Part of being a creative writer is facing rejection and waking up the next day to try again. The first piece I wrote as a copywriter required seven rewrites. That taught me real fast that writing on the job is business; it’s not personal. It’s about the message and audience, not me.
However, sometimes hearing “no” to a poem or essay that I may have spent a day (or longer) constructing can create anxiety or self-doubt, even fear. It’s natural to avoid the emotion through other activities—running errands, watching a mindless movie, checking email, surfing the internet, or eating chocolate. But distraction does not quell raw emotion brimming to the surface.
The best advice I got was to sit with the emotion and feel it fully without defending the work or finding fault with the editor. In investigating the source, I came to recognize that vulnerability is okay, and feeling anxiety or fear is natural. What I do about it is on me. So I choose to understand it and then move on.
Staying vulnerable keeps the creative process fresh. It takes me back to fall days in Alabama—before the cold set in—when neighborhood kids dragged leaves bundled in old sheets to the backyard “cliff” and dumped them over the edge. The leaf pile built up, waiting for us to jump.
Emerald moss on the rocky surface was slippery, so I carefully stepped when it was my turn. I pushed the toes of my bare right foot to the edge and gripped. The stubble of lichen was rough, and I felt a thrill (and fear)—and that dizziness when you wonder if you can take the leap and fly.
For a split second, I was larger than myself and jumped, eyes closed, rushing the air and crashing into earthiness—and the pure joy of being.