I’ve hit a bit of a wall. It’s 2:15 am and I’m up crying, well sniffling. Things are always worse in the middle of the night but in the middle of the night that logic is never helpful.
I’m not sure I realized how much of a thick skin this writing work requires. Maybe my abhorrence of all things administrative or hustle-like – grant applications, sending my work out unsolicited, submitting to contests - is a form of self-protection, padding against the bruising impact of ongoing rejection.
Sitting at my little desk writing away (sniffing my own farts so to speak), creating a comfortable bubble of new-age style self-aggrandizement, is safe and cozy.
I float pieces now and again and get enough back-patting and affirmation to ensure days of feeling pretty great. “It’s gonna happen Aviv, just hang in there, you have something to offer this over-saturated literary world, just keep at it.”
But every now and again I have to wonder whether my so called talent isn’t just the stuff of the kid who gets hauled out to sing at every family gathering - Hannukah parties, seders, gramma’s 70th – and told repeatedly what a wonder she is – so she applies to Sarah Lawrence then spends years spinning her wheels, shell-shocked and depressed that nothing is happening with her career.
Each time I get rejected (I know, I know, it’s part of the game!), I feel like the pile of pins knocked down at the bowling alley, another strike against me. What is there to do but get up, pulled by that magical machine of optimism and necessity that sets me back up in a row to await the next heavy ball?
In a nutshell what left me soggy in the middle of the night was yet another rejection, this time at the hands of my people – the progressive Jews. A couple of weeks ago someone suggested I check out an online magazine called Tablet – which by the way is great. The perfect place to send my piece about going to get a Get (orthodox Jewish divorce).
I had sent it to Lilith Magazine in New York who, after months and months of chasing down, finally admitted that no they weren’t going to publish the piece because it didn't fit within a current theme, but yes they loved it. I was told a bunch of the staff read it, found it funny, moving and exceptionally well-written. The next best thing to being published right? Or so I tell myself. I read the piece at my summer writer’s retreat and had an equally positive response from a bunch of New England United Church of Christ folk. Obviously it has universal appeal.
So when I send an e-mail to Miriam at Tablet pitching the idea and she gets back to me asking for the piece on spec, I figure they’re going to love it. It’s perfect - pre-tested even. I’ve read some of the stuff Tablet publishes – funny, insightful, thoughtful, edgy, smart, well written. I’ll fit right in. So off it goes on the same day I send out eleven large envelopes with grant applications and my 78 word short story Jesus is Coming to the Aspen short story competition. I’m on a cocky, self-deluded high, fed by Miriam’s invitation.
To her credit she responds within 24 hrs – unheard of in this business. (perhaps it's an online mag thing) I’m used to plenty of time to build the fantasy. Instead I had but a few hours convinced that Tablet would launch me in progressive American Jewish literary circles, followed shortly thereafter by my break into the vast American literary world with my 78 brilliant words
Thanks for letting us consider your submission. Unfortunately it's not right for us and we're going to have to pass. Best of luck placing it elsewhere and please feel free to contact me with any pitches you might have in the future.
It’s not right for us? What does that mean? Is it code for your piece sucks? She has offered no explanation just an encouraging kiss-off with an invite to line my pins up on her bowling alley some other time. Oh it’s not Miriam’s fault – if she doesn’t want it she doesn’t want it. She has kindly added to the pile of introspective fat I’ve chewed on during these days of atonement
While the night offers hours of rotisserie chicken-style musings and fantasies about success and failure I know there’s almost no such thing as overnight success. It takes time. But I’m scared about time, how little of it there is and how fast it goes. At 3:26 am I shut the computer and get back into bed feeling slightly lighter. It’s all material Aviv, it’s all material.