Like many others on the blogs I follow I have been submitting my writing to publishers. In the push to get some of my work published I’ve come across some of the familiar, old, reliable doubts and fears of mine and a couple of insights that I thought would be cool to share.
I’m not sure about many of you and your academic career, but for me it has been something of a struggle. I’ve not gone the traditional route to say the least, which has left me here, like a lot of Americans working entry level, blue-collar jobs, which hold little interest to me. That is if I find myself learning about something, writing about something, its not what I do for work. Something I’ve come across in the submissions world is this Academic fever, which leaves me feeling on the outside and questioning my ability.
I’ve been using Submittable to find journals and submit pieces through, it’s easier for me to have it all in one spot, I’m not sure how everyone else is finding their places, but there are so many it seems best to sort it out through one submissions portal. There are reading fees, usually. I’ve also struggled with wait times, as I’m sure most do. Perhaps that’s another post.
Part of submitting, for me, is researching the journals that I’ll be submitting to; I want to see how my work will be featured. The about section is usually the second place I go on the website after looking around the homepage because I want to know if the vision of the publication is in line with my own, or even better if it pushes the boundary of what I thought a publication could be! I’ll then go through and read the archives, or current issue if available to get a better understanding what it is they are publishing and to try to ascertain if my work stands up to the standard. So, so often I see in the little third person bio-blurb below the work just where said poet, or writer received their MFA and this gets in my head sometimes, especially if every piece I’ve read on the site has those same three letters somewhere.
Which has led to many doubts as to whether I should even submit or if, and this is the big one, my work is good enough. A silly fear as it turns out.
Focusing on this idea of good enough I have to ask myself, where does this standard for good come from? I’ve had to realize that it comes from my own standards and that if it gives me that feeling, that rush, and makes me smirk, then it’ll likely hit someone else there too. If I trust in the fact that the work I like is similar to the work I produce then I won’t have to worry so much about if it’s good.
Regarding submissions this has meant being honest with myself about the level of my work. Reading a shit ton of work. Realizing that hope is just a box I put my fears in and at the end of the day doesn’t do me much good. And I can only get as much as I aim for. It’s made me set some goals and then readjust those goals to make more realistic, day to day goals. And I’ve found some really good, cool art in the process. It’s made me question what art is, both to me and to society.
Lately I’ve found that it might be better to ask myself, is it technical? because this is what the Academic learns. They don’t learn how to write good stuff, they can probably already do that. But they learn the technical nature of technique, which, they believe elevates the standard of the work. So I’ve come to find myself working from two different places lately, one is teaching myself the technical ideas in a way that’s natural to me and the other is writing from the heart, with the passion and necessity that it all started from. Which is usually what gets drowned out when the thoughts are raging with questions like is this good, and would they like it.
These fears will probably always be there, and they are really only coming from me; I’ve never had an editor confirm my fears, only the same voiceless rejections we all receive. So I push on and realize that this yearning, this deep seeded doubt is part of what’s pushing me forward. That should be cherished and really something that is only serving to make me better. I haven’t had many successes, but I won’t ever find success if I don’t keep pushing on. And if I honestly look back and think about where my successes have been it’s actually in the process of writing; experimenting, learning styles and weaknesses, editing, and drafting.
I’ve never been an Academic and in most cases I pride myself on not having this learned knowledge to water me down. And in an age when publishers look for all perspectives and advertise this in celebration (as they should) it also makes me wonder if perhaps there is a preference for the Academic. They are the creators of standards and the standards are set in the Academy.