Sometimes, when I really stop to think about it, I am convinced that we writers are certifiable. We put ourselves out there; our hearts and souls and words sliced open and served up to the entire world. We optimistically send our work out over and over again, only to be hit in the face with the cold reality of the publishing world. Sometimes, when it gets to be too much, we quit, vowing to never set foot in the hallways of submission-land again. But soon enough, the submission amnesia kicks in and we are back at it, somehow forgetting the pain and frustration, and throwing ourselves into the process once again. How does this work? Why do we do it? Let me attempt to explain…
I am fully aware that as a California girl, I am supposed to love the beach. I know that I should be wooed by the warm grandeur of The Pacific Ocean, as it beckons to me with its siren’s song of relaxation, fun, and infinite beauty. And there was a time in my college years, where I lived a short 10 minutes from Pismo Beach that I felt those things. My roommates and I could grab a towel and be on our way in the blink of an eye. Sometimes we would even bring a textbook or two, with the ridiculous notion that we might squeeze in some studying as we lounged on the sand. Whether for BBQs and bonfires, or just to nestle down in the toasty sand for an afternoon nap, the beach was a place where we would arrive in high spirits, and reluctantly leave, counting the moments until we could return once again.
And then I had kids.
Let’s discuss babies and the beach for a moment, shall we? We arrive with our car bursting full of floaties and sand buckets and multi-colored bouncy balls, all of which I pile onto my husband with the enthusiastic exclamation, “We’re at the beach! It’s FUN!” None of these items will ever get used, of course, since…you know…we brought a BABY to the beach. But we don’t know this, not yet, because we still believe that we have brought our child here to EXPERIENCE the beach, and are certain she will take to the water like Ariel herself. But what we forgot to factor in is that our infant is terrified of loud noises and sudden movements, both of which are pretty much the definition of waves. So after fleeing from the water to stop the incessant screaming of our child, we decide, “So what? So we won’t go in the water. There are plenty of other things to do at the beach!”
Except that the rest of the beach is sand. And when we put our baby down in the sand, she arches her back and thrashes around, looking much more like Flounder than Ariel. She doesn’t like the way it feels, how it moves when she tries to stand on it, the way it seeps into every crack and crevice. And it really is shocking that sand is able to penetrate the Fort-Knox-like barriers we created when we wrestled our squirmy infant into that long-sleeved rash guard and wide brimmed hat, in an effort to shield her from the evils of the sun. Perhaps we even try to lather her in sunscreen while on the sand, which results in more pathetic whimpers as the person next to us decides to shake out their towel, and the flying grains stick to her legs like sand art.
After we are finally able to get her situated in a makeshift tower crafted out of beach towels, we realize that she needs a diaper change. We lay her down and somehow, despite her refusal to even touch the sand, her diaper is full of it. Pampers doesn’t make a wipe strong enough. There is some patting and some dabbing, and we call it good enough and wrap her back up. In the meantime, darling child has decided maybe the sand isn’t so bad after all, and maybe it just might make a delicious snack.
So, let’s recap. Screams of fear, sand in back, tasty snack. You getting the picture?
Fast-forward a few years. Kids are older, yes, but now there are four of them. We live in the Central Valley of California now, so trips to the beach are less frequent. But when we do go, it requires a fairly large-scale logistical plan. The issue of sand is a huge one. There will always be one child who complains of the way the sand feels, and will cry when it finds its way into the wrong places. And the clean-up process that takes place before getting back into the car resembles that of a bio-weapon decontamination chamber. Children protest as you strip them down in the beach parking lot, reassuring them that yes, everyone gets naked here, while husband yells, “Brush it off! Hose them down! Shake it out! “
So why, then, you may be asking, do you put yourselves through this voluntary torture?
There is a joy that radiates from our children as they play chase with the waves, dare the surf to catch them, roar back at the breakwater, and giggle as it nibbles their toes.
In the midst of JOY, it is possible to forget every annoying thing that built up to that moment. In the midst of JOY, we are willing to make whatever sacrifices necessary to get there again. In the midst of JOY, we find ourselves connected to something bigger than ourselves.
JOY makes everything worth it. It is the pursuit of this JOY that fuels submission amnesia.
The JOY of hearing back from an editor or agent.
The JOY of seeing your words in print…of holding a book, your dream, in your hands.
The JOY of an actual person reading your heart, your soul, your words, and feeling connected to something bigger than themselves.
So, we hose ourselves off and head out into the trenches once again.
We snuggle up with our submission amnesia, its warm embrace persuading us to not give up. Because no amount of sand in our shorts will stop us from chasing that JOY.