On those days when you find your stamped, self-addressed envelope in the mailbox, with your address written on it in your own graceful, cursive, you will find your heart suddenly beating faster. You slide the envelope open roughly with your thumb and pull out the slip of paper, holding your breath as you wait to see if it’s a cheque or a rejection note. Usually it’s the latter and you'll sigh, trudging up the verandah steps, telling yourself that it’s part of the standard fare of a write to be rejected, even though this never dispels the rather strong feeling of having been dumped. And thus it was that I received the news (albeit in an electronic mailbox, this time) that my application to the Australia Council for a grant was rejected for the third year running.
When the adrenalin rush subsided and I took my head out of my hands, I pushed away the story I was working on, closed my laptop and ferreted ingredients for friands from the cupboard. As I whisked almond meal and egg whites together, and measured out flour and melted butter, I reminded myself that no on had asked me to be a writer, that I had been happy before I was delivered this news and should have remained so after, and that nothing — neither poverty nor critics — was ever going to keep me from writing.
Nonetheless, I wailed to a friend, ‘I can’t work out what I’m doing wrong. I don’t know if it’s my style, or if my ideas aren’t original, or if it’s not literary enough,’ as if I might have complained that a bloke didn’t find me appealing for x or for y. She could have pointed me to the postcard pinned to my corkboard (along with other feminine ephemera and notices for writing competitions and cartoons that make me laugh and lists of things to do), which shows a young 1920s woman in a white silk dress having a cigarette, captioned: ‘She could hardly wait to get back in the saddle again.’
I bought it in London when I was feeling gloomy after some failed attempt at chasing a boy. As the friands baked in the oven I glanced at once it more, furious with rejection, and picked up my pen. I got back on the horse and started writing again, this time at a gallop.