Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why Being a Nun Has Left Me Ill-Equipped For the Process of Getting Published...

I have been a nun my entire life. Sister Dreama of the Order of the Written Soul*

Being as I'm a nun, and utterly devoted to my Order, I miraculously avoided certain things that most other kids suffered when they were kids. Things they lived through and learned from. The biggest, possibly most profound of these 'missed life lessons' was dating.

Simply put, I didn't care to ever have a significant other. I had a lot of friends in school (hey, there were other Goonies around) and every single one of them dated. Girls and boys alike. They flirted. They held hands. They loved each other. Then things changed and they broke up (most of the time) and there was fallout. Or maybe they never even got together. I've comforted my friends (boy and girl) as they cried because they 'weren't good enough' for whoever it was that they so desperately wanted to be 'good enough' for. I was not given to any desire to share my life with a boyfriend anyway, and watching my friends go through all of that trauma and self-doubt and in some cases, worse, self-hatred and self-destructive relationships, I avoided the rats nest of dating and stuck with the Order of the Written Soul, where there was safety.

I had the same experience with cliques and friends. Having been blessed with a twin sister, I was never alone no matter what. So I didn't care if I ever had any other friends. In plain truth, I cannot ever remember trying to be anyone's friend. All of the friends I have, I either simply met and was effortlessly friends with, or they were people who met me through my sister and liked me. Thusly, I never went through that awful phase where you're willing to do almost anything just to fit in with a group. But I watched friends suffer. I watched them go for days without eating because the other cheerleaders never had to worry about 'that fat bubble' popping over the waistband of their skirt when they bent over during a routine. I watched really talented guys drop out of band because band was for geeks, and the same with drama (um you manly guys, remember how Chris Daughtry was always hanging in the drama room with us geeks? Yeah, not bad for a guy who participated in skits that included tying two-by-fours to your feet as skis) I saw horrible things done in the name of 'fitting in' with a certain crowd. And I was really glad that I didn't care. Again, the Order of the Written word was a safe haven for a little reclusive nun like myself.

The only problem is that now this little nun has left her Order behind and is trying to make her way in the world. And while she never had to care about anyone else's opinion while she was sequestered in the sheltered, loving embrace of her Order of the Written Word, surrounded by books written by others, and books of her own writing, now, she's obliged to care. Turns out that trying to fit in with pre-established groups IS JUST AS MISERABLE AS IT LOOKED LIKE. It hurts! Like hell. And I'm ill-equipped for the process. Totally ill-equipped.

I know my posts have been sort of drab of late. I can't defend them because they've been reflective of my mood. I think perhaps if the rejections had stayed simple form rejections, I wouldn't be as confused emotionally. I mean, if you meet a cute guy and he smiles and walks off, obviously he's not that into you. But if you meet a guy at the coffee bar, banter with him for an hour and he takes your number, then you wonder why he never called you. I mean you spend time thinking about it. Did you do something wrong? Was there a tissue comet on your nose ring? Did you have coffee grinds in your teeth? Was he just playing you? Did you totally read into things?

I'm aware that an agent isn't your significant other. I'm oversimplifying. But the analogy totally works for me personally. As much as you might love someone, you aren't going to be celebrating any fifty-year anniversaries if your relationship isn't a working one too. It's the same for an agent. You might like each other, but if you work in totally different ways, the match isn't going to fit. And if you work great together but don't like each other at all, well, that's going to make appearances awkward and stain the work part of things. I also know that an agent requesting material is not the same as making goo goo eyes at some guy at a coffee bar. But the nicer rejections can be... upsetting... in a weird way.

Every agent who's ever rejected me has been very nice. I really am not complaining about the agents. They have a job to do. Problem is, for them it's a job (although they love what they do) and for me, it's the rest of my life. Writer is a job I'm applying for, in a way, and every time a door shuts on me, I feel it. And sometimes getting handed a piece of paper that says "No thanks" is easier than getting one that says "You're an engaging person with a lot to offer, but we don't want you in our office." Again, I'm oversimplifying, I know. There are many reasons that agents reject. But as a writer, your emotional response is not something based off of logical thinking. No more than you're drive to write is based off of a mild interest in the craft. Most of us write because we NEED to. Likewise, we feel the impact of a rejection with that part of ourselves, rather than the logical side. Unless one of us is Spock... Anyway, this is something I'm working through. This strange catharses of 'You're a nice girl but I don't want to actually date you' associated with the 'one step closer to success' rejections where I get told that I'm a good writer who will succeed, just not now and just not with Agent X who's sending the rejection.

I apologize for my melancholy posting, and I promise earnestly to get some funny ones together. Maybe I'll tell you about getting stuck between the bed and the wall when I fell out the other morning (I had to crawl under the bed to finally get free) or I could recount the recent air freshener incident... or the trapdoor desk chair... I promise I'll organize one of them. Until then, I'm off to pony wrestle... Happy writing all!

*I just want to disclose that I in no way mean to disrespect true nuns who live in devotion to God. I grew up Catholic, and my mother was close friends with several members of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Some of my best memories are of sledding on cafeteria trays with the younger Sisters. They are very cool people.


  1. Oh, honey, we have all sat where you're sitting (both in terms of writing and in terms of life). When you decide to start trying to let people in and exploring a world that involves other people, you are going to get burned. I didn't try to enter that world until about halfway through high school, and it was painful then. I know people who had no desire to take chances with others until college, or even beyond.

    I know, hearing "You're not alone" doesn't help. Seriously, I totally get that ... but it's all I can say, and I swear on my completed manuscript that it is the truth. Also true: it gets better.

    Oh, and air freshener incident, PLEASE. Anything that ends in "incident" or "debacle" has just got to come out.

    Smile <3

  2. I hear you loud and clear. Sometimes, when all you receive are nice "form rejections," especially after sending in material you wonder: did they not write anything specific because it was so atrocious that it's beyond hope?

    I'm sorry you're feeling crushed right now. Hope you keep writing anyway. Take that angst and put it into your story.

  3. I've been at this a while now - I won't say how long - but only recently have I been getting some nice encouraging comments along with my rejection letters as well as a few nibbles of interests (read: partial submission). For most of us this is a long road (for me, apparently, even longer!) but write down those feelings so you can use them and don't stop writing because the more you write the better you'll get. It's inevitable. One day, it will all pay off. And yes, I do believe.