As poet Wesley McNair braved rejections, his mentor Donald Hall comforted him with these observations:
“These feelings simply do not end! Believe me I am sympathetic with your feelings, but let me tell you that when you have published a book–which you will–nothing will happen: or at least it will seem that nothing has happened. And this would be true whether it were published by New Rivers or Atheneum. Even if something happens, then you realize that the “something” is truly nothing. And after you have published eight books of poems, you are still convinced that no one has read you, and that probably you are no good anyway. Or at least you are convinced of that frequently. I have been going through quite a bad patch, in my feelings about my own ability, my past work, and certainly my present work.
“There is only one place, or one moment, in which one finds happiness, and it is always momentary–because that is the moment of the actual writing, and of course that is not always true.
“So I do two things: I assure you that you will publish; and I tell you that it will not make any difference! But I do have a third thing to say: it makes a difference to me!”
If we hang all our hopes on any dream as the condition for our happiness, naturally, we’ll be disappointed. But it is possible to take joy in the process, the learning, the growth, these moments of creation.
I loved this line: “It makes a difference to me!” What a gift–when any of us has someone, at least one person, for whom it makes a difference.
Here’s Wesley McNair speaking about the poets’ correspondence on the United States Artists site, where you can fund artistic projects you’re excited about, or request funding for one of your own!