The title of this post was taken from the chorus of R.E.M.’s “Strange Currencies.” The song has nothing to do with writing, but taken out of context could definitely apply to writing:
Today, I read Andi Cumbo-Floyd’s post, “What I Want My Words to Do to You” and it gave me life. In her post, she talks about what drives her to write and to share her writing. She points out that she wants her writing to reach out to readers. Even though fame and fortune might call (and will not be turned away), Cumbo-Floyd says her purpose is to move readers the way she has been moved by others’ writing. She ends her post by saying,
Because it is the stories that matter, not me. Never me. The stories. The way they twist inside us and help us know.
This post came at a good time for me. The past few weeks I’ve been trying to immerse myself in writing again. Low stakes, no pressure. Just writing and thinking. (I should probably add “reading” in there too, but I feel like I can only work on one thing at a time.) Like I mentioned in “Gimme a Break,” I had been trying to pitch article ideas/essays to several outlets in addition to one academic journal article, and I struck out in outstanding fashion. I got a lot of “this is interesting, but…” emails. Rejection is part of the gig of trying to become a published writer, right? I was trying to roll with the punches. But when I received two rejections back to back (during a week that had its rough patches in general), I felt down, flat on my ass. Knock out.
I remember checking my email one day before class. I was standing at the podium, in front of the classroom, getting ready to teach that evening’s lesson. The students were trickling in, and I was setting up my area. There was still time before 5:30 pm, so I opened my email out of habit and there it was: Rejection #2. Suddenly, I felt lightheaded and couldn’t even think straight. It was time to teach, and I couldn’t even string two sentences together. I wanted to sit down by myself and tell the students to go away. But I had a class to teach.
I admit it: I was looking for some sort of validation in those pitches. I was also looking for employment, considering I had switched from full-time employment to freelance status when I moved to Houston. But mostly validation. (I have had much better luck as an editor than as a writer, for whatever that’s worth.) So the rejections felt personal, even if I know deep down they are not. So I retreated into myself and stopped trying.
Last week I wondered out loud, in tears, “what do I do with the writing?” In other words, why should I write if no one will pay me to write? If editors don’t think my work is good enough for me to get paid? I had a crisis of sorts. I thought my writing was good enough. Was I kidding myself? My husband, the rational one in this scenario, asked me “do you like writing?” I said yes. He reminded me that if I enjoyed writing, maybe that’s enough for now; if I ever grew to dislike writing, I should walk away.
I had a good long ugly cry on the couch. And then I calmed down.
Cumbo-Floyd’s post today shone a little bit of light on the feelings I’ve had the last few weeks. All this time, I wasn’t writing for the money. I have always wrote (outside of the projects for school) because to me it feels like the right thing to do. There’s no other way I express myself better than writing. The world doesn’t make sense to me if I can’t write my way through life. And maybe that’s enough for now.
These words, you will be mine.