If I learned lessons the first time they hit me over the head, I’d be closer to my goals by now. But when choice (or life) knocks me flat, I lay there for a while and mull things over. I hit the proverbial snooze alarm, stare at the ceiling, and study the cobwebs that pulse in time with my breathing.
Get up, my alter-ego warns.
You don’t get it, I drone. I’m trying to figure things out–to do what makes sense.
No, you’re procrastinating again.
She’s right. But I broom the cobwebs rather than let her know it. And I’m thirsty, get a drink, the fridge smells funny—better clean it out, maybe I’ll make a pot of soup for supper, it’s time to pick up Aiden, let’s go to the park, time to get Cara, stop at Wal-Mart for bread, eat supper, clean the kitchen, throw in some laundry, check my email, study for tomorrow’s psych test…What was that insight that stunned me silent this morning?
Thankfully, reminders keep coming. Michael Ray King commented on his blog If You Go Write You’ll Never Go Wrong (http://michaelrayking.com/2012/02/27/blogging-consistently/) “We have one shot at life. Many people understand this and rocket forward. Most of us fear using what little time we have to say what we wish to say.”
And I think about that as I clear a few more cobwebs.
I’m taking Writing for Publication at UCF with Nathan Holic, (Check out his book review blog Reading Books while Burping My Baby http://burrowpress.com/burping-baby-book-review-1/ ). Professor Holic asked us to read several of Roxane Gay’s posts in Pank (http://www.pankmagazine.com/), and HTMLGIANT (http://htmlgiant.com/). Writer, teacher, editor, and the founder of Tiny Hardcore Press, Ms. Gay is generous with her wisdom.
Twelve years ago I worked up the courage to submit a story to Highlights for Children. A month later, there was a jewel in the mailbox. Tearing open the large manila envelope, my hopes soared, (was it a contract?!) and then plummeted as I scanned the letter. It was an invitation to join their 2-day “Fiction Writer’s Workshop” at a cost of about $1000. Loser.
No one will accuse me of being a fast healer. Weeks ago, my second submission was a poem to the “Poetry Foundation.” They didn’t like me either. So, I’m 0 for 2. After reading Roxane Gay’s blog posts, I realize I haven’t tried. As she might say, “Two attempts, writer? Really, writer?”
Gay’s “Persisting to be Published,” is a reminder to be aware of fit. “As an editor, I would appreciate your reading a few issues of the magazine to get a sense of what we like, what we publish, who we are.” This should be obvious. Square pegs do not fit into round holes without their corners splintering. And I like my corners.
I loved Ms. Gay’s advice in “Charms for the Easy Life: Writer Edition,” especially: “There is edgy and there is absurd…there are submissions and we start to think they were written by serial killers and then we get scared.” I’ve read some literary magazines that made me think I was missing chunks of brain…or soul? Either they were publications that celebrate “odd” or…the alternative. In any case, I don’t fit. I get it.
In “You are Here or Why We Love Cover Letters,” Gay talked about writers who aren’t comfortable exposing themselves. But how can writers write well while keeping themselves a secret? (My alter ego is smirking.) Nobody’s going to hear me if I whisper, especially if it’s into the wrong ears. I’m going to write in the voice that feels natural and honest, about things that matter to me.
And I can’t wait to see what happens.