Certainly acceptance is something that I need to practice in my life–in my writing life especially–but in everyday life, too. Have you ever seen those bumper stickers that say something along the lines of “if you ain’t angry, you ain’t paying attention”? What an awful way to live, driving around being pissed off about everything you see, grinding your teeth when you see another bumper sticker that pisses you off, speeding up to see the jerk who so flagrantly flaunts his/her wrong-headed ideas, spending the rest of the day thinking about how much of a jerk that guy was?
Wait, am I writing about bumper stickers? What was it? Oh, right acceptance. What do I have to accept. Everything. Does this mean I’m the world’s doormat? Not at all. But when I’m practicing acceptance, I’m aware of the limitations of my actions, aware that I can only do certain things on this day and that the things I can do tomorrow are not a part of the equation, because no matter how much I plan, they do not exist yet. Likewise, the “certain things” I did yesterday no longer exist either. I accept that tonight, a few moments before I go to bed, things are the way they are. Seems rather elementary, really, but our whole culture is based, it seemed, on living without acceptance.
As a writer, I’ve often written about rejection and what that means. I’m sure I’ll write about rejection again. Understanding and accepting rejection has made me the writer I am today. Often, when people read my writing on rejection, they say things like: “don’t worry! Keep your chin up!” Or, “Think positive!” Aside from the fact that “think positive!” doesn’t make any sense (without the “ly”, positive is just a noun and one cannot “think” nounly. A little message from the Grammar Police, Adverb Division GPAD) I’m afraid my ramblings about rejection haven’t done what I thought they would. Like any writer, I hated rejection letters at first. Then I loathed them for a while. Then I hated them some more. Then I laughed at them, HA-HA, and tossed my hair about insouciantly. And then something strange happened. I stopped caring about them. I get them in the mail now and I don’t really think about them. The people that reject me are doing the hard work of putting out a literary magazine. I didn’t make the cut. I toss the envelope in the recycling been. Without even knowing it, I’d started practicing acceptance for the rejections. Does that mean I give up? Not at all. In fact, today, I searched for new places to send my work to and I’ll send it out, do all I can, make the stories as good as I’m capable of making them, drop them in the mail and then it’s out of my hands. Nothing to do but write more stories.
But what happens when I get accepted? That’s the new wrench in the cogs. Since February, I’ve had six stories accepted for publication. That is, quite literally, more stories than I’ve had accepted in the last decade. I’ve had stories accepted at Eclipse, Limestone, Nimrod, Conjunctions and two other places that I can’t mention yet because they are connected with contests that have not publicized their results. These are a mix of small and large literary magazines and such acceptances have left me feeling oddly confused. I never thought I’d struggle to accept acceptance on this scale. But like everything else, I suppose it takes practice. Of course, I can’t count on acceptance letters. I have to accept whatever comes my way.
Having six stories accepted feels like the roof of my writing life has been stripped. I’m exposed to the elements. Luckily for me, my house is currently in this state, so I can show you what it feels like. Here’s a picture of my attic without shingles. Metaphorically, it’s kind of cool.