Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Writers, I Hereby Submit. And submit. And submit.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I am a big fan of the submission process and the role it plays in a writer's development, craft, and business. (Even if one's writing is not meant to generate income, I still think of every writer as having a business).

Whether you are submitting completed pieces to literary journals, query letters and manuscript chapters to agents, or queries to obtain article assignments, I believe that having a submission plan, routine, and a healthy attitude toward the process can only be a good thing. Regardless of what stage, phase, or malaise you find yourself in, I think it's a good idea to keep the submission muscle in play.


I must fess up. It's been a while since I took my own advice. A few months, to be exact. (I know this because I checked my very efficient Excel submission tracking spreadsheet – did I mention you must have one of these?)

The lull had to do with a combination of being in a major push to get to a new stage in my teaching efforts while at the same time being in a stubborn phase of not feeling too confident about the "completed" pieces and ideas in my to-be-submitted pile. Then there were paying clients whose work had to come first. And (non-paying) houseguests. Rudderless kids galumphing about. And rain, rain, rain. Oh, and did I mention the three friends who scored major literary coups recently? Yes, I'm happy for them -- truly, madly, deeply happy. But.

So, late yesterday afternoon, after the house cleared of menfolk headed to a Giants preseason game, I got back on the submission stick. First, I had to face some of my "reasons" for the hiatus.
Confidence in completed work. The truth is, even after a piece is accepted for publication and after it's published, I'm still not really confident about it. Not really. Not completely. Is any writer?

Energy targeted in another direction. Spending the time and focused energy on branching out in my teaching efforts is important. (And worthwhile - I'll be teaching one class at a local university this fall, but more about that in a future post.) Still, I want to stay tuned in to students' publishing goals, and to set an example by continuing to chase my own.

Paychecks vs. possibilities. Yes, paying clients are freelance gold, but continued attention to publication builds my list of "calling cards", keeps me personally aware of the challenges my editing clients face, and of course -- published work (whether well-paid or not) usually leads to other paying work.

Home office vs. B-&B. Working at home while relatives are staying with me for weeks, all I can really manage is to get to the stuff marked editor's-waiting-for-it / client-wants-it / program-director-needs-it. Shoot me.

Summer & the living is...different. When they are kicking about the house, my kids are, thankfully, very considerate of my work time/space; they don't ask me to have lunch with them, play against them in a few games of Wii Sports, or discuss the plot of their summer reading books. Those things are all my ideas, and you know what? It's a good trade-off.

When good things happen to good people. The three writer friends whose recent success I applauded but secretly envy? One won a major contest, another was published in a coveted spot, and the third signed with an agent who sold her book within two weeks. So I asked myself: Is there any real reason to feel that their accomplishments say something negative about my own work? And the answer was, frankly to my own surprise – NO! I had not entered the same contest as my first friend (though I will, next year). I had not submitted anything in three years to the column my second friend was published in (though I could have, and maybe should). And, I am not agent-shopping at the moment (though I may be soon). So my friends' coups should do nothing more than give me hope, right?

Even if my friends' good fortune were in exactly same arenas in which I had also tossed my hat – well, so what? Letting that keep me from pushing on helps no one. What helps is to get back into action.

And so I did, sending my words off on wireless wings.


2KoP said...

Oh, I get it. Writers write. Published writers submit. Thanks.

Middle-aged Diva said...

I just found your blog and I'm enjoying it. This post certainly resonated for me.

My most illustrative story about never being confident of work was an essay I wrote about my mother's final illness. I started writing it in my head in 1999. I got it on paper in 2001.Wrote, rewrote. I workshopped it in 2003. I rewrote it numerous times based on feedback and submitted it to rejections. It was a bit dark and needed the right home. I found a good home for it in 2006.

After publication, I saw about 10 things I'd change if I got to edit again. I can't read it today without wanting to take an edit pencil to it.

You're right. We are NEVER confident. NEVER satisfied.

Great blog. Inspirational. I am starting a memoir and just bought Fearless Confessions after reading your interview.