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The Princess and the Pea (or you and your rejection)

Excuses and qualifications and hesitations come to me like breathing. Holding them back is like holding my breath too long.

When I was a kid (oh now see, you let one memory in and then they all want to join in), I asked my father questions like this, “Well, Dad, I was wondering that if, you know, it wasn’t any trouble, I mean, if you don’t mind because it is okay if you, I mean you know I was just kind of thinking that since I ate all my dinner and we’re going to be going grocery shopping anyway–I mean you said we were–right?–and that maybe unless you really wanted it or something that maybe I could have the last of the ice cream. If that’s okay. There really is just the strawberry and vanilla left, you know. Or I guess I could just eat half. We could share! You know. Or I could wait. Until tomorrow. Dad?”

To his credit he didn’t shout or curse or throw anything. He’d open one eye and peer at me standing there in his bedroom doorway. His voice filled with sleep, he’d say, “Is this the emergency you’re waking me up for?”

Of course, I wasn’t just standing there. I was standing with most of my body hidden behind the door shifting my weight from one foot to the other and twisting my hands together. “Well, I thought you might have plans for the ice cream.” More softly I’d add, “Or something.”

He’d sigh. “Mahda,” he’d say in that Rhode Island accent, “go eat the ice cream.” And a second later he’d be back asleep.

I still feel this way when I ask someone to read my work. “If you don’t mind, I mean, if it’s okay and you have time, and you know, well, I was just wondering if maybe, you could, and really it is okay if you don’t because I know you’re busy and all, but if…”

Why does asking someone to read something I’ve written feel like asking someone to donate a lung? Do adding more and more words around a request actually make the answer easier to hear? Do more and more words cushion the fall of disappointment?

I guess it depends. If were rejection were a pea and all your words mattresses, would you be able to get a good night’s sleep?

Let me know. Meanwhile, sweet dreams princess, and you can eat the last of the ice cream.

5 thoughts on “The Princess and the Pea (or you and your rejection)

  1. Marta – that was great! You should write something with a child character.

    It is hard to ask other people to read my work, but luckily I have my writing group, so I know that they don’t mind because by being in my group, well, they kind of signed up for it. And when I meet another writer like you who needs to be read too, it makes it easier because we can do each other the favor. But asking other people – forget it. I don’t bother. I don’t think anyone else I know really wants to read it.

    As far as rejection, I have been writing and sending out work for how long now? I hate to think about it. Over ten years, at least. (Off and on.) I think I’ve built up a thick skin. I don’t expect much. So I do sleep.

  2. I also have a terrible time asking for anything from people. Help, especially. I always try to do everything by myself. I will buy a book and learn how to do it myself. It doesn’t matter if people are willing to help or have offered to help. Ugh. I always have to do it myself.

    And asking people to read my work is almost a different animal. No one at all has ready my current novel, first or second draft. One person has read my previous novel, first draft. It’s as if I am afraid that it won’t actually be as good as I am hoping, and it will be as bad as I am afraid of. I haven’t had a workshop for quite a few years, actually. Maybe I’m rusty.

    As for criticism, I always weight negative criticism much more than I do positive, which is usually the bulk of the comments. sigh.

  3. this is, for me, why I need a writing group of some sort, a place where I know I can have my work read and that I am reading the work of others.
    And I love these stories of yours, from your childhood.
    Keep em coming.

  4. Well, All, if we don’t share, if we don’t ask, we don’t hear anything good either–and I really think there is more good to hear if we weren’t so afraid to hear it.

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