So here’s the thing folks: I’m from California, and this means I can do not one, but two different Tarot card spreads (anyone reading this from Los or San or Santa-something is probably shaking their heads right now and saying, “OMG, what a novice!”) I know my birth chart inside out and the healing properties of at least a couple of gemstones. That said, I’m still definitely sceptical of anything that seems too woo-woo new age-y, and always have been.
In other words, it wasn’t a given that I would have gone to that psychic all those years ago.
Actually, the psychic wasn’t in California; he was in Portland, Oregon where my sister was living at the time. She had gone to see him on a lark and told me she’d thought I’d like him too. “I mean, it’s not like he’s a psychic psychic (i.e. turbans and crystal balls and tall dark strangers). He’s really just a regular guy who was working as a real estate agent when he realized he had this gift.” His gift, of course, was the (professed) ability to see into the future.
And, especially at the time, the future was definitely something I had a lot of questions about.
I had recently been kicked out of my voice teacher’s studio (I write about that experience here) and decided I was going to move to Berlin for a while. Although I wanted to go to Berlin more than anything, it also meant dealing with my Berliner boyfriend, and we had a very volatile relationship. A few days before I headed to Portland, my boyfriend was supposed to come out and visit me. But I’d asked him to cancel the trip so that I could get my head straight first and figure things out. He wasn’t happy, but he did as I asked.
Anyway, when I went to go see the average Joe psychic, I asked him if he thought I should go to Berlin, how I should deal with my Berliner boyfriend, who I loved but fought with so damn much, and where I should go from here with singing. That’s what I asked, and nothing more.
The psychic then went into his “studio”, which involved him closing his eyes and breathing deeply for about ten minutes. When he opened his eyes again he told me I should definitely go to Berlin. He told me things would work out with my boyfriend and that we would get married (Yeah, right buddy, I thought at the time. But of course, we did end up getting married, although the marriage only lasted three years, and they were mostly not good years. I guess even psychics don’t know everything.)
As for my other question, he said he couldn’t really see me doing anything with singing, at least not on a professional level. “But I have news for your,” he said. “You’re a writer.”
He told me a lot of writers are drawn to him for some reason, although some of them are wannabe writers. But I was the real deal, and someday might even be well-known.
This really surprised me because I hadn’t said a single word about writing to him. I did write—I had been writing since my mid-teens—and I took it seriously. But, when people asked me what I did, I always said “I’m a singer.” I did this partly because I was a music major and singing was my thing, and partly because of boys. If I was at a party and I told some cute guy, “I’m a writer”, one of two things usually happened. If he wasn’t a writerly type, me being a writer seemed to either not be interesting or slightly intimidating. If he was a writerly type, nine times out of ten he’d become know-it-all-y, trying hard to one up me at every turn, as though the world could only afford to have one writer, and that writer was obviously him, not me. But if told a guy I was a singer, writerly or no, he’d always sit up and say, “A singer? A singer. Tell me more!” while bouncing in his chair. The lesson I learned here? I’m a singer=sexy and intriguing. I’m a writer=boring, somewhat scary, and/or competition to be instantly crushed. Since I liked cute boys at parties and other places, I chose to claim I was the first. Such is the folly of youth.
But, let’s get back to the psychic. What he said to me was, “You’re a writer and you’re the real thing and what you do best is write quirky, funny stuff that gets people to think. Does that resonate with you at all?”
Me: “Well, I have been working on a poem featuring the classifieds ads of different animals looking for love.”
Psychic: (laughs) “Yes, exactly. Keep with that spirit. Play it up, even. You’re on the right track.”
He told me he couldn’t say when my success as a writer would happen, because psychics are very bad at time lines, which seemed like a bit of cop out, but who knows?
Anyway, the rest is history. I moved to Berlin, got married and divorced, got married again, stayed married and had two kids. I started writing more seriously than I had before, completely ignoring the psychics advice because I was now a Writer, which meant my writing should be dark and intense and meaningful and mostly way too depressing to actually read.
When I started writing again after my six year break (more on that here) some of the humor and playfulness started to come back in. Then, last year I discovered George Saunders who made me realize stories can be hilarious and bizarre and satirical and somewhat mean-spirited, but still have emotional depth. This inspired me so much I was able to let my writing get even weirder. The last two stories I wrote definitely entered into crazy town.
Is it working? I’m not sure. The stories I wrote that had only a touch of wackiness often got rejection letters like this:
Thanks for sending us your story, “A Most Distinguished Feast”. Although we unfortunately cannot publish it at this time, we hope you will continue to send us more work in the future.
The editors of the Frogtown Review, Delaware’s littlest little literary magazine
But since I’ve taken the plunge into quirky crazy town, I’ve been getting rejections letters more like this:
Thanks for sending us your story, “Sucks to be you, Blueberry.” After careful deliberation we have decided this story is not for us. Good luck placing it somewhere else.
The editors of the Frogtown Review, Delaware’s littlest little literary magazine who will still not be publishing the likes of you
Does this mean the stories aren’t working or that I’m sending them to the wrong places? I don’t know.
But I do know the clock is ticking…
I always read things like, (Literary) writers can be discovered and get their start at any age! When I read such things I think, oh please, get real. If this is true, why is nearly every debut (literary) writer I’ve ever seen between 27 and 32, mostly thin and always beautiful? Yesterday, I finally came across a blog that wasn’t all “ra-ra-ra you can do it, old one!”on this subject. I’m paraphrasing here, but basically what the article said was, sure, older writers do have a chance. However, publishers prefer to work with writers who have a strong following on social media. They also generally like to work with younger writers because they know this is a person they can expect good work from for a long time.
From a business perspective I thought, sure, that makes sense. If you’re going to buy a race horse, you wouldn’t choose one who’s a few shakes away from the glue factory no matter how fast they are now.
From a me perspective I thought, oh shit, I’m fucked.
I have 35 followers on my Facebook page, but about fifteen of those are friends and family. I wrote an article in honor of the Holi festival last year, which I posted on the page. A lot of people from India found the article and wished me Happy, Happy Holi, and around ten of them even liked my page. (I don’t know if they threw any colored powder in my honor, but if they did, I hope it was canary yellow and electric blue). That leaves around ten followers who are unaccounted for, but they’re probably all bots.
As for other social media, I hate Twitter, Instagram, schminstagram. I do sometimes write on this blog, but I’m pretty sure no one actually reads it and, no, I’m not interested in learning strategies to increase my readership.
No one seems to want to publish my stories, my novel is currently at a standstill, and I’m forty fucking four years old which, from a publisher’s stand point, probably means I’m almost out to pasture.
So what’s a girl to do?
Pretty much the same as I’ve done for years. Follow my impulses even if they take me to strange places I don’t entirely understand. Get feedback from people I trust. Write, edit and read like a fiend.
The way I see it, all this has two possible outcomes. If I continue to persist and write what I want and someday become well-known like the psychic said I would all those years ago, then it will be like, Look at that! Rebeccah stuck with it and never sold out! Kudos to her! She’s an inspiration!
But if I continue to get nowhere, the few who know will say, Look at that! Rebeccah never grew up or got a real job! She’s a person who believes in psychics, a dreamer who insisted on chasing rainbows when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! Sad, so very sad!
Well folks, if I’m going to continue writing stories and tossing them into a well of Rebeccah-who?, they may as well be stories I like rather than ones I’m writing in an attempt to please. In other words, I’ll continue to stay as stubborn as fuck. The worst that could happen is that I continue to fail and, hey, failing, at least I’m pretty darn good at that.