As a part-time, work-at-home freelance writer, I often find myself in a childcare pickle. Such as last week, when I unexpectedly landed a pitch with a very short deadline and had to stand on my head and juggle childcare with two hands and a foot in order to get into New York and conduct the necessary interview. So that I could write and revise the two articles I sold in January, my husband took over all the post-kids’-bedtime chores, I stepped over screaming toddlers to get to my computer, and I once again did not get my lip waxed, although now the hair is so long I can simply tie it back in an elastic and throw it over my shoulder. Things get complicated around here when I actually sell work.
But it is much harder when I don’t.
Because it hurts when I don’t, given that my self-esteem is held together with two toothpicks and a strip of masking tape. And, unlike people who are in offices or quiet studios or whathaveyou, I do not have the luxury of hurt feelings. Because I get the emails with the rejections while I am on the internet looking for a phone number of a karate studio and Lilah is scaling me as though I am a mountain and Benjamin is asking if he can use the large knife to chop onions and Zachary is doing his homework perfectly except that he is writing 31 and 41 for the numbers between 12 and 15 and I am not correcting him even though it takes all my strength to stop myself from doing so.
I can’t tell them that I am sad about a rejection because it is so foreign to their world that it would be meaningless. I can sit for a moment, once I’ve removed the knife from Benjamin’s hand, and feel it, but I only have a moment because there is most likely an ass out there I need to wipe.
I have an old, old friend I only get to talk to every few months. He is an academic, which is the profession I was pursuing back in the day when I was all career-minded and shit. And, when we talk, I often express my envy that he is on this career path, towards all things bright and shiny. And he tells me, “From where I sit, you have it all.”
He reads my blog. Maybe I make my life seem more glamorous than it is.
My friend is of course right. I have a husband who takes over all the evening chores after a long day at work when I have a deadline. I have some childcare help to allow me to do part of my writing. I have a more or less financially secure life (she knocks wood). And I have three lovely children, who, despite driving me three types of batty, are absolutely delectable.
Nonetheless, I take the rejections hard. Because, the truth is that I have to start selling to bigger name publications if I want to establish myself as a writer. The competition is fierce, and I am not Faulkner. I have a certain facility with language, a sharp sense of humor, and a willingness to bare my ass in public, but I am without two things: I have a hard time coming up with ideas, and I lack the self-confidence to think anyone gives a shit about what I write.
When I ask you all to register your undying affection for my writing at polls like the one over at Babble, I am doing it because without those strokes, I ain’t gettin’ much lovin’.
The rejections and the acceptances roll in more or less equal numbers, but it is deceiving, because I lack the imagination to find new places to submit. I am not much of a saleswoman because I don’t really believe in the product.
After that moment on the couch, I get up and finish chopping vegetables with Benjamin, who has insisted we will be having stir-fry for dinner. I have convinced him to go with carrots and broccoli over apples and potatoes, but other than that he has planned the ingredients himself. Then I take Lilah and him for a little walk.
He babbles on and I go on auto-pilot, inserting the correct answers when I need to. “Mommy?” he says.
“I love you.” I stop walking and lean down. I pull Benjamin into a hug. As we walk on, he doesn’t know I am crying. I am crying because I know that there are different kinds of success, and I just need to keep remembering that I am choosing this one.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t mourn the loss of a more traditional form of success or wonder if I am choosing this path because I doubt my ability to make it on the other.