I am taking a break from writing with the five senses to rant about success in the arts and in life. Yes, I know the others have done so, and admirably, but it’s my turn.
I have a friend who teaches art in a public school and is aware that her job is in danger. I mean, like, really, is art important for a student’s future? NO! Of Course Not! No Way! So, cut that job! Just like we cut Phys Ed and all the other unimportant courses like music and band to make sure our kids learn only by rote and True & False and how to pass tests. To make sure that we totally destroy the ability of any child educated in the US to CREATE anything! God forbid that our students learn how to spell (California, are you listening?) or write in proper paragraphs (who needs that crap, anyway?) or draw or sing or play an instrument (you can’t make a living the arts, right? so teach everyone business) or work out to get rid of the extra tires our students are carrying, (have you seen the statistics???) or eat well (Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution). I’d say that our lawmakers should be taken out and shot for what they have done to the education system, except it would be a better punishment to make them go back to school for a semester, especially in a school system that is predominately welfare/Medicaid/Medicare/public-housing/food-stamp students. You know—the kids who need art and lifestyle opportunities the most, yet, who act out in class or fall asleep or steal because they have nothing and are taught no better at home. Yeah — teaching is easy.
No. The rant is not over. Because that touches only on the students. Let’s talk about the teachers. The people who *only* work nine months a year and teach *only* five classes a day, and yet spend *hours* talking to parents, and doing lunchroom duty, and after-class bus duty, and detention, and talking more to parents and dealing with disturbed children who are being abused in the home or who live in households with addicted parents or single parents working three jobs to pay the rent. Those same teachers who take college classes (out of their own pockets) the months they are *off* to remain certified. Who work 50 hour weeks at mind-numbing jobs trying to educate and discipline our youth into responsible adults.
My wonderful, artsy friend bent my ear for a while last night about the résumés she has sent out and how her stomach is in knots about her future. It sounded so much like the knotted tummies of writer friends who are losing publishers because they don’t sell 100,000 copies of a thriller and hit the bestseller lists on the second book. That will-I-have-a-future-in-this-business feeling.
And I came back with this. “You know that story about God never letting a door close without opening a window? That’s bull poopy. (Yes, I said poopy. She’s a teacher, for heaven’s sake.) What you have, is not one, single, solitary window. You send out lots of résumés, and each one is an opportunity, like a glow through a thousand windows. Some are open, some are closed, and you will find your perfect window as time leads you closer to the brilliance. (Which sounds a lot like walking toward the light, but she didn’t notice and I didn’t point that out.) You have friends who care for you and will put in a good word here and there. And in your new job, maybe you can do *your* art as well as teaching others. It is the glow of opportunity. Try to remember that, okay?”
Similar advice goes to our readers here. Some of you are getting your first rejections. (I’ve heard from several of you over the last month.) You thought your were ready for them. You thought your heart was prepared. But you thought you’d get a 2 or 3 week lag between sending off a query and getting a rejection. Or you thought it would come back with a, “Thank you. It sounds promising but it isn’t for us.” Or a, “We are not taking any new submissions right now. Please retry in 12 months.” Or something well written and kind with the words, “Good luck,” at the end. Instead, you get a 24 hour turnaround with a form rejection note (not a letter, a note) that reads something like, “Thank you. No.” Or, worse, “Thnks you no,” with misspelling and lack of punctuation. From an agent or editor!
It hurts. It digs deep under your skin like a cactus spine or irritates like poison ivy. It *hurts*. Well, you can’t see it now, but we have all been there. We understand. We are here for you, being that bright glow on the horizon that is the sun shining through a thousand windows. One is open for you. It really is. But don’t hang your hopes on one particular window. Throw out lots of queries, lots of proposals. And keep writing! Start something new! Each rejection is an opportunity to learn, to hone your letters, to hone your skill at the business end of the writing business. Okay, they are going to come and they are going to hurt, so be ready to accept rejection. But also be ready to grab the window sash and throw yourself into the light of opportunity. And remember to savor the small successes. Each one has its own glow.