This week continues to be a rollercoaster, but I want to remember that in the midst of it all, the universe sends me encouraging messages. Earlier this week, I got an acceptance notice from Rattle. Yesterday, my editor at the magazine The Lutheran called to ask if I was still interested in writing an article that I pitched earlier.
Of course I am. And in an interesting twist, the article is about Advent, that liturgical time before Christmas. You may remember that just the day before, I wrote these paragraphs in this blog post:
"So, I’m working on a poem that has characters dealing with news of impending job loss in a variety of ways: buying musical instruments, renewing a passport, putting up the Christmas tree—that last one was my strange urge after I hung up the phone with my boss and HR, after learning the my job was one of the ones lost to restructuring.
I didn’t put up the tree, but some festive, twinkling lights would be good right now. Maybe I’ll just play my Christmas CDs. I find them soothing. I often turn to them in times of stress. They lull my inner voice of defeat right into submission."
I write that paragraph and that poem one day, and the next day, an editor asks if I'm willing to plunge myself into Advent as I write an article about having a more contemplative, creative time before Christmas.
Let me hasten to say that the payment for the article is not such that I say, "Swell. I'll take the severance package that my current job offers me, and I'll launch my writing ship into these waters."
I try so hard not to be bossy, not to order God/the universe around. I am willing to be surprised and delighted, should God/the universe see fit to send me such a contract.
In the meantime, I take heart from these words from Leslie's blog post. She has been thinking of the Olympics, particularly the swimming events, as metaphor for the writing life:
"But I decided that the major difference in the writing world is that our walls are arbitrary: no one really knows where the end of the race is, as we’re swimming through. It could be a sprint, it could be a marathon. That wall could show up in front of you at any moment, and Michael Phelps could be in a different part of the pool right then—on lap 2000 to your lap 55…but the wall shows up in front of you: You wrote a vampire book right when vampire books are taking off! You meet the editor of a small press on an airplane and she happens to love generational novels about mothers and daughters and you happen to have finished yours! Your book gets selected for the lead review in the New York Times Book Review! The wall is right there.
So, I think our walls move around and are arbitrary and maybe we’re all in the same pool, but we’re each swimming our own events. Let Micheal Phelps do his thing, while you do yours. The wall will show up…as long as you stay in the pool. Keep swimming. Tread water if you must, but stay in the pool."
Stay in the pool. What a great metaphor, a great reminder.
When I was going through old e-mails, I noticed that I was wrestling with discouragement then, too. I was finding wisdom from Julia Cameron's Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance. On Tuesday, after a particularly difficult day at work, I found comfort there again. Here are some quotes to keep you going:
"It is not healthy for me as an artist to be tuned to the inner movie, always watching 'what if, if only I had's' as they unspool on the inner screen." (p. 39)
"Don't quit right before the miracle." (p. 41)
"So much of the trick with a creative career is maintaining optimism and forward motion. So much consists of doing the next right thing, however tiny. Often we get discouraged because we are unable, left to our own devices, to see a next right step. Discouragement acts as blinders. This is where friends come in handy. This is where brainstorming matters." (p. 63)
"It is risky, block-inducing business, thinking about the odds stacked against us, the people we should have known, the times we should have been more astute politically. When we compare ourselves to others, there will always be someone who is doing better than we are. There will always be someone who is more successful, who has played his or her cards 'right' while we have bungled ours." (p. 113)
Julia Cameron give us lots of quotes from others. Here are two of my favorites:
Kenneth Branagh: "Friendship is one of the most tangible things in a world which offers fewer and fewer supports." (p. 70)
Maurice Setter: "Too many people miss the silver lining because they're expecting the gold." (p. 71)
May the universe send you all sorts of inspirations as you stay in the pool, treading water and swimming laps and getting ever stronger.