Work never sent out is never finished. Hidden from the world it remains safely (and sadly) on the writer’s shelf. – Priscilla Long
I wrote recently that I altered my writing practice one morning – I sat by a window and penned thoughts on paper rather than staring into a pixelated screen and clacking keys on a keyboard – and the shift electrified me. It shuffled my synapses and portended a heightened level of productivity.
Since that day, I shifted my focus to not just producing more and more new work, but to doing something with all the words I’ve already written. I bought a copy of the 2013 Writer’s Market and devoured the first 180 pages in one sitting. I learned about query and cover letters, how to format a manuscript, how to negotiate contracts, track submissions, build an author platform, use LinkedIn. Then I scanned 400 pages of submission guidelines for consumer magazines, trade journals, and writing contests, highlighted titles that my work might fit, and marked pages with paper clips.
I browsed our library’s periodicals and checked out back issues of magazines to familiarize myself with the work they print. I ordered introductory issues to The Sun and Creative Nonfiction, journals our library doesn’t carry. I studied content on online journals like Brevity, who publishes brief, concise literary nonfiction (less than 750 words) and is happy to work with budding authors.
Then? I began the work of submitting. And have reaped the heightened level of productivity my pen and ink session activated. In the past two weeks I have submitted five manuscripts to online and print magazines, two to my critique group, and one to a blog I follow. And I’ve got four more queued up.
Meanwhile, I check email obsessively, wondering about a manuscript I sent out nearly 6 weeks ago. Waiting for the note that says, “We’d like to publish your work.” To my surprise, the first email I received was not about that 6-week old submission. It was about a piece I sent barely a week ago.
And it was a rejection. I received my first rejection this morning. I felt strangely calm about it as I entered today’s date in the “date returned” column of my submission spreadsheet. Maybe because I’ve known all along that this is part of the process. Writers probably write as much about rejection as they do about writer’s block, and before I began my submission process, I read a particularly entertaining piece by Alexis Paige on The Rumpus – Rejection Sucks and Then You Die: How to Take a Dear Sad Sack Letter (and Shove it). Paige, and every writer I’ve ever read, talked to, shared a critique room with, has prepared me for this first of what will be many rejections.
So though my heart flutters with every new email I receive, now dreading the next “So sorry,” rather than anticipating the “Congratulations” I originally hoped for, I will keep submitting. Today, I will buy envelopes so that I can mail a manuscript to a publication that does not accept submissions online or by email. I will continue through my queue.
I will complete my work.