I submitted a story to a magazine last week. It’s the first piece I’ve submitted in a few months. It’s the first piece I’ve felt was worth submitting. The past six months have been interesting. I decided to go back to school, and that choice is taking me 8 hours away from my friends and family. For some of you, that might not be a big deal. But, for me, it is. I’m moving to a city, in which I know no one, to try and achieve an academic level I’m not sure I can achieve.
I need this, though. It’s easy for me to just keep writing, and submitting, and getting rejected, and getting better, and submitting, and getting rejected again. Before I took my self-imposed sabbatical, that was the norm. I needed to change things up. I felt like I was sinking into a sea of complacency, in which I would just exist. I would never amount to anything, I would never try and make something of myself. The scary part is I saw myself sinking into this quagmire, and I didn’t care. I was fine with it. I was content.
I submitted this story five days ago, and I’m feeling super impatient. I’ve never heard back from a magazine in less than two weeks, so I know it’s going to take a little while longer. Beyond that, I know the longer it takes, the better. That means I’ve made it out of the slush pile, and I’m currently heading up the ladder, moving from editor to editor, each one marking my story with a stamp of approval. I know all that, and I’m still super impatient. I just want to get my rejection letter and move on.
It’s the unknowing that’s killing me. But, at the same time, it’s that unknowing that makes the whole matter worthwhile. I like the suspense. I like the idea that at any point it could all come crashing down. To me, that makes things fun. Will I get rejected? Probably. Most magazines receive hundreds of submissions a month, and only a handful make it. Odds are against me.
But, what if my story is in that handful? What if the letter I receive has a check with it? That feeling alone is worth the risk of rejection, I think. It’s not just about the money; it’s about the validation I crave. I know I shouldn’t care what anyone thinks of my work, but when has anyone ever truly believed that? We need to feel accepted by humanity, and told we’re worth something. I think that’s a natural, human desire. Why else would we continually post stupid things to Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook, and wait for that small surge of glee when someone responds to it.
For me, though, it’s more than that, and this is where the story takes a slightly pathetic turn. I sometimes feel like I need that approval for my own self-worth. I’m not one of those writers who see a publisher’s rejection as a “rejection of myself”. I invest a bit of myself into each story—because I believe that’s what makes my stories good—but I know that a rejection letter doesn’t mean the publisher is rejecting me. So a rejection letter doesn’t make me feel bad. I still feel, however, that an acceptance letter would make me feel good about myself.
How does that work?
I don’t know if this magazine is going to buy my story. I hope they do, but I don’t know for sure. I can tell you this: I do love the suspense. I think that might be one of the reasons I’m going back to school. Yes, there’s definitely the whole “next stage of my life” thing, but I like venturing into the unknown. It’s like submitting a story, but on a whole different level.
What’s going to happen? Will I meet a ton of new people? What if they hate me? What if they love me? Will I have time to play video games? Will video games even matter? What about comic books? Where am I going to work? Hang out? How will I get from point A to point B? How many times am I going to get lost, and what if one of those times takes me into the super-bad part of town? What if I get mugged? What if I get stabbed?
Admittedly, some of those questions are kind of far-fetched. (I mean, comic books will always matter. Duh.) But, they’re still questions that are floating through my mind, and each one gets me excited about my move. In one scenario, I make it big, graduate with honors, go on to teach English at a large university and become a successful writer. In another scenario, I fail miserably at everything, end up in a gutter, and get drunk every night to try and forget. I’m assuming the actual events will fall somewhere in between, hopefully on the ‘success’ side of the school line. But, I don’t know that for sure.
And, my friends, my pals, those of you who have stuck with me through these 850 words of nonsense, I love that feeling.