Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Falling Down


Six weeks ago I was biking in Hilton Head with my family when I had trouble pedaling up a steep hill.  I put my foot on the ground, intending to dismount and push the bike up the hill.  I don’t remember much, but I felt more than heard the snap, crackle, pop in my ankle just before I went down, skinning my arm in the process.   I couldn’t move, much less stand.  I just knew a shard of bone was sticking out of my ankle as I lay there on the scorching pavement under the shade of palms waving in the wind, praying no one would come flying over the hill on their bike and run me over.  When Mark helped me to my feet, the shock kicked in and tingles rippled through my leg, replacing the shards of electric pain.  Blackness closed in around and nausea rose in my stomach and chest and I knew sitting was going to be a semi-permanent position for while. 

Level three sprain, the doctor called it.  I had completely torn the ligaments.  My ankle was swollen to three times its normal size, a thick fat sausage, black and blue and purple all over.  It was going to be a long time before I could walk without the help of crutches or the special boot they’d given me. 
And running was definitely (depressingly) out of the question for at least three months.   

Like running, writing is something that’s pretty much a part of who I am.  I put on my ear buds, listen to music, and run for miles, free and happy and listening to my characters tell me their stories.   They’re real, and I feel what they’re feeling.  But like that bicycle six weeks ago, a couple of rejections have knocked me down, telling me that my writing is passive, my characters are not engaging, my beginnings are weak, my worlds aren’t clear. 

(Sickening crack of ligaments tearing, crashing to the ground)

See, writers are used to rejection.  I certainly am.  When agents and publishers receive an average of fifteen hundred queries a week, rejection is almost a given.  We pick ourselves up and try again.  And again.  But these very specific ones left me on the ground, broken and unable to get up.  Confidence, like a body, can wane the older one gets, I suppose.  It takes longer to heal.

But, it does, surely if not slowly.  The light reveals itself around the darkness.  Aching throbs will probably always be in that joint, but at least my shoes fit now.  I have to wear a small brace but only sometimes hobble around like an extra from The Walking Dead, and running is, well, still not happening.  But, I can get up and walk around on my own, unlike that first day.

The rejection aches, too, but they let me know I tried; they told me what I may need to work on and yeah, even told me some good things about my work.  I saw these once the dust settled and eventually that Scarlet O’Hara “another day” attitude did kick in and that felt good.  And so this is me, pushing myself off the pavement, ready to go again.  I may not be hitting the pavement running like I want, but I’m up and I’m walking around. 

I’m probably never going to write as much as or at the level that I want, just like I can’t run at the level that I want right now.  I might never, but here’s the thing: I love it. 

Injuries and rejections don’t take that away. 

And so that’s why I’m still here, listening to my characters, trying to tell their stories the best I can.  

Eventually I’ll be running while listening to them, too!

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