I set an all-time record not long ago. In a span of twenty minutes, I received three rejections. Two were no-thank-you’s in response to essays I’d submitted to literary journals. One was a letter explaining that the highly acclaimed judge of the competition I’d entered had decided not to award a prize this year because no submission deserved one.
Now, we writers are poor, pathetic, pitiful, sensitive creatures who feel things deeply, so I had to spend a good part of that day feeling sorry for myself.
But then. I sat down at my desk and started writing again. I wrote because — well, because, deep down, I know that nothing I write is ever as wonderful or as terrible as I think it is. The megalomania and the despair are both part of the writing process. These feelings — in their glorious grandiosity and utter abjection — are not only normal; they’re useful. They keep us striving. They lure us back to the desk again and again.
I can revise this dreadful thing and make it better.
That last chapter I wrote was so fabulous, I’ll just write another one.
Here’s what else I know for sure: In the end, the true prize is losing ourselves in the absolute pleasure of finding one good word.