After receiving my most recent rejection via email, I fired off manuscripts to four journals yesterday. One sent to triage; four sent back to battle–those are good odds, right?
Perhaps not. According to the editor, the journal that rejected me accepted fewer than 10% of the work that was submitted. One of the journals I contacted last night gave even worse odds in their submissions guidelines: only 2% of the manuscripts they receive are published.
Thinking statistically, that’s a lot more manuscripts than I have time to send out, nevertheless write. And, of course, resorting to bulk mailings would provide no guarantee of getting published. Meanwhile, sending the right piece to the right editor at the right time (in the right phase of the moon?) is all that matters, if only there were a way to determine which, who, and when.
All of this had me feeling a little hopeless last night. After a moment’s hesitation, I clicked the submit button. I mean, why not?
Today, a friend tweeted the link to an essay by Emily St. John Mandel that speaks to all of this. It provides no answers, but I feel better. I’m not the only writer who goes through this–most of us do. Call it drive, compulsion, whatever, we can’t stop writing and wanting to be read.
Mandel compares the hope of getting published (we’re talking book deal) with winning the lottery. I agree with that comparison almost entirely. But buying lottery tickets is, for those who don’t win big, a waste of money, time, paper, and the gray crud that conceals the winning number. I can’t say the same about writing pieces that don’t get published. There may be no major payoff for me, but there is value in writing, or else I wouldn’t do it.
Writing helps me think. I can’t not write, even when I don’t actually create text. My mind won’t stop. I analyze daily life and make up stories and characters. I am a machine that keeps creating, whether or not anyone wants what I make. Maybe that’s futile. Sadly, I have not figured out how to make a living by creating written products, but without the process, I wouldn’t/couldn’t function.
Is the process enough? Apparently not. I used to stow my writings in a box because I feared response. Now I’m greedy for it, albeit aware that I should be careful what I wish for.
I write this while sitting in my car at the end of a work day. For what it’s worth, I had to write it down.