I made a promise to myself a few months back that I would submit two stories a month to literary journals, contests, online magazines, etc. After two years of working on a collection of short stories, I now have 15 stories in the bank. They are good stories. Some are really good. I dug deep for these stories. Bunkered down for weeks at a time to spill them out, tear them apart in editing, piece them back together, rewrite, ignore, rediscover, polish. I’ve given these stories a lot. I felt (feel) that it’s time to get them out there.
But that doesn’t mean anyone else will care about them like I do.
I am often plagued by the nagging question: what if I have nothing to say? Or what if what I have to say means nothing to anyone else? It’s a great fear I have – not of being rejected, exactly, but of discovering that my stories don’t have an audience. That in the great mysterious world of publication, there is no place for my voice.
I set up a submission schedule (See the above photo). The document is based on one I found here. Out of the first four stories I submitted, two were accepted for publication! Cue the champagne! One even placed in a contest! I have never done drugs, but the high must be like finding out you’re being published. For days I felt like I had conquered the world.
And then today I got one of these: (See the below photo). I knew it was coming. It wasn’t like every magazine was going to magically love my work. And the act of publication is a bit like match-making: I have this story, I like that literary journal. I think these two could work well together… until the lit journal gets back to you and says this relationship is going no where.
But here’s what surprised me today: as amazing as I felt when I got my acceptance emails/phone calls, I was not devastated by this rejection. It did not take away anything from what I’ve accomplished – the stories I’m proud of, the growth I’ve made as a writer, the recent publication successes I’ve had.
I made a new email folder called “rejections” and I just filed the note there. I know there are more to come, because I’m going to keep sending my stuff out. These stories will only land somewhere if I launch them in the first place. Or, to quote Wayne Gretzky, “You only miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”