My morning writing sessions have been going pretty well this week. It’s certainly much easier to focus when Riley crawls into my lap and sleeps. Before, I had to keep him in the corner of my eye at all times, since I was never really sure whether his whimpers meant that he needed water, wanted to play, or was five seconds away from peeing on the carpet.
But then again, his adorable snuggly-ness compels me to hug and kiss and pet him a lot, which somewhat reduces my productivity. I guess you win some, you lose some.
Speaking of which… A few months ago, I sent one of my stories to Junot Diaz, the fiction editor at the Boston Review whose first novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has been quite the success both with critics and the public. He responded personally, which is wonderful and rare, and one of his comments was that my story was “strong but young.” (See the win-some-lose-some connection there?)
I took this as a compliment, even though he wasn’t interested in publishing the piece. Recently I wondered, What would it take to get someone like him to read my work and think it was just strong, no buts? So, several months delayed, I emailed him to ask the question. Essentially, he said, you just have to write more, and he apologized for not being able to offer anything more precise.
Maybe I’m completely nuts and totally hearing what I want to hear — or maybe I’m just too used to Simon Cowell’s backhanded counsel on American Idol — but I think both his responses were encouraging. He didn’t say, “You stink, go find a real job.” (And if he had, I’d have to confess that I already have one, and maybe that’s part of why I stink.) No, he said, Keep at it. This is strong, but young. Like a sapling that will grow into an oak. Or an ocean breeze that will turn into a hurricane. Or a little elephant that will become a really big one.
So keep at it I will. And someday I will be that tree, that hurricane, that really big elephant. I can only hope that when I do, I’ll still have an adorable snuggly puppy sleeping in my lap.