A Little About Susan Sontag and Lot About Rejection: A Report from the Bowels of AWP

"There is a great deal that either has to be given up or taken away from you if you are going to succeed in writing a body of work." -- Susan Sontag
Another quote written down in my (former) journal, along with a bunch of other writers speaking to the power of habit when it comes to creation. I must have collected them from some interweb source -- maybe Brain Pickings again, or some other writer's blog. Anyway, Steinbeck's in there, and Samuel Johnson, and Italo Calvino, but Sontag's striking a chord the most.

I've been feeling kind of beat up lately, like something's been taken away from me, but it hasn't really been taken away from me in the way that Sontag's talking about here. She's talking about sacrifice. I haven't really sacrificed anything. Well, that's not true. I've sacrificed a lot but in the wrong places and probably for the wrong reasons. I suppose that's what's got me low. I fucked up, like in a big way, like in a many-years-can't-get-those-back-oh-shit-what-now way.

The college president has officially denied me sabbatical and insulted me to boot -- by claiming there was something wrong with my application and proposal, a proposal that a committee of four faculty and four members of the administration approved in December and passed on to him, but you know, there's something wrong with it. BLAH BLAH BLAH I'M REDACTING THIS SENTENCE BECAUSE FOLKS BE LITIGIOUS AND SHIT so instead the letter insists the scope and breadth of my project wasn't worthy of sabbatical. And that fucking hurts, even when I know it's not true. 
But I'm trying to remember that these are first world problems to the nth degree, and that not everyone gets to even apply for something like sabbatical. 
And yet. I'm also -- still, because I set myself up for it -- fielding rejections of my book manuscript. Conventional wisdom (conventional for writers, at least) says to move on, to concentrate on the new work, the new projects, instead of focusing on whether or not my book gets published. HOWEVER, when your opportunity for actually creating the new work, your almost-but-not-really-sorry-ok-byeeeee sabbatical disappears, you're left with a failed MS and no prospect of taking time out to begin again. No fresh start. Just more of the same old same old. Fractions of mornings to eek out  . . . something. 
Why the gloom-and-doom? Oh. Because also rejections from residencies. One the morning after I received the official fuck-you from the college president. So yeah. Fun times!

On top of that I'm at AWP, which can be so demoralizing and intimidating if one allows it. And in my current state, as I totally admittedly indulge in self-pity, I'm in danger of allowing the intimidation. But I went to one panel yesterday, Writing the Body, with Carmen Maria Machado, Danez Smith, and Tarfia Faizullah, and it was wonderful. All three of those authors read the most moving, beautiful work. It was stunning. In the best way. 
I'm trying to hold on to that reading, keep it in the front of my mind, as I make my way through the next two days of the conference. And to remember something I wrote in that interview with Bekah Steimel -- and that she turned into a meme-like raised quote (which, honestly, I find kind of funny because who the fuck am I? Also I loathe this font. But that's neither here nor there. Anyway, here it is) :

But yeah. This. I'm trying to remember that maybe it's just my turn to shut up and listen. (Except on this blog. Sorreeeeeeeee . . .)


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