That Pesky Writing Thing

I’m a very effective, efficient and highly competent procrastinator, especially when it comes to writing. Oh yes, I have had long periods of drought, brought on by something very specific: the lack of sitting down to write.

Yes, I go for extended periods of time when I’d rather poke my eyes out than sit down and write something. And WHY would I do that? Because I’m a writer, of course.

Writers have written about their lack of productivity, or conversely, have crowed about their systematic and highly organized daily writing habits, for all of us to read. Heck, I’ve even quoted some of those folks on this very blog.

Since I haven’t been writing short stories, I look to other areas where I am writing and give myself a big ol’ pat on the back. Hey, I’m writing a blog entry right now! Look at me, I’m writing something!

And I’ve also gone back to writing my personal journal on a more regular basis. Not quite everyday, but with a regularity that keeps me satisfied. Sure, I say to myself when I’ve finished a hand written entry, you just wrote something.

It’s true too. Writing my blog entries and my personal journal entries are writing. Some of you (thank you, yet again) are actually coming here and reading it too … which, I gotta tell you, IS gratifying. Knowing there is an audience for these blog posts keeps me motivated to continue maintaining the blog. And, as an aside, I have been maintaining this blog for years now. And I’ve met a lot of really nice readers along the way, from all over the world. The world of blogging is pretty amazing, in my opinion.

Okay, I just distracted myself (but not you, dear reader) from what I was admonishing myself for, my lack of “real” output.

And over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about where I left off with my writing. I mean to say I’d been quite organized when I was submitting my short stories to online journals, and so I went back to the list I kept to see what I’d been doing.

Boy, that was shocking to me. I realized, in looking at my list of submissions, that I’d only submitted work to journals six times during all of 2014. Compared to what I’d been doing in 2013, this was the literary equivalent of letting my work fall off a cliff into an abyss.

But that’s not all. The facts are the facts – I had not submitted ANY short stories for consideration in 2015.

Zero.

Zip.

Nada.

Here was harsh reality staring me in the face. I had produced no new short stories in 2014, and I had submitted no short stories in 2015.

So how important is this pesky writing thing to me? I asked myself.

I don’t have a real answer for that right now, except to say, it’s of some importance to me. “How much” is – as of this writing – an unknown quantity.

By delving into my “state of affairs,” I was able to go back to a story I’d written in 2013 and which I’d barely tried to get published in 2014. That story has accumulated only two rejections, which I know from my own experiences, is nothing in the overall process of getting a story published.

And so I dusted off the story and re-edited it. I liked the more tightened version, and have since sent it off to two more potential markets where it could be published. Or not. But I’m giving it a try.

Looking at words on a page, rearranging them, removing a few, adding one here and then moving that sentence there all feels good. It feels right. There’s a comfort in it.

I’m unwilling to give myself any more credit than “feeling good” about submitting a dusted off story to two editors for their consideration. It is what it is, nothing more. If I’m going to go any further, there’s work ahead to be done.

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Ways for Neurotic Writers to Torture Themselves – Possibly a Rant

If you are a writer submitting your work around, you know the ol’ waiting game is torturous. You know the drill: spend a few buckets of blood on a new story, then chew off all your fingernails as you edit the thing, re-edit it, then go back to the way it was two edits ago, then re-edit again. You know – just for fun.

After a while, you get confused. Is the story better the way it was 3 versions ago, or if you combine the ending from 2 versions ago with the beginning from 5 versions ago would the characters seem more developed? 7 versions ago the sentence structure seemed tighter, but this last version it seems looser. But which is better?

Of course, once you completely and utterly HATE the story, you know it’s ready to be sent out to editors who you expect will hate it equally as much as you do. You gird your loins and go out to Duotrope to find places where you think the story might possibly get massacred, or maybe the editors will just slit its throat quietly in a dark alleyway (uh-oh, I’ve been reading too many Court Merrigan stories, sorry…) or perhaps your story will come back with a terrible virus if the editor is really mean and says something a little encouraging. Oh hell…

THEN you have to look at the story cross-eyed for two weeks and start plucking and reshaping its eyebrows, but before long you’ve shaved half its head into some wierd half-mohawk, and of course you soon realize you have to shave the other half of its head and then it’s not the story you started with at all … but maybe this one is better?

You’re not able to send it back to editor three who was slightly encouraging in their rejection because they didn’t ask for a rewrite, they threw the raw meat back at you and said to filet it a different way and serve it to someone else.

Oh, mother of all parrots.

All of this is actually the norm. No, really, I mean that. It’s pretty much par for the course. At least for me it is.

But lately, I’ve come up with new and daring ways to torture myself all on my own without the assistance of an editor.

If you’ve gotten this far, you writers who are addicted to the masochistic tendancies we all share, for god’s sake please look away now. Don’t read what I’m about to say, because it’s a great way to make yourself crazy.

(Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

So just for fun I go to my list of submissions and look at submissions that are more than four weeks old. I start at the bottom, which means a submission labeled #1 – the item that has been waiting longest for response.

Then I go back to Duotrope and see what is the average number of days to acceptance or rejection. Then I go back to the list, as if it was my very own personal crystal ball, and figure out if I should have heard back yet.

If I’m overdue for a response, I send a polite inquiry to find out if, maybe, perhaps, the editors have been fighting amongst themselves whether or not to accept my piece or a piece by Jhumpa Lahiri. (Hey, this is my blog and my fantasy so back off, M-kay?)

Now here comes the maddening part. Sometimes, the staff will write me back with a cryptic one or two sentence note saying, yeah we’ve still got your story hostage over here, we’ve tied it up in the backroom and we’ve water-boarded it repeatedly and its not talking. We’re moving on to the pliers and fingers next. In other words, we haven’t made up our minds and we’ll let you know when we do.

In the world of neurotic writers, and by “the world” I mean me obsessively checking email 100 times a day, getting this “your story is still under consideration” note is not enough to do a happy dance, because it’s not an acceptance, and yet, YET, it’s not an out and out rejection either.

It would never, ever occur to me that the editor’s dog got bit by a squirrel and they are off at the vet and that’s why I haven’t heard back, or maybe they’re off doing the very mysterious things editors do in their free time (hahaha, I said editors and free time) and not spending their every waking moment thinking about whether or not they’ll accept my story or not. No, in my fantasy life, that’s all they think about.

And since it’s all they’re thinking about – why can’t they Hurry Up and Make a Decision before I gnaw through the cable connecting my laptop to the internet?

Please, writer friends, for the sake of your health: Do Not Try This At Home.