I’ve made four submissions in the last month. I’m talking about my writing, if you weren’t sure. One essay, one poem, and two pieces of flash fiction. The poem even had more than 17 syllables. Not that more syllables means it’s any better, or more work, I just thought it was a good poem. It was an okay poem. It was a poem.
It was a poem I wrote a few years ago about hope and I needed to believe in it, to do something, rather than sit at a computer and fantasize about the day when I’d publish my work.
Submitting it felt like an act of desperation, like being possessed. At that moment I needed to believe my work would be impossible to reject. I’m kicking myself now, knowing I could have presented myself better. I’m a marketer, I know these things, but in these days of electronic submissions, it’s so easy to push send. The process of printing, signing, putting together a SASE, and finding enough stamps for the whole shebang slowed one down enough to breathe through the adrenaline surge and reconsider. Now, I’m positive that I could have written a better cover letter, made the hook more compelling, and maybe, just maybe, not sounded like the complete neophyte that I am.
The fact that I have no credentials to fall back on bothers me. I’ve spent most of my life as an expert. As a consultant, I would throw my CV on the table and people would sit up straighter. I didn’t have to ask clients, pretty please, listen to my presentation. I don’t like being a newbie. Humility. A new hurdle to jump over.
That has been one of the harder parts of this journey–giving up the persona I spent so many years building. The veneer of certainty served me well. Even if I was spinning on the inside, thinking I’m a fraud and I have no idea what I’m doing, I was very good at sounding sure. I can’t do that now. There is nothing sure in writing, other than facing a large amount of rejection along with the possibility of acceptance.
The waiting is also difficult. I’m not a patient person. I like resolution, and often push to get things settled when I would be better served to let them play out. I hate the ambiguity of not knowing where I stand. I look at three digit response times in Duotrope’s and I wonder what are these editors doing with their time? Don’t they know my submission is important? Ignore the crappy cover letter–read it! Just let me know one way or the other, and I can move on.
But I know time is my friend in this case–at least I haven’t gotten a rejection yet. There’s still hope for my poem about hope.
In most jobs, you get a fair amount of legitimacy before you earn it. You get the salary, the title, the recognition of your place in the org chart from the day you walk in the door. Then, you spend the next year making sure people don’t regret hiring you. With writing, you spend years writing, and maybe, if your lucky, you get the legitimacy of getting paid for it, or at a minimum, get your name in print.
So, strangely enough, it is submission twice over. Yes, I’m sending my work to be judged and evaluated, but also I’m submitting to what this career requires. I’ll need to develop a whole new set of skills, a thicker skin, and a more patient approach to my work. As a friend recently said, this is a lot more interesting than any of the research reports I’d ever written. Not that I’ve changed much yet, I still think I’m always right and get hacked off if I think people aren’t listening.
What has your experience been with the submission process? How do you overcome fear, yet balance it with consideration?
Words by J. B. Everett