while I try to pick myself back up. It has been a long and difficult day. You know how sometimes everything seems to go wrong at once? That was today, for me. An ongoing professional struggle got worse, I spent hours chasing down long lists of authorization numbers as the first step in the last step of getting this weblog (and website) straightened out — and then got a cryptic email that makes me believe that many none of that painstaking work I did went through. A deer ate one of my favorite plants — despite the fact I had sprayed it with icky-deer-don’t-like-this stuff (which usually does work). And finally: I tripped in the garage and as i was falling in slow motion, a thought went through my head very clearly: this is going to hurt. this may well break a bone. Just before I hit the concrete with a splat. And lay there for a couple minutes, because the wind was knocked out of me.
I’m okay. I sprained a finger, and I have a knee that looks like it belongs on a really accident prone six year old, but I am okay. But you see what I mean about the kind of day it has been.
Now here’s a bit of wisdom from Harlan Ellison, which oddly enough has lifted my spirits:
Anyone can become a writer. The trick is staying a writer.
Persistence is a much undervalued quality. While I was in academics I saw many very smart people drop out of PhD programs while the really persistent ones — sometimes not very talented at all — dug in and got through. Those were the people who would retake exams multiple times and rewrite dissertation chapters again and again. They just would not take ‘fail’ for an answer. Sometimes they just wore the faculty down to surrender.
So it’s true about writing as well. You are a writer until you stop writing. Sometimes it’s really hard to carry on. People give up every day. One more rejection letter, one more midlist book that dies before it ever gets out of the starting gate, one more set of negotiations that leave you drained and demoralized. People put down the pen or close the word processor and go out to get a job selling cars or teaching composition or weeding gardens.
I am not about to do any of those things. The lows get very low sometimes, but I’m still here, putting words on the page.