Taking a break from writing (well, not exactly…)

My work tools

For the last year or two, I have been working to make writing my second act. Actually it’s my third or fourth act, depending on how I count my past experiences: lawyer, full-time parent, small business manager. I have spent time learning about craft. After completing last fall’s semester of creative writing and poetry, I decided to take a break from writing.   Well, that’s not entirely true. I have spent the last several months being a writer.

I’ve discovered that writing isn’t just sitting in a garret putting words on paper. It requires hours of examining and ultimately discarding story ideas. Days in the library doing research. Weeks spent writing a story or poem. Sharing the work in progress with a critique group. Months of editing and revision.

This is not a process to be taken lightly. Writers express themselves to satisfy personal needs. Yet we must consider the needs of our readers as we revise. We are writing to be heard after all. I find revising to be a never-ending process. I constantly tweak the story, never satisfied that it’s right. I once heard an anecdote about an artist who broke into a museum to “fix” his painting–I understand completely.

Once we are satisfied that our work is as good as it can be (or in my case, once I force myself to stop fiddling with it), it’s time to send the work off for publication. Yes, the end goal is publication, right? I’ve had any number of professors say “If you’re not writing to be published, you’re just ____.” (To spare my gentle readers, I will just say that the word is what the Victorians referred to as “self-pleasuring.”) It took me several years to screw up the courage to send work out. I began slowly, sending off a poem here and there. I was successful with one poem so I took that as a cosmic sign that my writing wasn’t too awful.

Over the past three months, I’ve discovered that submitting for publication is a full-time occupation, albeit a non-paying one. I spent weeks scouring Duotrope’s database, studying the various markets for literary fiction. Then I read samples of selected journals and studied their submission guidelines, another time-consuming task. Finally, my research completed, I sent out several stories and poems, gritting my teeth as I clicked the submit button.

Of course, the rejections have rolled in (Oh, look, there’s that rejection email I sent away for!) but there are glimmers of light. One poem has been accepted. A journal editor said they are very interested in one short story if I make some revisions. (See? I knew it wasn’t done!) I won’t get rich but at least I can say I’m a writer.

Now my break from writing is over. It’s time for me to get back to the creative side, which is the best part.



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