As 2016 approaches, I have begun to take stock of the year that was. 2015 was the year my heart was broken, a heartbreak that came suddenly and unexpectedly. The love of my life decided to go in another direction and leave me behind, a decision that was all the more devastating because I was happier than I had ever been.
I pored my heart out in an essay intended for the New York Times Modern Love column. It was part therapy, part revenge. It was as good, I thought, maybe even better than some of the essays I read there. I labored over it for days and finally directed it to the submission address and pushed send.
Months passed and I had actually forgotten about it when an e-mail message appeared. Thank you for your submission, but due to the volume of columns we receive, we are unable to publish yours was the gist of the message. Oddly enough, I wasn't disappointed because this would be my first formal rejection notice. Only 49 more to go if my writer friends were correct, advising that one should expect at least 50 rejections before publication.
I have been a journeyman writer for years, crafting articles for corporate publications, press releases and advertising copy. But this was something different. Now, I was writing from the heart and to be independently published was the goal. It meant what I had to say mattered.
2015 was also the year I stopped procrastinating about my passion for writing. For years, I had been crafting a memoir in my head. The first paragraph emerged almost ten years ago. Years passed before I tapped it out on my computer, and then the first chapter quickly followed. There it sat, one lonely chapter with an immobilized author fearful of bringing it to the world. Work, relationships, ups and downs were always an excuse not to keep going. But the real reason was the fear of not being good enough.
When the aforementioned broken heart pushed me to seek distraction, I signed up for a writing seminar in Spain. It was there, in the company of other writers, that the fire was rekindled. Spending the days learning and talking about writing, and putting words to paper convinced me I was not so bad. Perhaps not great, but as our instructor advised, just write. It doesn't matter if it is not great, just keep at it and revise, revise, revise.
On my return home, I experienced an explosion of creativity, producing nine chapters. Then I hit a wall. I began reading anything I could find about writers and writing, their habits, their long struggles before being published. I pored over the New York Times Book Review, trying to glean what made a successful writer and constituted a successful book.
And then there is the actual business of book publishing. Some say the memoir is dead; been done too much. Ok, then I'll call it fiction. Others say sex sells. Well 50 Shades of Gray proved that, but apart from Chapter 8, there was nothing terribly sexy about it. Vampires, you've got to write about vampires others told me. Ann Rice did that about as well as it could possibly be done and what do I know about vampires anyway.
It was then that I realized I was sitting on a gold mine. My grandmother, who died more than 30 years ago, left a journal about her life in Ukraine at the turn of the 20th century. She wrote about how the outbreak of the Russian Civil War forced her to leave her home, her escape from Ukraine through Eastern Europe, her arrival at Ellis Island, and her life in America. I felt a responsibility to share her story with others. But more than that, it was the inspiration to get me writing.
A negative turn of events only has meaning if you do something with it. Had I not fallen in love, I wouldn't have ended up with a broken heart. And if not for a broken heart, I would never have gone on a writing retreat to Spain. And if not for the writing retreat, well, you get the picture.
So, I have written about a third of the book. Writing, rewriting and revising lay ahead. Then, the search for an agent, a publisher, and a book launch party. Believe it and it will happen they say. New York Times Book Review, here I come. And as for Modern Love, maybe they'll consider my melancholy love story once I'm a published author. Or maybe, just maybe, they'll read this post and reconsider.