The Love of a Good Publication
Anyone who knows me will tell you this: I hate dating. I hate dating so much I'd rather stare at my ceiling fan for four hours watching dust settle than sit at a bar talking to a stranger. I hate dating so much I'd rather grade the fifty-four undergrad papers lurking in front of me. I hate dating so much I tell any interested man how much I hate dating so he'll leave me alone. I'd rather submit my fiction to places that won't take it, as if that
kind of rejection won't feel as miserable as the other.
Because even if you do
find someone you might be interested in, and even if he
ends up being interested in you
, there are Olympic-sized hurdles that seem damn near impossible to clear. I've had an entire year full of the phrase, I love you, but½ I love you but I have a girlfriend
, is pretty standard. I love you but I have to go to Minnesota to live in my parents' basement,
is one of the sadder ones. If we get beyond the appalling fact that most of these men tell me they love me before we've seen each other naked, this kind of rejection becomes damn near debilitating. A week ago, I spent twenty minutes screaming into my car radio after I'd fallen for a rocket scientist who'd neglected to tell me he lived with his girlfriend of six years until midnight of date number two. I love you in some way
, he texted later. Ha!
is what I wanted to write back.
Thanks to irony, I got a rejection letter the next day. We liked this but½
As writers, we come to expect this type of cold shoulder. The editors have to be in a rare good mood, the stars have to be perfectly aligned, and the sun needs to be shining at just the right angle, and all of these things need to be happening at the same time
for a shot at acceptance. But first, you have to put in the work. You have to find a story you're interested in, and then, even if the story is also interested in you, you have to write the goddamn thing (sit your ass down, suffer through self-loathing). Revise and revise again (self-loathing coupled with rare moments of bliss, if
you're lucky); stick it in a drawer; revise it again ad nauseum (more self-loathing). Find the journals you like; find the journals you think might dig your work; find the journals that are taking work; make a Venn Diagram. Write a cover letter; format; get up the courage to press submit
. Wait. Wait two weeks or two years. Most of the time, we wait for rejection.
A century ago, it took Joyce nine years to get Dubliners
published. There are people who paste their rejections to their refrigerators. I have a friend who posts his on his blog
. The success rate is so low for so long that we have to be absolutely cuckoo to try to keep trying. Even if you do get lucky, there's the risk of settling. I submitted my best work to Billsville Review? And they took it?
you might think in despair. But you dust yourself off and write again, write better, aim higher. You deserve more. You want it that bad.
We don't do this because we have to. We do this because we're compelled to. Like finding a mate, we find places for our stories to be in the world. Hopefully, if we're lucky, we find partners that see our creations for what they are, sustain them, maybe even love them.
So. Submit your story the same way you submit your heart. Let it break. Bruise it up. Let it get pummeled and sore and when you can't take it anymore, throw it out there again. Because, as a lovely friend put it after the Rocket Scientist Fiasco and two glasses of afternoon wine, sooner or later, the universe has to throw you a bone
. I'll wait for it. I got time. Let the bruises pile up, one after another, like scars from a Trojan War. Keep them coming.