A Small Essay Victory

Picture of a green field with rolling hills. The sky is dark with storm clouds, but near the horizen, there is blue and pink and yellow. Emily P.G. Erickon's two young children run toward that horizen.

Writing is a craft and also a business. I am naturally attracted to the former and repelled by the latter. This would be just a matter of taste except for one important thing: For me, writing is all about connection. I write to connect the thoughts in my head to the outside world. I write to connect my words with the people who read them. Craft has something to do with making this connection, but not everything. The truth is that business has an awful lot to do with connecting readers to what is written.

I can’t say exactly when it was that I had this ah-ha moment, but I can say it was some time after Covid-19 took over the U.S. When the usual ways we connect took a necessary back seat to safety, being able to connect through writing became more critical. I knew it was time to get over my aversion. I needed to learn something about the business of writing.

One of the first things that I learned about the writing business is that you really do have to submit your pieces to publications. This was unfortunate news. I am a sensitive person, and any writer will tell you that when you submit your writing to publications, the result — especially at the beginning — is nearly always a rejection. Ooof.

The idea did not appeal to me. Who likes rejection? Besides, when I write, I usually work on an essay off and on for a week or two. This isn’t much in the scheme of things, but during that time, I live with the essay. I think of it when I shower, when I help my kids use the potty, when I close my eyes at night. I wasn’t sure I could handle giving all that intimate attention to something only to have a stranger glance at it and say, “Unfortunately…we have decided to pass.” Yikes. No thank you.

But I had to try. I wanted that connection. And you know what? Submitting stinks. I did get rejected, including with those exact words. I felt bad. Really bad. And then? The feeling passed. So I tucked in and submitted again. And got rejected again. I felt bad again. But(!) the taste wasn’t quite as bitter the second time.

As I grew more comfortable tolerating the discomfort of submitting my writing, I realized something important: real connection is always predicated on opening yourself up to someone else. It’s true that this openness makes you vulnerable to rejection. But it also makes you available to possibility.

I think I am getting better at all of it — the feelings and the skills — of the writing business. Progress is slow, which is to be expected, but today I am proud to share a small victory with you: my first piece for Motherwell, an online parenting publication that has published some big names, including Glennon Doyle. The piece is a micro-essay I wrote for their special series, What have you learned about yourself in quarantine?

I am grateful for the editors at Motherwell, who read my small essay and told me they “would be delighted to share it.” It was a kind thing for some strangers to say to this sensitive writer. I am thankful that they have helped to connect these thoughts in my head about quarantine lessons with the outside world.

From Suffocation to Swimming in Lockdown. When lockdown began, I was drowning in my children. They were everywhere with their need. Snacks. Screens. Screaming. All of it. They needed all of me. I was suffocating. Then I realized: that was exactly it. My children were water, and I was drowning in them. I needed to surface. So I did. I began to walk, alone. I began to read, real paper books. Even 10 minutes gave me oxygen. Gave me back to myself. I could swim.
Quarantine Lesson for Motherwell

Published by Emily P.G. Erickson

Emily P.G. Erickson is a freelance writer specializing in mental health and parenting. She has written for popular digital publications, including Everyday Health, Health, The New York Times, Parents, Romper, WIRED, and more. Emily is a professional member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ). Previously, Emily researched PTSD for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and earned a master's in psychology. You can find the latest from Emily at www.emilypgerickson.com.

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