Pick a Door, Any Door


There is a fear I have of submitting a manuscript to two places.


This fear is unfounded because it is hard enough to be selected by one lit publication, let alone two.


My fear is that I will commit to the first acceptance, and that the publication will not be as special as it would have been if I would have gone with the second acceptance. My fear is not knowing how to handle so much goddamn acceptance.


Realizing that I do indeed fear simultaneous submissions made me reflect upon the bigger picture, which is that I actually fear success.


Big success has been a rare sighting in my life. I am not native to that environment, and have often been (and have been taught to be) uncomfortable, proud, and suspicious when wandering in successful lands not my own. Success seems like a lot of work, a lot of upkeep, a lot of meeting people and making them happy. Success seems like you’ve picked. You’ve walked through a door, and will you be able to walk back out? And if you walk out, will there be another door? And will that door lead to a better room?


I once got turned away from a waitressing job because of the results of a personality test: “defiant, resistant to authority.” (Waitressing, in fact, is my personal hell. I tip well; servers are the seventh wonder of my world. I never lasted past a few months in a restaurant.) Perhaps my rebellious personality is to blame for my wishy-washiness. I can’t commit to one thing, let alone someone else’s one thing. Such first world problems, which is why I bury my existential grief in lots of pleasant distractions, like Orange is the New Black and Target.


I am a meaning-seeking brat and I feel guilty for it. Lots of people don’t have the luxury of meditating on the meaning of things, or at least not in a comfortable house with enough food in the kitchen and sinks stopped up with clean water to drink and bathe in. (The previous sentence certainly comes out of a person who is fearful of the badness of success.)


So, basically, I have many fears. Fear of deciding. Fear of not knowing how to handle or manage achievement. Fear I’m selfish for wanting more than I have, which is enough and often much more than enough. (I certainly am selfish; we all are, I suppose. How can we not be the still point of our own revolving earth, when we are so stubbornly stuck in these skin suits?)


I look around at all the writers and artists I admire. They could have hunkered down, hiding their love affairs with words and sounds and paint; they could have chosen careers that would seem safe to their families and friends. But the truth is nothing is safe, and nothing is less safe than letting that pilot light of a dream die. So they kept going. They played shows and edited manuscripts and were defiant and resistant to authority, and now I get to read their books and watch their movies and listen to their songs. And their pilot lights have grown bolder and now catch on mine. The blue flame says, You’re okay, kid.


There is a fear I have of submitting to two places: one place being my art, one place being the world. I am afraid to commit to the world because what if the better place is my art? And I am afraid to only submit to my art because what if it doesn’t work and the world will no longer claim me? What if we only have so many open doors, and once we walk through all of them, we’re stuck out in the limbo of the hallway for the rest of our skin suit days? What if we keep getting distracted by the cozy lighting and magnificent view behind somebody else’s door?


The message today, loud and ringing in my ears, was Don’t try to figure it out.


And this is why, because it is the eleventh month and autumn and a full moon, I have decided to take a month of figuring nothing out. Literally walking through no doors. Just kinda wandering the halls and looking around and not saying, as I am known to say, Ooooh! I want that one! (True story: I said this about my now-husband when I first laid eyes on him.)


Also, it’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and it would be SO GREAT to actually be able to play around with my first draft without agonizing over the logistics of ALLLLLL THE THINGS.


Success, guilt, ego, fear, ambition: see ya later alligators.  November is NO DOORS. No waffling. No indecision because no decision. Just love and attention and allowing and, maybe if I’m lucky, healing. Just being. And writing. And snuggling. And yoga-ing.


I’m letting myself out of this trap. Come with me.



PS. The image in this post is on an alley wall in Wilmington, North Carolina. I don’t know the name of the artist.


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