One time I was asked to write a book review. I was told that I could just send in a draft and we’d talk about it. That I didn’t need to worry. I was new, they’d help me out. But I was naive and I interpreted “draft” literally. Never, under any circumstances, does an individual asking to “see a draft” actually want to see one.
Well so a month later, one sultry night in a Roman laundromat with wifi, I checked my email and found that my draft, my review, my chance at something slightly bigger than what I’d been used to, had been rejected. I was humiliated. I left the laundromat in tears and tried to refuse to eat dinner because I am so petulant. But, the language used in the rejection was only this side of excoriating, and I still get the shakes and the quivers and the extreme nausea whenever it comes to mind, which is more often than I’d like.
I’ve tried writing about all of that to get it out of my head. I’ve tried attributing nefarious motives to the individual who’d solicited the review in the first place. You see, I had written a (not entirely positive) review of his first book on an MFA blog. Maybe I was stupid for thinking he was a bigger person than he really was. Actually, when I think about it now, his book was (to borrow a phrase from the negative review of my review) “shot through” with smallness of mind. It deserved a worse review than the one I had written.
On the other hand, it’s far, far, faaaar more likely that he is a fair and generous person, and I am merely paranoid.
Yea verily, life would be fine if my angst terminated in paranoia, but it doesn’t. Now I think, “God, I just shouldn’t bother with book reviews.” When a book is bad, I take it personally. It galls me to read a bad book, especially a bad “literary” book, of which there are entirely too many. Fine, so I shouldn’t bother with book reviews. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, as they say. I should work on my own writing. And I do. But I have this problem now where the thought of writing any nonfiction fills me with dread, and the thought of being solicited for anything ever gives me performance anxiety. How incredibly stupid, right? It’s not like anyone’s asking me to write anything anyway. But someone might one day, and what will I do then?
Really though, the worst thing is that when I think about myself, I like to think I’m so gritty. I don’t need anyone. I don’t need affirmation. I can continue working, keep writing because I’m so self-reliant, strong, and possessed of a grossly inflated estimation of my own abilities and genius. But I am not a genius. See how I have failed! And I obviously can’t be self-reliant or strong either, if I can’t even get over slight misstep from three years ago. How will I ever get back on track. So much is foolishness, and so much is wasted time.