Submission and Rejection
When I was living in Miami, my friend Ollie and I began sending out submissions around the same time. We were in the same grad school writing program, newly married, and working hard to become writers.
This was the start of a real upswing. I'd been taken by FIU, although recruited like a baller felt more like it, since they were not only paying my tuition, but a salary as well. I'd heard from writers, mostly older professors from Central Connecticut State, how hard a road this writing profession would be. I wasn't seeing it. Since deciding I was "a writer," I'd won an award from the Connecticut Review, had toured the state reading my junkie poetry (and being paid for that too), and had just left for sunny FLA with my wife, who, no doubt, thought I was going to be something special. Because everyone at CCSU sorta did.
When Ollie and I starting sending out submissions, we'd check our mail together practically every day. Or maybe it just seems that way. But that's how I remember it, like we were just one good publication away from the big time. So when the rejection letters started coming, we both took it hard.
It's devastating getting those letters, which range from "Dear Writer" to careless misspellings, a victory being a handwritten note.
A FIU professor once said that everyone wants to be in a literary magazine, but no one wants to read a literary magazine. Including the author. No one more guilty than I. What's even funnier is that the few times I have read a literary magazine, like say Thuglit, it has been extremely easy to craft a story to that particular editor's taste (I was published three times by the now defunct, though still forever fucking awesome, Thuglit [my dream is that someday Todd Robinson brings it back and let's me guest edit]). Still I don't read them.
There are literally hundreds (thousands) of these magazines, but about a billion more writers trying to get in them. It's a law of averages, I suppose. Getting one acceptance for every ten submissions is a good rate, I've been told. I get exactly one acceptance for every ten submissions. And the good feeling for that acceptance lasts about, oh, seven to eight minutes, while the shitty feeling from every rejection lasts a fucklot longer. You can do the math.
I've often said that the irony (if it's actually "irony") of the writing profession is that it is populated by people in more dire need of a hug than just about any other faction of society operating in a field defined entirely by degrees of rejection.
I wrote a new story recently called Fair Shake. It's flash fiction, and the first new story I've sent out in about a year. I've sent it to two places so far. Two rejections.
The real kicker is that you spend so much time working on these stories. This one, for instance, is 715 words, and it probably took me about ten hours writing it, give or take. And it's not like you get paid anything if your story is taken (sometimes you do, but rarely). So why do it?
Because it is like music. Or golf. You toil around, trying to find a groove, and you can't, and you swear you're done, out, no more wasting your time with this shit, and then you hit it. One perfect shot. One sublime note. The rhythm and the cadence and the musicality of everything in perfect sync and harmony. And, damn, it feels good. Besides, what else are you going to do?