Sorrow, Then Joy


I got my first official rejection letter in the mail last night. Like, the actual mail. The one with stamps and everything.

I submitted a hard copy of my book proposal a few weeks ago to an agent across the country. And when I sealed that envelope and dropped it into the outgoing mail, I felt a little swoop in my belly that told me I wouldn't be receiving the response I wanted.

But I was tired. So tired. Writing a book proposal, for me, was more draining than either of my novels. It was so personal, so intense. And to write about life means remembering life, remembering old rejections and old hurts alongside old joys. I loved writing the stories, but I had done as much as I could on the business part of it, the part that said, "I'm important! Accept me! I have an audience! See? Look at my Huffington Post articles!" So I printed and stapled and packaged up that proposal before I could stop to think about it again.

It was a strong piece of work. I didn't half-ass it. But I knew the proposal wasn't done, even when I handed it over to the USPS. I suppose I was waiting for someone to tell me what I already knew, and now they have. (I would have liked more specifics instead of just the standard form rejection but okay, fine.)

A few nights ago, I told my husband that I feel pretty aimless right now. I haven't worked on my book or any other writing project for months. I get up, take my daughter to school, work, run errands, volunteer, clean my house, pick my kid up from school, clean some more, work some more, feed the animals, feed my kid, read, watch Grey's Anatomy, avoid writing, cook, clean some more, talk to my husband, and go to bed. This is the gist of my life these days, and it is a life I have chosen for myself. I work from home and, like most of us, I never stop going. I'm a mother and a wife and a friend and leader and employee and we send our kid to a cooperative preschool, for God's sake, so there is very little downtime even when there's downtime. My mind flits about from one thing to the next like a hummingbird in the spring and though my days are full I have been walking around on autopilot since August. I am happy. I love my life. I love my child and my family and my home and my work.

But, like I said, I have been avoiding writing. And because I've been avoiding writing I have been avoiding living. When Jesus said He wanted to give us abundant life, I think a big part of what He meant was showing us how to live our gifts and revel in the joy they provide, both to us and to anyone else who might benefit from us refusing to be smaller than God created us to be.

I have been avoiding joy because joy is different than happiness. Because joy means sorrow first.

This is a writer's life. Sorrow, then joy. But always sorrow first.

I haven't wanted to ask God for sorrow. Who actually wants that? I certainly don't because OW and YUCK and HARD PASS but I also do because I need it. I need it if I'm going to write well. I need it if I'm going to produce a book that's meaningful. I need it if I'm going to live an abundant life that is more about offering what little I have to others than it is about being happy and content in the cocoon I've built around myself. Safe feels good for a season, but after a while, safe becomes hard and brittle. It loses all flexibility and threatens to shatter at the sight of coming storms.

I need rejection in order to move forward. I need sorrow in order to tell the truth. And joy will come, too, but only in the writing.

Sorrow.

Then joy.

Today, I invite them both.

No comments