I know a lovely lady who started one of these lists, and she included some alternates, because she recognized that there were certain goals that were out of her control.
I never thought about this.
Getting published is not something I can make happen through sheer will – someone has to like what I write enough to stand behind it and put it out into the world. I publish myself on my blogs. I’m looking for outside validation.
Which is never a good thing. But is always a human thing.
Pursuing a creative life is fighting my nature. You see, I:
do not have a thick skin for handling rejection
have no capacity to pimp/market myself
So what am I thinking?
I’m of course thinking there is nothing else I can do. This is all I’ve ever wanted.
I’ve been rejected a lot in the past few years. I’ve submitted plays everywhere – plays I loved and believed in. I was a semifinalist once for a conference. That and a dollar will get you exactly nowhere.
No one seems interested in what I have to say. It’s broken my heart.
For various reasons my focus has been shifting into short fiction, personal essays. Forms that have a bigger market, and theoretically more income. Forms I don’t love passionately, but are more gratifying, because I don’t need money or people to “PRODUCE” what I’ve written. Writing plays to be read is…dumb. They only live off the page. I like creating worlds that can live fully and contentedly as I type them. It’s more self-reliant.
But the submission process is not any easier, trying to determine who might like your voice. Following submission guidelines to the letter, chasing deadlines.
The guilt monster is never satiated, and feeds on not-enough-ness: I haven’t submitted ENOUGH, I’m not writing ENOUGH. Submitting work is a full time job – that doesn’t pay. The guilt monster definitely won’t starve: writing is time spent not earning money or looking for legit ways to earn money, and I’m damn near broke. But how can I ever make money writing if I don’t write?
I’ll stop whining now because…
I got published!
Me being me, it’s taking every fiber of my being not to put quotations around published. It’s a 12 word story. That is slightly risqué. On a website that no one has heard of. Which did not pay me.
Does that count as…”published”?
I was really excited when I found out this submission was accepted. Like, jumping up and down excited. I had literally gotten six rejections in the previous week. This was a candle flicker of – gulp – validation.
So I was happy. Tremendously happy.
And then that very same day I found out that a beloved friend (who must forgive me if he reads this) had just received a substantial cash prize and staged reading at a legit off Broadway theatre.
And, oh how my tiny, dirty story seemed even tinier, dirtier.
The universe is so funny that way. I couldn’t even have 24 hours to revel in my accomplishment before it had to slap me down, remind me that 12 words doesn’t even propel me to stand beneath the bottom rung of the ladder. I’m still looking up up up, a battle every step of the way. To have a career.
To say, without embarrassment, that I am a writer.
Please don’t misunderstand: my beloved friend so completely deserves this. I don’t begrudge him it. He is talented, and disciplined, and good – the bestest person I know. He has been writing more steadily for much longer than I have. His success brings me joy.
I just wish my successes didn’t have to come in such absurdly meager baby steps. You know? Like maybe one of my 100 word stories could have been published – that’s 88 more words of me-ness out in the ether. Maybe I wouldn’t have to feel slightly ashamed to ask my mother to read this mildly pornographic thing I’ve written.
My beloved friend’s success put mine in horrifying perspective. But maybe – goddammit, universe – this is my valuable lesson in not comparing myself to others, which is a terrible habit I have. His trajectory was set in motion well before I met him. I’m the first to admit he works much harder at his craft than I do. There is no comparison.
So I’m going back to dancing about my 12 words. I was genuinely pumped when I found out, and the email said they “loved” my story. With 10 days left in the year I unexpectedly managed to knock something off the 30×30.
And baby steps eventually stop being so wobbly, gain confidence, balance, momentum. I assume this baby step will lead to skips and leaps, if I work my ass off and submit submit submit. I WILL make the guilt monster (and my ass) skinnier.
So, now go read it. It’s 12 words. You’ve got the time. Scroll all the way down to December to read mine: Dirty Dozen
And by way of explanation: Vestal Review is a flash fiction magazine that runs a feature called the Dirty Dozen, telling a complete sexy story in a mere twelve words.