Phases of Submission
by Isabel Gardner
Seated at my computer, my heart raced, finger danced on and off the mouse until even my apprehensions got tired and collapsed. I pressed ‘submit’, letting go of my manuscript, like the hand of a child, to an uncertain fate.
There’s time before the publisher’s decision, time to imagine the familiar thrill of acceptance: a shooting star zooming through me. Or rejection threatening my survival, breeding doubts that I’m not good enough and the only fame I’ll ever know after years of writing is for my ASC Syndrome and visits to the chiropractor for adjustments.
“Writers are well-known for getting the Atlas Subluxation Complex,” the doctor said, twisting my waist, leaning me back.
“From trying to take the world upon ourselves?” I half joked, letting his hands guide me down on to the stationary table, face up.
He grinned, probing my neck. “But when the spine is subjected to stress, like hours of sitting, it becomes misaligned. That causes your lower back pain and disc damage from postural distortion.”
“From excessive arching of the lower back. Have I recommended Sunbeam’s 731-500 heating pad? Patients say it helps. Number one best seller on Amazon!”
“Really?” My voice dropped. “A best seller?” I felt a pang of envy for a heating pad.
He breathed deeply, rolling me on my side, knee to my chest and pulling me toward his groin. I loved the cushiony feel of his belly. Sometimes I’d swear he had a hard on. We’d both avoid eye contact then. “Don’t work yourself to the bone,” he warned.
My back made a cracking sound. “Don’t worry. I will.” I groaned, picturing an old piano I once saw. Some of the ivory key tops (illegal now) broken off down to the wood. Probably, I’d supposed, from years of artists hammering out their lines because music, creation isn’t as easy as Genesis makes it sound.
Publishing can cause stress too. But not on my spine. I work for the rewards and luster of being in print but fear its shadow when stories of mine challenge comforting beliefs, open secrets and wounds, and might disturb the living if they think they recognize themselves in a character of mine. I have a phobia of being banished by offended readers, as Ovid was to the cool winds of the Black Sea, or damned like the writers in Dante’s First Circle of Hell to a place of sorrow.
Being a great writer often takes great courage. I have parchment thin skin. But as my Russian Blue cat curls into himself like a Siberian hand muff on my belly, I imagine even with his rich coat he still feels the chill of this winter and no matter how thick anyone’s skin the cold still gets in.
The weeks go by. I check my email, my breathing quickens, scrolling for the publisher’s decision. No reply—yet. For a strange moment, the nothingness soothes me. Lying back, I sink my lumbar region into the best selling heating pad, submitting to its plush embrace and to letting my stories go live their own lives.
◊ ◊ ◊
The author is also a published poet and a professional love-letter writer featured on WKBW-TV, in The Buffalo News, and most recently received a call of interest about her writing business from an American broadcast television network. She has helped many clients bring out the words waiting in their hearts with her own sensitivity to love’s innumerable aspects and ever-fluctuating scales. In October 2015, her first play (a comedy) about the “science” of romance was given a staged reading, filling an area literary center with waves of disorderly laughter.