Yesterday I went to see The Martian with a friend, while my spouse was on a conference call. It was a wonderful movie, as I expected it would be.
What did I learn? The powers of duct tape and huge sheets of plastic, even on alien, seemingly lifeless planets.
What else? At the end, it's a feel-good movie, where we get our boy and bring him home. But let us not forget all the failures along the way, most of them delivered by way of explosions.
Our failures may not be as noisy and spectacular, but they will come to us. The most important lesson of the movie lies in the response to the failures. People don't shrug and say, "Well, I guess I'm not cut out to be an astrophysicist/head of NASA/commander of a space mission. Let me go off and homestead a plot of land." No, they move on to the next possible solution--and they don't spend lots of time dissecting what went wrong. They learn what they can learn from the failures, while their brains have raced on to the next attempt.
As a writer, it's all too easy to get discouraged. I've been working on my memoir project for more years than I thought I would be. But I still think it has worth, and I know that I haven't yet committed enough time to seeing the process through to publication.
I have spent the last two Saturdays submitting short stories--how easy the Internet makes it to submit a short story. With poems, I'm choosing the ones that go together and I'm checking to make sure I haven't already submitted the poems to the journals. With these stories, I don't have to worry about that. They are going out for the first time.
Maybe I should also take some of the essays out of my memoir, the ones that can stand alone, and submit them too. Maybe that would be a way to snag the attention of an agent.
I began the day working on a short story that is almost ready to go. My day came to an end with a rejection from Rattle. I had written for the Poets Respond series, where poets are asked to respond to something specific that happened in the past week. I responded to the Bernie Sanders quote about all of us being sick of Hillary Clinton's damn e-mails. When I heard that quote, I thought, I am sick of my e-mails too.
Here's the last stanza of the poem I titled "E-mailing the Holocene Extinction":
Another species goes extinct, as I hit
“send.” Another glacier slides
into the sea. Another plane is shot
out of the sky at the border of Turkey
and whatever country is to come,
while refugees flood
towards borders sealed
by government officials.
My poem wasn't chosen, but I got the most wonderful rejection e-mail, with this paragraph: "This was one of my favorite poems this week, though, and it was one of three I've been reading and re-reading for the last hour before deciding. And wow do I feel the same way about emails; I think everyone does. It was a tough choice, but I decided to go with a different one."
That personalized response was almost better than an acceptance.
My day came to an end with an excursion out to see Halloween lights. There aren't as many lights this year as last year. But we needed a change of scenery after watching the DVD This Is Where I Leave You, a movie I thought would be a comedy, but which left us morose. I liked driving around the neighborhood, even though there weren't many decorations that we could see.
I could see the waxing moon, which made me remember the cyclical nature of our lives, the importance of forging ahead, the ways that small things, like a drive through the neighborhood and duct tape, can make a big difference.
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