Yesterday, I received a paycheck. Not a day job paycheck, but a check for writing. It’s not enough to cover the rent. It’s not enough to cover my car payment. I could splurge on a nice dinner with this paycheck. But somebody paid me for something I wrote, and that’s worth more than the number on the check.
It’s almost too pretty to cash. I want to hug the check but that might be weird. I want to laminate it and wear it on my chest. Again, weird. But the check means something to me, something visceral and so important.
See, I wrote this short story. Like every short story I’ve written, I cranked it out like my fingers were on fire, and then immediately hated it when I was done. But I wrote it, so I had to do something with it. I edited it, and submitted it, and got rejected. Over and over, more than a few times. I put a very personal piece of me out into the universe and the universe kept saying “no thank you.”
The first rejection always stings. It washes away the the delusion that the story is so amazing that someone will buy it on the first try, a delusion my brain tries to convince me of every time I submit a story for the first time. Stupid brain. The subsequent rejections sting less, but feel heavier. Each one in the pile another weight on the scale towards likely failure, away from improbable success. That’s the kicker, though. There is no scale. There are no rules to this. Failure and success are always equally possible, no matter how many rejections you rack up.
Still, after a handful of rejections, I told myself this story wouldn’t sell. It was weird and complicated. It was too personal. Too female. Too ugly. Too other. I was ready to give up on it, let it collect figurative dust on my hard drive while I moved on to something better.
I sent the story out one more time, more as a final hurrah than anything else. I didn’t expect more than the “thanks, but no thanks” messages that fill my inbox. I let myself forget about it in the months after I submitted.
So I’m pretty sure I screamed when I opened up my email to see “Dear Ariane, we are delighted to let you know…”
My dog was very concerned, but in that moment I was so fucking happy.
Because this will be my second published story, and it’s more tangible than the first. One publication could be a fluke, a flash in the pan. Ariane, the one story wonder.
But two published stories means something. Two means everything.
And I have the check to prove it.
(If you’re curious about the story I’m writing about, it’ll be available in the upcoming issue of Room Magazine, out by the end of September. http://roommagazine.com/issues/migration )