Summer vacation. Just those two words elicit different reactions from your perspective. To an elementary school student, those words mean freedom from schoolwork and an invitation to sleep late. To a teacher, those words mean freedom from students and a couple of months of downtime or a different job. To a parent, those words mean freedom from agendas (if you live in a school district like ours that requires a parent to sign them nightly or the student gets in trouble) and an invitation to try to figure out ways to keep your child active without breaking the bank or breaking your patience.
As a write-at-home mom of four all still living at home, summer vacation is a mixed bag. I’m enjoying the last few years before Kath goes to college. Kath and MJ are both old enough to have figured out the wonderful joys of sleeping in while Cupcake and Chunk still rise with the sun. For the four of them, summer is a relaxing time filled with summer fun: vacation, fireworks, swimming, hose fights, and video games. For me, it’s a time when I can enjoy them without a constant schedule of planned events occupying every minute of the day. But it’s also a time when I can’t adhere to my school calendar year time of writing while they are in school. So I’ve been squeezing in time to write wherever I can find two minutes to think. But sometimes when I least expect it, something happens to teach me a lesson about my writing career.
A couple of days ago, MJ was away at a Boy Scout event. Kath, Cupcake, Chunk and I headed to a local mall where a preschool play area beckoned. I figured if Kath is technically old enough to drive (although she legally cannot because she only has her learner’s permit), she was old enough to shop with her cell phone at her side and reporting back to Mom every twenty minutes. Cupcake, Chunk and I headed to the play area ready to run and play on different preschool-size soft plastic ambulances, fire trucks and bridges. One problem: every other parent around seemed to have the same idea. Although the mall posts a maximum height for playing, many parents ignored the height limit and allowed their older children to run in the same area, free from the heat, humidity and smog of the outside.
Within minutes, Cupcake ran over to me with her lip quivering and tears welling at the corner of her eye. When she reached me, she went into full crying mode. Someone had stepped on her hand on the bridge. After cuddles and a couple of Mommy kisses, Cupcake went off to brave the world again with some admonition to stay away from the bigger kids who might run into her.
Some more minutes elapsed. I read a page of my book and then would look up to find Cupcake and Chunk and assure myself they were hopefully being nice to the kids around them. Then Cupcake headed towards me again, lower lip jutting out. I held out my arms and she ran into them. A big kid bumped into her shoulder and it hurt. After cuddles and some more Mommy kisses, Cupcake returned to play and started chasing Chunk.
Of course, before I read another page, Cupcake came over in full crying mode. One of the big kids kicked her chin. A red mark showed that she had indeed come in contact with someone’s foot. I cuddled her and tried to figure out how to get Chunk to put his shoes back on so we could leave. Instead, Cupcake dried her tears and forged right back into the melee. I blinked. She wanted to keep going back. I put away my book and watched her. One more incident and we’d leave.
A little girl walked over to Cupcake, an Aurora doll in one hand and a Maleficent doll in the other. She asked if Cupcake wanted to play with her. Cupcake nodded, and the little girl handed her Maleficent. They headed under the bridge with the little girl’s arm around my daughter. I watched as Cupcake played with Maleficent, laughing with the other little girl.
As a “pre-published” author, I’ve had rejections. I’ve had my share of kick to the chins, but sitting on that bench while I watched my daughter, I had a feeling of hope. No matter how many times my work gets rejected, I’ll keep writing. When I keep writing and editing and seeking ways to get better at my craft, I’ll keep putting my writing out there. To my critique partners. To judges. To editors and agents. Just as Cupcake went through some rough moments before making a friend, I’ll go through some rough patches before getting published. But she stayed at that play area. She didn’t want to leave. I’ll keep writing. I have too many stories and characters that I need to write. My little girl ended up teaching me something that day. The power of perseverance. The power of getting up and sticking with doing something you love after a kick in the chin. The power of hope.
What about you? What spurs you on after a rejection? For you writers out there, what kept you on the writing path after rejections? For others, what helped you after a tough kick to the chin? Let me know.