Rejection and The Truest Thing
This is a wall in my friend Nan’s River Writing studio. Most recently I really connected with how her invitation to say the truest thing has absolutely opened my creative channel and helped me access my most authentic writing voice. I’m amazed by the subtle magic of this writing practice. Being willing to say the truest thing and to share that truth aloud has certainly helped to grow my courage and strengthen my confidence as a writer. This was especially important as I opened an email of rejection.
Recently, I received notice that my essay was rejected for the next issue of a creative living magazine. It was an essay in response to the theme of “What’s Next?” Although the magazine accepted my pitch, they decided to not include my final essay. I wasn’t surprised.
When I first read the magazine’s theme for the issue, I had a physical response to the question of what’s next and knew that I wanted to write against the theme in favor of asking “what’s alive for me now?” Had I gone ahead and written what was hot off the press for me about that question, I may have experienced a sense of success. But in the time it took to submit my essay idea and have that initial pitch accepted, my passionate response had faded and I struggled to get my heart on the page. With six weeks available to write the essay, I tried to recapture what I wanted to say. But the process became truly burdensome and contrived and several times I thought of rescinding my submission. Instead, I stuck it out and compiled an essay from several other things I had written related to presence and savoring the moment. A good essay but not the full message of my experience. It felt forced and too safe; a watered down version of things.
At that point in my process, the truest thing I could say was how “What’s Next?” triggered instant anxiety and repelled my creativity. But, I didn’t say that. Instead, I wrote about how my learning over the past two years led me to value a different question, the question of “What’s alive for me now?” Yet, I felt conflicted between the two questions. “What’s next” propelled me into an unknown future but it also inspired curiosity and opened up possibility. “What’s alive for me now?” allowed me to stay present in my experience and engage more slowly and patiently with my life. Abandoning the question of “what’s next” helped me embrace uncertainty and experience a level of comfort in not knowing. It eased my fear about what I am doing and helped me connect with my true work...the work of paying attention, of listening more deeply, of becoming rooted in the simple moments of my life. And though I was able to articulate some of that in my essay, I was unable to merge the two questions. I was unable to expand on why any of it mattered because I don’t think I really knew why at the time.
In the months since writing my essay and submitting it in early August, I arrived at a new awareness. I understand why my current work matters, why I have needed this time of creative solitude and mindful living. I now see how the work of the past two years has been foundational, slowly paving the way for me to dig deeper into wounded places and give them a voice. In giving attention to what is alive for me now, I have connected more fully with my inner life and learned to listen to what she has to say with compassion and courage. In finding solace and grounding in the present, I have been able to sift through deeper layers of my life and witness them from a place of safety and support. In doing so, I understand that what is next includes creative projects for healing and putting old stories to rest. I am able to reconcile the conflict around the questions of what’s next and what’s now.
The truest thing today is how quieting my life has allowed me to pay attention in a new way and to grow my capacity for holding the wholeness of my life with compassion and grace. I have learned to welcome the unresolved pain and dark sense of sorrow as lovingly as I welcome joy and lightness. It feels huge and important and came through balancing my attention between my past, present and future. I don’t have to reject my past or ignore the future to feel grounded and whole. I can be with what is alive for me now while also holding space for how it used to be and remaining curious about what is next. How wonderful that there is space for all of it. How wonderful that the truest thing is always changing and I don’t have to reject or feel stuck in one way of being. And how wonderful to realize that the rejection of my essay was an invitation to explore my process and connect with this awareness. How wonderful indeed.