the writing life (re: my gmail inbox)

Please do not respond to this email.

Dear Megan,

The decision on your application for admission to the University of Minnesota Graduate School has been posted. Please go to https://app.applyyourself.com to see your official decision letter. If you have misplaced your PIN or Password click on the same link and then follow the instructions for “Need to look up your PIN or Password? Try the automated search.” Do NOT use “Create Account” to get this information.

Please note that your online decision letter is your official letter. You will not receive a paper letter in addition. We would appreciate it if you would view your letter as soon as possible so that we know you have received it.

Sincerely,

The Graduate School Office of Admissions
University of Minnesota
One of the Top 13 universities in the USA

Well, you can probably guess where that link was headed. No? Well, it led to a page that led to another page, that led to a login screen, for which I had to search archived emails for my 9-digit login pin and password, which led me to another screen, where I download a pdf file that informed me that I had, in fact, not “been approved for admission to the University of Minnesota.”

Above this email in my Gmail inbox is a very nice email from Nancy Peacock. Nancy Peacock’s first novel, Life Without Water, was selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1998. And then she went back to her day job–cleaning houses. So, as I stare down quite a few rejections for MFA programs in creative nonfiction, I wonder still how one does this–how one is to be a writer. I found her book last week at the Pasadena Public Library–A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning, and Life. I seem to stumble upon books in the library just when I need them. She writes in the book,

All of us have a certain amount of work we have to do to keep our lives afloat and whatever work I choose to do, my writing life is there. Even with a room of my own, writing is not a separate enterprise. It is not a jewel I keep in a velvet box and take out only when conditions are perfect. Writing is more like the yellow rubber gloves I pull on every day. I need my gloves to keep my hands from getting too dry. And I need my writing to keep my life and my mind moist and supple.

Every writer has to work with what he or she has, and I can tell you that there is no such thing as a perfect writing life. There can be perfect writing days, but they are usually dots in the calendar of imperfect writing days. We all have to learn to work anyway, no matter what is going on around us.

Earning a living as a writer is really hard to do–duh. But, somehow reading the memiors of a wildly successful novelist who still cleaned houses for a living post-writing success takes some of the pressure off the task that is currently staring me down: Finding A Job. (Bloody hell. This again? I thought was done sending out applications.)

Perhaps I need a job that compliments writing, rather than one that is and of itself actually writing. Nancy likes solitude and order, so scrubbing floors in quiet homes worked for her, allowed her unconscious mind to unravel a coiled story. I so rarely feel the urge to write to writers, but Nancy seemed like such a lovely mix between agreeable and sarcastic, so I googled her and then I emailed her, rambling on in a cathartic way about MFA program rejections and living at home and moving out and job hunting.

Dear Megan,

Thank you for your uplifting note re: A Broom of One’s Own.  I’m so glad that you enjoyed it.  It’s a little bit insulting isn’t it, that writing is such hard work and then we have to go out and have other jobs as well.  All the same, I wouldn’t trade my working/writing life for anything.  Although I often wonder what I might have accomplished had I not had to work at all.  It’s possible that the answer is nothing!

Best of luck to you and your writing.  And may the home that you move to be nurturing and safe.  And affordable.

Nancy

Also sitting in my Gmail inbox–arrived yesterday–is an email from a certain editor of a certain large, national newspaper:

You just sold your hiking piece! It’ll probably run in May.

There is no such thing as the perfect writing life. It’s a lot of grinding, annoying work, a lot of scrubbing floors (if you will)–a lot of rejections–and some awesome shinny treasures that pop up when you least expect them.

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