...I try to make sure they understand that writing, and even getting good at it, and having books and stories and articles published, will not open the doors that most of them hope for. It will not make them well. It will not give them the feeling that the world has finally validated their parking tickets, that they have in fact finally arrived.All this is true. By the time each of my essays was published I was several months or even years removed from the day-to-day of wrestling with its structure and diction and imagery. The journals arrived and I felt happy to see them but a little distant. It's like running into old work friends from a particularly all-consuming job long after we've all moved on to other companies: the fondness remains, but the intensity has drained away. I find this leaves me with a much clearer view of my essays' sins and virtues, but no desire to revisit them. Actually, I feel positively grateful not to have to work on them anymore.
Acceptance, however, is another matter entirely. The thrill of a total stranger—someone not related to me by blood or marriage or friendship or the fact that she is in my writing group and has read fifteen drafts of an essay and wants nothing so much as to never to see it again—saying she likes my writing enough to publish it does not pall. I've gotten form letter acceptances and I've received personal emails that refer to my "fine work" or say they are "charmed" by a humorous essay. And every time, while I don't think the world has validated my parking ticket, I do feel like I got a gold star pasted on my forehead for the afternoon. It's not a durable or lasting thrill, and it doesn't help at all with the next day's work. But as an occasional shot of encouragement in what is a sometimes a lonely activity, it's more than enough.