In an article in the August issue of The Writer, Kerrie Flanagan comes up with a new rule that I had not heard but had been following for some time. She doesn’t worry about neatness, which is good in my world. She does say to surround yourself with art, photographs, and objects that are meaningful and inspire creativity.
I think she’s right, but I would add one more important item to the list. In this world where even the likes of Stephen King and Kate Dicamillo tell harrowing stories of rejection after rejection of their work, I think writers (and maybe people who find writing as exciting as I find spending an afternoon trying to get one small ball into eighteen different holes) should also be surrounded by things that make them feel good about themselves.
For those days when yet another “no” shows up in the mailbox or via email, I have things around my office to remind me it’s not all about that particular bit of writing.
• Atop my file cabinet to the right of my computer, I see my family of origin in a young picture of my parents when they were “courting,” Daddy’s second place domino trophy from a county harvest days contest, the country church I did for him in needlepoint, and a semi-current picture of the four McGee sisters.
• A shelf on the next wall holds a goodbye poem written by my vice-principal when I retired, a cross-stitch made by a parent of a student who struggled to learn that reads “This is a Positive Learning Area,” and a book my daughter gave me – If You Were a Writer by Joan Lowery Nixon.
• Wall three holds my bookcase sprinkled with family pictures – three children, their spouses, and ten grandchildren! On the top is a letter from Jessica Deen, a promising junior high writer, who wrote it as she finished her time with me.
• Wall four holds diplomas from Ole Miss, Incarnate Word University, and the Institute of Children’s Literature, but the smiles they bring are less than the copy of my story about Ezra Jack Keats from Highlights for Children framed as an appreciation gift from my local library and a picture of workers on a beam above Manhattan that recalls an inside joke with my sisters.
• Completing the circle back to the computer is a framed copy of my first fan letter for my story they published, thoughtfully passed along by Cricket Magazine. A full page, written in pencil by an eleven-year-old girl lauding the magazine, ends, “My favorite story in the last issue was ‘Rags and Riches’.”
The tour is completed with a faded poster given long ago by the same [and only] daughter of Snoopy typing away on top of his doghouse. The balloon bubble says, “It’s exciting when you’ve written something that you know is good” – a little reminder to find joy in the writing when the rejection pity party wants to take over.