Confession: I have submitted stories for publication and received rejections.
Confession: I love American Idol.
As Emily Dickinson noted, hope is the thing with feathers. At least, that’s what I think my two confessions have in common.
I love American Idol because it is all about hope. Hope and courage and talent. Every season, thousands of young people attend auditions all over the country and the best are selected to compete. Once the season begins, so do the eliminations. Each week, the finalists sing their hearts out and each week one is sent home. In front of millions of people. Now that is serious rejection.
By contrast, when I get a rejection on a story, no one needs to know. I can file it, toss it, or try to forget about it. The humiliation is all mine alone. Still, there is pain.
But rejection does not have to end there. Once a finalist on American Idol is rejected, he or she may still go on to have a successful career. Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar after leaving American Idol in seventh place. Chris Daughtry recorded the fastest selling debut rock album in history after he was voted out in fourth place. They never gave up. They knew they could sing and they kept trying and they succeeded.
That’s the message I take from American Idol whenever I get a rejection. I submit my story again and I keep submitting until successful. I am certainly not saying that I can write as well as Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daughtry can sing, but I draw from them their passion for their art and their determination.
Another show that inspires me to stay with it is Britain’s Got Talent. It is very much like American Idol, but there are some differences. Britain’s Got Talent does not have age restrictions and it allows all kinds of talent. This can lead to interesting performances, to say the least.
(Does anyone – besides me – remember the Miss America finalist who, for her talent, demonstrated her skill in packing a suitcase?)
Anyway, we all remember Susan Boyle’s first appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. A plain, simple woman from the country, she had an amazing voice. It was jaw-dropping! This season we have Charlotte and Jonathan. Jonathan, who was bullied in school because of his weight and Charlotte, who never stopped believing in him. If you can watch this performance without shedding a tear, well, go for it!
What I love about Charlotte and Jonathan are not only their voices, but their loyalty to one another and their simple recognition of what’s really important. And that gets me back to my writing. Even in the face of rejection, I continually work to find my voice, to write what’s true. No one can stop me but me.
I am sure you all have someone or something that inspires you, keeps you going. Who or what is it? We’d all love to know!
I recently finished reading Arcadia by Lauren Groff. I will admit that I wasn’t drawn to the book by its plot but I was totally pulled into it by the sheer beauty of the writing. You can land on any page of this book and see writing like this, a description of the boy, Bit, having a picnic with his parents, Abe and Hannah, during a difficult time in Arcadia:
Now they are together on a blanket spread under the copper beech, in the cool summer evening, and Bit feels the old happiness circling him, watches his mother’s hands flying like swallows to portion out the food, sees the way Abe looks at Hannah with his heart in his face.
This is the kind of writing that makes me want to write, that makes me wish that I could write just like this.