I’m writing in celebration of the lovely Lauren Gibaldi who releases her debut novel The Night We Said Yes on June 16th. I have been waiting for this book and I know it’s one you will want to read, so I hope you’ll check it out.
Lauren asked about a time I said ‘yes’ and it got me thinking about a lot of things. Dates, jobs, engagements and, then, this…
For a long time, I waited for someone else to say it first.
I waited for graduate schools to decide what kind of writer I was. A playwright. A screenwriter. A novelist. (For a few years, at Boston University, it seemed, a screenwriter I’d be…and yet…) I waited for sights-set-too-high literary magazines to say ‘yes’ to the stories piling up in my heart and in my hard-drive. They sent back rejections on printed slips sealed with ‘no’.
I waited because I thought a ‘yes’ held the weight of all my writerly worth.
In 2007 I signed up for a novel-writing workshop at The New School at the last minute. I ended up on a waiting list. I sat through the first class and, in the end, walked up to the professor:
What are the chances I’ll get in this class?
But I need this.
He stared me down, this pale, skinny thing, with hair in his eyes. It felt like a challenge. Like, if I gave him a good enough reason, maybe he’d find room for me. But it also felt like a statement. You don’t need this class, or any class, to be a writer. You know that.
Maybe I could have answered. Maybe I could have said what I felt, that I needed someone to let me in. To tell me it was okay to sit with stories, to weave words, to let go of whatever mess might sit inside me making sense of itself through tall-tales.
Can’t you just let me in? I asked.
And then it came, an answer I was accustomed to hearing, the inevitable no.
I walked away, out of the building, crossed the city, west to east, to the one room studio on 18th street with the blue couch and a window that sat on the street. A place for watching.
I was tired of waiting for everyone else to decide for me. Tired of standing outside of where I wanted to be. Between each no, stood my drumming yes. I wrote that night in secret. I told my stories in the dark, at a wobbly white desk, when the day was done, the real work finished, the work of dreaming begun.
In the years since, I still wait for yes. Sometimes, it comes through in an email from an agent or for a flash fiction story or a chapbook. More often, it is just out of reach, beyond the folds of maybe or if or next time or never. It sits far away from a not what I had hoped.
But I know my own hope. I have my own yes and it’s the only one I need.