Sunday, December 2, 2012

Rejection After Rejection

When I was at Syracuse, I had the pleasure of studying under Phil LaMarche.

While, in retrospect, it’s a little absurd, I think one of the reasons I enjoyed studying with Phil so much at the time was because I thought I could see myself in him. Five-to-ten years older than me and a long-time resident of Central New York, Phil seemed to share with me a similar aesthetic when it came to the written word. Better yet, he represented so much of where I wanted to be, teaching creative writing at a major university, an alum of one of the best MFA programs in the country, and, of course, awaiting the publication of his first novel by Random House at the end of the semester.

It didn’t seem like a long road for me to travel to get to where Phil stood, a living breathing example that my dreams were possible.

It turns out that road is pretty long. Five years later and the destination isn’t yet in sight.

Phil turned me on to Cormac McCarthy. He gave a draft of my novel an earnest read, and gave me the feedback I needed to hear at the time. But more than anything else, I expect I’ll always remember one key piece of advice about writing, and, indeed, about life, that Phil delivered to me via anecdote.

One time, I had a student ask me, “Do you think I have what it takes to make it as a writer?”

I asked him, “Are you going to keep writing and keep working hard, despite rejection after rejection after rejection? Despite disappointment? Despite the fact that no one wants to give you a chance?”

The student said, “Maybe.”

I said, “Then maybe you have what it takes.”

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