Been feeling a bit discouraged lately about submitting my essays to various contests and publications, which would make sense if I was getting a pile of rejections. But I’m not. I sent one piece to one place and never heard back. Yet I always assume that, not only is a newspaper or magazine passing on my work, but the editor has passed my feeble effort around the office: “Hey guys, get a load of this! Hope she hasn’t quit her day job!” Faced with this (admittedly far-fetched) prospect, I decide to keep my work safely in my own computer. They can’t turn down what they never see, am I right?
But this week reminded me that, for those who are determined to succeed, setbacks are an inevitable part of the process.
On Thursday evening, I had the great pleasure of attending a concert with Julie, by the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center. I would have enjoyed the NY Phil had they been playing an orchestration of “Chopsticks,” but this was a dream program: Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto and Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony. I love Beethoven, but I ADORE Mahler. His sweeping compositions create a world of their own, a cascade of varied and brilliant musical ideas that somehow fit perfectly together. I recalled that Mahler had himself conducted the US premiere of this symphony, by this orchestra, in New York in 1909. What I had forgotten was the almost universal panning the piece had gotten from music critics when it was first performed in Europe. He never gave up, reworking it until it reached its final, triumphant form years later. Had Mahler pulled an Elise, the world would have forever been deprived of what has become a beloved masterwork.
In my own home, I am watching as my baby grandson is learning to crawl. Peter is young to be approaching this milestone, but that is certainly not stopping him from trying. His tireless efforts have yet to propel him much of anywhere. Again, if Peter took after his Nana, he would just be lying on his quilt, assuming that magically one day movement would happen. But he persists, with no frustrated tears—even when he ends up flat on his face, again. One day, quite soon, his efforts will pay off, and we will have another small man in motion around the house.
So what can I learn from a favorite composer and my darling grandbaby? Never give up! My little essays may be rejected for a while, but maybe not forever. The only true failure is not persevering.
It’s Sunday afternoon, and I am looking at several of my recent pieces which are languishing on my Mac. I think I’m going to send my literary babies out, today, and just see what happens. They may be rejected outright, but I can’t worry about that. There are so many publications out there, after all. May I keep trying, and have faith that my audience is somewhere out there too.