By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer
Physically, I was driving in the sunshine to New Hampshire, looking forward to a pleasant visit with my brother and his family. Mentally, I was slogging through the cold, lonely, oozing muck of self-doubt.
When you write as a freelancer, rejection is part of the job. Book publishers and magazine editors turn away more manuscripts than they can accept. But I had just received two major rejections and a minor one. Emotionally, my creativity ship was foundering in gloom ocean.
And, sure enough, along came a bumper sticker that reinforced the current low level of my self-esteem.
Plastered crookedly onto the back of the dump truck in front of me, a white sticker with red ink showed a sketch of a hound dog and advised, “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.”
Good point, I thought. Forget about trying to run with the big dogs. Life is easier and safer on the porch. Stick with the day job. I imagined all those rejected hounds sprawled on the veranda, listening to their accepted brethren yowl and frolic in the fields.
Then, a tiny, questioning, mental porch puppy wobbled to her feet. She yipped, “Where do the big dogs come from, if all the little dogs say on the porch?”
And that rebellious puppy grew, and grew, and began to howl against bumper-sticker bromides and conventional wisdom. “Everything I need to know I did NOT learn in kindergarten. How can I get used to the heat if I stay out of the kitchen? Sometimes people SHOULD sweat the small stuff, and besides, it is NOT all small stuff. Maybe I’m okay and you’re okay, but what if we’re not? And chicken soup doesn’t cure anything, no matter how many for-the-soul books they write about it. And, furthermore, I do NOT intend to honk, even though I love Jesus!”
But this was getting me nowhere (except to New Hampshire). I stepped on the gas and passed that stupid truck.
I reflected more calmly.
Most the time, in spite of occasional rejection-induced gloomy spirits, I’m an optimist. I look on the bright side. I expect good things to happen. I count my blessings. And for most of my life, I’ve agreed with the verse that school children used to write in each other’s yearbooks: “As you travel down the road of life, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole.”
That’s me. Eye on the doughnut.
But that porch-puppy made me think.
I considered the oyster. When a grain of sand finds its way inside an oyster shell, it irritates the oyster. The oyster doesn’t think, “This thing is depressing and irritating as heck, but, oh well, it only bothers one tiny part of me. The rest of my feels pretty good, so I guess I’ll just look on the bright side and keep my eye on the doughnut.”
The oyster doesn’t think that. It gets busy and builds a sculpture around the sand: a pearl.
Consider Post-It notes. An inventive man who worked for 3-M sang in the church choir. He got tired of losing his place in his music book when his paper markers slid out. So he invented paper markers that don’t slide out.
The urge to make life better by creating something new doesn’t lie in a contented acceptance of what is, it lies in a restless inkling of what might be, but isn’t yet. Creativity doesn’t always lie in the doughnut. Sometimes it lies in the hole. And I’m pretty sure it doesn’t lie on the porch.