This Year I Rewrite My Novel???Part XXIV, “To Hell with You!”

Nancy Jooyoun Kim
December 4, 2010
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I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, “To hell with you.” (Saul Bellow, NY Times)

I’m one of those people who feel rejected even before rejection.

It’s as if “pre-rejection” is the shape of my existence–particularly the parts that mean the most to me–my writing, my family, my friends.

If I apply some psychology to this, I could say that my mom didn’t hug me enough or maybe, when I cried as a baby, no one responded or, when they did, it was negative, abrasive, harsh.

But I don’t remember these things.

I’m glad I don’t.

The NY Times quoted Bellow saying the above in a 1985 article, “Feeling Rejected? Join Updike, Mailer, Oates...”

Apparently, it makes people feel better to hear about famous people getting rejected.

But the difference here, NY Times, is that Updike, Mailer, and Oates became UPDIKE, MAILER, and OATES.

They became famous and, most of us, will not. Through their genius (perhaps), their hard work (yes), they amongst other writer-sheep stood on their hind legs and walked bipedaly right into the hearts of many a reader and undergraduate syllabus.

Well, “to hell with you!”

But perhaps, when I say, “to hell with you,” what I really mean is: “to hell with you, the me that is so terrified that someone may listen and judge, may reject, may accept. TO HELL WITH THAT ME.”

Maybe I am most comfortable, for reasons both obvious and unobvious, with liminality.

According to Victor Turner, “all liminality must eventually dissolve, for it is a state of great intensity that cannot exist very long without some sort of structure to stabilize it…either the individual returns to the surrounding social structure…or else liminal communities develop their own internal social structure.”

Perhaps writing itself is the “liminal community.” Certainly, my novel has its own social structure. And the question is how does it join the outside world?

Because, that joining is at least half of why we do what we do, right? (I’m in love with this quote by Heather McHugh: “I began to write because I was too shy to talk, and too lonely not to send messages.”)

That’s right; hit “Send.”

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