Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Persistence and Pep Talks

My father with "Bob the Bull", Pugwash Point, August 1991
 
It took a few minutes to land on the right title for this post, but each one I chose made me laugh, because the photo put a whole different spin on them. The photo really has nothing to do with what I'm writing, but I didn't see the point in another sunset over the field. Instead, here's a nice memory from our summer holidays in Nova Scotia. 

I had a lovely, long catch-up phone conversation with my friend Jennifer, who lives in Toronto. (She's mentioned in Field Notes in  my essay about the chickens, because she's the friend who was with me when I bought my fancy red boots in the Bloor West Village.)

We both turned 50 this year, and have been friends since university. Jennifer's life is different from mine -- she's a mother of two, lives in the city, has a good job -- but like me, she's feeling like she's still searching for what she really wants to do. In her case, it's feeling stagnant in a job she's done, and done well and enjoyed, for 20 years. For me, it's trying to get around the obstacles that are keeping me from publishing more books. 

I told her about the branding/platform/ten-thousand followers that risk-adverse publishers are looking for. She told me the story of a Toronto novelist whose first book was rejected not because it wasn't a good story, but because "no one wants to read a story set in Edwardian times", the publisher said. Then the TV show, "Downtown Abbey" hit -- and suddenly, the publishers were panting for her novel! Jennifer said so much of publishing about timing, and I agree; there's a lot of "right place, right time, right story" -- pure luck -- involved, and that's what I'm up against. 

Afterwards, as I thought about our 2-hour conversation and all the things we discussed, I realized I'm a columnist and an essayist; it's my job to be interested in a lot of different things. And now so much of my writing is interconnected; even if I'm not doing the city girl-country girl persona as much, my rural life in Nova Scotia is always a through line, whether I'm writing about food, death, or faith. 

(Ha! Right there -- three of the major themes of life!) 

As I progressed through my chores after supper -- washing dishes, watering plants, cleaning kitty litter, having a bath -- all those quiet, physical activities that promote contemplation -- I realized I'm okay. My work is okay. If I'm truly committed to this work, and I am because I love it, as discouraging and disheartening as it can be, then I must persist

After all, 2020 is the year when some of my persistence paid off. Two articles that I've been pitching for several years are finally being published. Both come out in October issues (one was bumped from the June issue because of the impact of the pandemic). It seems like whenever I think it's time to give up -- and I started out this year believing that and planning for that -- something happens that tells me to hang in there. 

Jennifer really believes that my memoir, The Funeral Director's Daughter, will get picked up because "everyone's talking about funerals now" and that's all the encouragement I need to keep doing what I'm doing, and doing it my way. 

I'm still out standing in my field -- and not letting other people's bullshit chase me over the fence. 


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