a toddler who won’t let go of my arm. I don’t always have the luxury of silence or privacy or time to myself, but I still write in the best way that I can—smaller ideas, captured now and refined later.

I write because I want to puzzle through something, or I want to capture a bit of beauty, or I want to be present with myself. Not all writing efforts lead to successful finished products, but the little acts of faith sometimes earn me gifts that show up on the page, and that’s when it’s no longer meaningful to think of writing as “good” or “bad.” That’s when writing is holy.

Getting back to the question—how do I power through when rejection is part of the game?—I think it comes down to this: I know what I’m about, and I know that I am entirely humble in the presence of the word. Instead of indulging in my cleverness (and I delight in being clever at times!), my writing serves as an act of faith. I keep going because I continue to be faithful.

(And sometimes I continue to pray—even though I have yet to win the lottery.)

Earning an editor’s good opinion certainly pleases me. When I don’t find favor with editors, it doesn’t bother me (provided they are direct and polite in their rejection). I’m not actually writing for them. I’m writing for me—the “me” in me, and the “me” that is a miniscule but essential component of everything there is.

When we present the very best part of us, editors may turn it down, but the universe accepts what we offer, joyfully.

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