I am coming to the end of a program in Seattle, this writing group at the stage of cobbling our chapters together, making outlines for the chapters still simmering in our heads, dusting off book proposals, and in my case, sending a few chapters out into the publishing void, hoping for feedback, a nod, and the ultimate goal, publication. There is still much to do. Today, after a hand-written rejection note arrived, I realized the small details make a huge difference: Someone took the time to pen a note to me, not just clip a form letter to my work.
I was feeling overwhelmed as this week unfolded, that my problems were like mountains– craggy, steep and snowy — perhaps impassible. Then other news began to leak in: A friend’s child has a severe swimming accident in France. A woman I adore loses the last of her hair, for the second time. Another woman friend had brain tumor surgery. Earth Day reminded me of a passionate young woman lost a year ago. My children are making life decisions. Then my piece was rejected.
But the small gesture of a hand-written note elevated the rejection to another level, believe it or not. The personal words conveyed acknowledgment. I posted this on our writing group Facebook page and fellow writers sent me notes of encouragement and applause. I realized from their notes that I have a tribe, people like me in classrooms and living rooms and coffee shops, aiming to set into words stories and thoughts both personal and universal. Their words give me the confidence I need to sit down again to my work.
Today I will write a dozen notes to friends I am thinking of — to congratulate them on birthdays and coming home and beautiful skin and special memorials and strength — writing on my blue note paper with a cheerful sparrow etched in the corner. And I will touch them as others have touched me, with small words, and remind them about their tribe that surrounds them near and far.
I am a tiny piece of all that is happening around me. My problems survivable. I don’t have to climb them alone. I re-read the rejection note, a small gesture with large importance, and drop it into my ‘rejection’ file. Pull on my hiking boots and pull the laces tight. I will go smell the lilacs blooming down the street, and pause to admire the poppy that unfurled yesterday.
To see the world in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
(William Blake, fragment from ‘Auguries of Innocence”)