seen @ Alamo Drafthouse, Yonkers NY
Madeleine L'Engle almost gave up writing by age forty on account of all the rejections she kept receiving. The reality of rejection is something I've read about on a few writers blogs: how one has to accept the fact that no matter how spectacular you think your work is, the odds of you hitting a home run with it the first time at bat, or the tenth, are slim at best. Some writers tell you to embrace rejection as a fact of writing life, since it's happened to the best authors as well as the worst.
I haven't written enough to experience rejection to the same degree, partially because much of my work is self-published — including this blog, in a way. I know when I finish revising my novel and sending it out to authors, though (assuming I don't self-publish that too), I'll have to face that reality as well. I'm probably not ready for that, but who ever is?
L'Engle's book A Wrinkle in Time was rejected over thirty times. I cannot imagine what that must be like: to receive a litany of no's yet to keep going anyway. Actually, I take that back, I can imagine that: I suspect it's like going on blind date after blind date and never getting past that initial dinner-and-a-movie stage. You question your self-worth.
One of the wittiest and most heartfelt books about writing is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. She talks about what she calls "the myth of publication":
...Many nonwriters assume that publication is a thunderously joyous event in the writer's life, and it is certainly the biggest and brightest carrot dangling before the eyes of my students. They believe that if they themselves were to get published, their lives would change instantly, dramatically, and for the better. Their self-esteem would flourish, all self-doubt would be erased like a typo. Entire paragraphs and manuscripts of disappointment and rejection and lack of faith would be wiped out by one push of a psychic delete button and replaced by a quiet, tender sense of worth and belonging. Then they could wrap the world in flame.
But this is not exactly what happens. Or at any rate, this is not what it has been like for me.
L'Engle's path to publication is by no means unique, but it's a textbook example of how a writer needs (justified) faith in their work, even in this time where self-publishing your work is easier than before. My path is probably harder than many: I'm writing a sports novel, not exactly a popular genre — but it's what I want to do. I'll just have to suck up the inevitable rejections when the time comes. But I won't like it.
I never read Wrinkle as a kid. No particular reason; there were lots of books I never got around to in my childhood. Not sure how eight-year-old me would have taken to it, but I imagine the religious elements would've flown over my head — except I'm told there's a scene with Jesus, Buddha, Einstein and Gandhi all together, as a kind of spiritual Justice League.
That did not make the new film adaptation of Wrinkle, needless to say. While I thought it was good, it did have a touchy-feely vibe to it, and knowing of L'Engle's spiritual beliefs now, I can see why, even though much of the religious aspects were expunged for the film.
It reminded me, in part, of The NeverEnding Story. The nebulous force known only as the It (sans red balloons) is a lot like the Nothing, with similar effects — and love is the redemptive counterforce in the end. It's all very earnest, in its way, not that this is necessarily a bad thing.
The best line I read from Ava DuVernay about Wrinkle came when she was asked about opening a month after Black Panther, even though the two films have very little in common besides having black directors. She compared Panther to Michael Jackson's Thriller album and said she'd settle for being Prince's 1999 album, since they both came out in 1982. I thought that was funny. Still, if the reviews are any indication, she may have to settle for being the Rolling Stones' Still Life.
Once again I left my house well over three hours in advance to get to the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, and once again I just barely made it, only this time the trains were to blame. The train that took me into Manhattan totally bypassed the station in which I had to get off because something had happened there; the conductor, of course, didn't specify. I had to get out at the next stop and walk back down 57th Street to take the uptown train to the Boogie Down Bronx — but then that train was delayed two stops from the end of the line for 15-20 minutes due to "signal problems." Have I mentioned how effed up the subways are lately?
Madeleine L'Engle's granddaughters write her biography