From: Brantley Newton
You’ve probably noticed that we haven’t updated The Story in the Frame in over 10 months. There are hundreds of small reasons why we’ve let the blog collect dust, and on my worst days, I don’t feel like any of those reasons are particularly good. Nevertheless, I still get notifications that people are checking the Facebook page and viewing the blog and it makes me feel even worse for neglecting it. The Story in the Frame is easily the best writing project that I’ve ever taken part in. To anyone still out there, I owe you a giant apology and at least some sort of explanation.
Do you ever have a week where it feels like life is happening to you? It’s not something that you’re in control of or have any say in, but rather a series of events where you have a limited number of options on how to respond before moving on to the next event, for which you are also unprepared.
Early in 2016, we stumbled upon a string of amazing moments in our adult lives. One of our best friends got married. We went on a fantastic vacation to Seattle. Kaitlin’s sister had a baby. We sold our house through circumstances better than anything that we could have ever imagined. We moved downtown and found an extra hour in every work day in the form of shortened commutes. We went to Europe for two weeks!
I wouldn’t trade a single second of these moments, even for an entire finished novel with my name on it. Life has been so incredibly good to us lately.
Everyone’s creative process is different, and I’m sure you are all familiar with the trope of the eclectic artist who finds inspiration through surrounding themselves with endless stimulation. I’m 110% the opposite. All of the best things that I’ve ever written have come from days of thoughtless routines – the more mundane the better.
For me to be the next Ernest Hemingway, my day should look like this: Wake up, go for a run, walk the dog, shower, eat breakfast, drink coffee and write for 2-3 hours, eat lunch, go to work, come home, go to bed at a reasonable hour so that I can wake up early and do it all over again the next day. My writing comes from a quiet place, both literally and psychologically. I struggle to string together coherent sentences when I’m worried about cleaning up my house or going to doctor’s appointments or shopping for wedding gifts or fretting about where I will be at the moment when we rush to Sarasota to welcome Kaitlin’s first nephew into the world.
There is the noise that is outside of me that I can avoid sometimes, but never control. Then there is the noise inside of me that has a way of spiraling, each concern or task shouting over the others to occupy the forefront of my thoughts. Planning a European vacation is the most wonderful of chores until you divide your time between the actual planning and the neurotic counting down of the time that you have left to accomplish the planning.
If this inspires little sympathy, I understand. I’ve been crushed by a mountain of blessings and I’m still working out what I want my life to look like now that I have so many of the things that I’ve wanted for a long time.
I have a New Year’s Eve ritual that most people are probably familiar with: I declare that this year, unlike any other before it, will be the year that I break through on whatever it is that is important to me at that moment in my life. 2016 was going to be the year that I got my writing published. The plan was to submit a short story to one publication every single week of 2016. 52 submissions had to yield something good, right?
In reality, I struggled to find publications that were a good fit for my stories, which vary in tone and subject matter based on whatever it was that I was feeling when I wrote them and of course the photography that inspired them. Instead of scaling back my goal of 52 submissions, I just submitted stories to literary magazines and publications that weren’t really a perfect fit and hoped that they would bend their editorial direction to accommodate me. The results were predictable.
The first rejections didn’t hurt too bad. I was mostly happy to receive a response so quickly, and I had so many more submissions in the pipeline that any one magazine turning me down didn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things. This was the line that I told myself over and over again as the rejection letters piled up and the rate at which I submitted to other lit journals slowed down. Masochistically, I updated a spreadsheet, highlighting rejections in red and watching my list of leads dwindle and drown in crimson.
For the longest time, I refused to admit how much this wore on me. I was sending out what I thought was some of the best writing I’ve ever done and nobody seemed to want it. Envy set in too. Before submitting to any given publication, I would read an issue to try and gauge the sort of style and subject matter that they selected. I read countless stories that I felt weren’t as good as mine.
Then, Life Itself started happening to me at a faster and faster rate and I used it as an excuse to stop writing and stop submitting. I used it as a hiding place, a shelter from the torrent of rejection letters.
I get it. This is part of being an artist. Rejection is the norm, not the exception. Putting yourself out there like this is hard, but knowing that and living it are two entirely different perspectives. You want to read about the great artists and how they overcame their struggles and see yourself in their place, but when it actually happens to you, it’s so much less straightforward.
I know now how many of my struggles were self-inflicted and I see how I should have broken free of the mindset that kept me from creating, but it took a two-week hiatus from everyday life to finally find the quiet place that I needed to start thinking about writing again.
Kaitlin and I just got back from Europe, where we had so many wonderful experiences which we will share with you in the form of Kaitlin’s photographs. It was eye-opening and enlightening, but most importantly for me, it was a reset. It broke the cycle of worrying about small things. It allowed me to stop focusing so much on the things that are that I couldn’t stop and dream up the things that aren’t because I haven’t created them yet.
I’m in a better place now and I’m ready to write again. Thank you for sticking around and believing in us even when we weren’t publishing to the blog anymore. Thank you for reminding us that The Story in the Frame was worthwhile and that it mattered.
We look forward to publishing a new photograph and story next Monday.
I hope you’ll have us back,
Brantley and Kaitlin