Zen and the art of submitting your work ☕
A few weeks ago, I wrote about and how sitting with your work for 30 minutes a day can eventually turn into a book. At the time, I was two weeks into a streak, which lasted until the very end of February. When the month turned to March, it was time to take a break, switch gears, and focus on my least favorite part of the process: submissions.
Creating new work is exciting, invigorating, a little bit mystical. When it’s just you and the blank page, there are no consequences, no one to tell you that your idea is dumb or your sentences cliché. Everything you write is brilliant, or could be after a few dozen rounds of revision. And revision can be mystical, too! Some of my best writing experiences have happened when I suddenly unearth a theme I didn’t notice the first six times around, or find a faint connection that helps the plot click into place. The pleasure is akin to solving a puzzle or walking into your own surprise party.
Submitting, at least for me, is the complete opposite. Forget mysticism; it’s pure drudgery. First, you have to decide a piece is finished, which is no easy feat. Then you have to figure out where to send it, which means looking up every literary journal you can think of, checking their guidelines, making sure they’re open for submissions, formatting your work to their unique specifications, paying the $3 submission fee (which ADDS UP) and then hitting submit - only to realize after the fact that there’s a typo in your cover letter.
Never mind that most of the time, your efforts will be rewarded with rejection. No matter how hard you work, how much you believe in a piece, you can’t control whether the person reading it will agree with you. And maybe this is the real reason I don’t like submitting. The act of writing is something I can control, mysticism aside. I can make myself sit at my desk and move my fingers, diligently carve out the time to write sentences and scenes and stories. What I can’t control is whether anyone will want to read those words, or choose to publish my work in their pages.
So, yeah. I don’t love submitting, which explains why I haven’t send anything out since last summer. Deep down, however, I’m a narcissist with delusions of grandeur. I want someone to publish my work. I want all of you to read it. I want awards and money and admiration and cold, hard proof that all those mornings at my desk have not been a pointless waste of time. (Wow, sorry to get so dark on a Sunday morning!) Clearly, it was time to get back in the ring and submit, submit, submit.
At the beginning of the year, I joined the staff of the Raleigh Review, a literary journal based in North Carolina. Each week, I’m assigned a handful of stories to read and rate. If I like a piece, I pass it on to the next round of readers. If I don’t, I mark it accordingly and move on. I treat each submission with care and attention, and even when the work isn’t ready - and most of the time, I’ll be honest, it’s not - there’s something inspiring about all those writers who believe otherwise.
When I sat down this week and submitted my work, I thought about all the rejections I’ve sent since January, all the people who aren’t content to keep their stories to themselves no matter how many times they hear “no”. Because every now and then, out of the cacophony of “not the right fit” and “needs more work” and “send us something else”, you hear that elusive “yes” right when you need it most. And when you return to your desk, that yes ringing in your ears, it feels different, transformed. A little bit of mysticism before you get back to work.
But seriously, those $3 submission fees are out of control.
Why Do We Hate Decaf So Much?, Vox. "#DeathBeforeDecaf, however, is not really about a love of coffee. An Instagram quote worshipping coffee demonstrates something more performative: that the poster is rising and grinding; they’re hustling; they’re putting their hair in a messy bun and handling it."
A New Luxury Retreat Caters to Elderly Workers in Tech (Ages 30 and Up), New York Times. I clicked on this for many reasons - it sounds ridiculous, I'm in my mid-30s and work at a software company, etc, etc. But it's actually a really nice meditation on aging and acceptance. (And also a little ridiculous.)
My Deep, Burning Class Rage, The Cut. "In grad school, I saw a whole new level of privilege. I was working three jobs and my friends and I would talk about struggling with money and then I’d realize that their parents were paying their rent." All of this.
✨ Snack of the Week ✨
The days are longer, the sun is warmer, and you absolutely deserve something cold and sweet at the end of the day. I recommend these dark chocolate covered banana bites, which are basically healthy yet still delicious. A snack that truly does it all.
Bonus link! An interview with the woman who runs Trader Joe's List, the best Instagram account on the 'net.
A Tiny Challenge
A dear friend suffered an unimaginable loss earlier this week, and it's been difficult to think about anything else. This Sunday, take a few minutes to appreciate the people you love. Our time with each other is precious, and too brief.
As always, thanks for reading. See you next Sunday. 💌
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