Guest Post, Patricia Caspers: Writing Sugarless

Sweet Pea

Before I talk about my struggle with rejection letters, it’s important that you know how much I want you to love me. By “you” I don’t mean a general second-person all-encompassing kind of you; I mean you: the person reading these words awash in the light of a computer screen. And by “me” I don’t mean the don’t-assume-the-author-is-the-narrator kind of “me.” I really mean me, here, tapping at the keys in the dark, dog snoring softly at my feet.

My only hope of winning your love is to woo you with my words, to be smart and funny, and whip up a mean metaphor or simile now and again, so that’s what I’ll do if I can. Sometimes I can’t, and if I can’t win your love I will console my sorrow with an ice cream sundae or maybe a chocolate-covered cream puff.

Well, that’s how I would have consoled myself four months ago, before I gave up processed sugar in all of its devilish incarnations.

I gave up sugar because I wanted to know what drove me to eat it, in any form, in the car, and on the beach, in front of the computer or behind a book, after every meal, and just before I brushed my teeth. I thought if I sat quiet and still in that place of craving, the answer would rise to the surface of the abyss, returning like a bottle I tossed into the sea as a young girl. When I had the answer it would be over; no more cravings.

Of course I had the answer all along. I never tossed that bottle into the sea. I swallowed it whole, washed it down with a Coke sipped through a Red Vine, and it’s been sitting in my belly ever since: Sugar = Love.

Except that it doesn’t.

Now I’m working on the part where I love myself so completely that I don’t need your love, or anyone’s. I’m so not there yet. I’m reminded that I’m not there every time I open a rejection letter, and the urge to drive myself to the ice cream stand is so strong I very nearly have to chain myself to the porch rail and sing myself lullabies— because besides eating sugary products, writing is the one thing that I have, at times, done well. It is the basket in which all of my eggs lay. Or is it “lie”? Well, Sometimes those eggs do lie. They say, “This poem is your best yet. It is sure to be scooped up by the editor of [insert name of fabulous journal here] because you and the editor are both fans of skydiving clowns and blue-eyed mares named Maggie.”

Four months later I open the rejection, and it’s not even personalized. Sometimes it’s such a clever form letter that I can’t tell whether or not it’s personalized, and I have to go look it up on Rejection Wiki, which is incredibly humiliating, or would have been if I had ever dared to admit it to anyone before now.

There are very few places where people are rejected outright — romantic relationships, employment, college admissions, immigration, and the submission or audition process— where someone says bluntly, “No, not you; You’re not good enough,” and of those, the latter two are the only rejections that are likely to happen on a daily basis for the rest of our lives, although my rejection letters seem to gang up on the same day, like unwashed teenage boys loafing outside the corner liquor store, emitting a gauntlet of testosterone and cigarette smoke through which I was required to pass for my daily dose of Blow Pop.

If you’ve ever received a rejection letter, you’ve felt the misery, however brief, so I don’t have to tell you. My trouble is that I’m eternally optimistic, so when those poetry eggs whisper their sweet nothings, I believe them every time, no matter how often they’ve been proven wrong.

The rejection letter is the price I have to pay for that optimism, and indulging in a little snort of post-rejection sugary goodness was like paying that price with credit. Sure, the sting was still out there, but “I’ll get to it later,” I’d say. “Pass the cookies.” Now my credit’s run out, and it’s all cash on delivery, Baby. So what do I do instead of sucking whipped cream straight from the can? I write about it, and then I write some more, and the cycle repeats.

Do you love me yet?

Patricia Caspers

Patricia Caspers is an award-winning poet, journalist and columnist. Her full-length poetry collection In the Belly of the Albatross is available from Glass Lyre Press.

6 thoughts on “Guest Post, Patricia Caspers: Writing Sugarless

  • August 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm
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    Yes, I do, my brilliant friend. Thank you for writing with such beauty and honesty about this battle. Your words always inspire me!

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  • August 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm
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    Oh yeh! I totally love you! 🙂 My name’s Jason and I’m a sugaholic. You’re blog really hit home for me! 35 years of insulin dependent diabetes and I live with sugar addiction everyday. I often renounce processed sugar then some dirty little rejection, that’s usually smaller than it feels, comes along (like my bank statement today) and I reach out for the love of my homeboys Ben and Jerry. This was BEAUTIFUL Patricia! THANK YOU!

    I should probably go brush my teeth now…

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  • September 22, 2012 at 4:52 pm
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    Very inspiring words about sugar. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to kick the sugar habit. It seems that it is a part of our lives, the morning cereal, the coffee, the tea, the soda pop, etc……..

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  • September 24, 2012 at 1:27 pm
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    I am also a sugarholic. I think we all have our personal cravings. I can usually manage mine, as long as I’m paying attention, but I will say that to me, food = reward. I finished all of my homework for the day? I deserve a nice lunch from that Thai place across the street! I got several pages of a short story started? A little fro-yo will be a nice congratulations for that. I’ve been working really hard at school, haven’t had a break in a while — why yes, sushi would be a great way to say “good job” to myself! Me, on the other hand, I’m all too happy to continue this pattern. Good luck with your endeavor in sugarless-ness and self love. They’re both big beasts to tame.

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  • October 1, 2012 at 9:47 pm
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    Cute comparison!! I would say that is just about right! Rejection letters are those little things that remind us that maybe we should alter our story or just change our audience and submit to a different outlet. After a while rejection becomes no longer painful and just a mere hum in the background.

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  • December 2, 2012 at 8:44 am
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    Thank you all so much for reading about my sugary woes! I should have mentioned that, while the rejections are still painful, the acceptance letters bring a much better high than the sugar ever did.

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