Story Submissions and Anxiety

So, I’ve been corresponding this week with a writer who is about to make her very first story submission. It’s something that is far enough in my past that I’d essentially forgotten how it feels, and it’s been educational to see it again through fresh eyes.

There are two prototypical writer responses to the idea of submitting a story, particularly a first story.

1) OMG, OMG, OMG, does this suck? Do I suck? Should I give this all up? This story is never going to be read? What’s the point? Why did I ever set out to do this? Etc.

2) I am a writing god and they would be fools not to accept my story.

Neither of these is particularly sane, but then of course neither is the average writer.

#1 is probably going to serve the writer better in the short run as it lends itself very naturally to working to improve one’s craft. On the other hand, it also makes it easier to crash into depression and ruin when a rejection arrives, and lets face it, everybody gets rejected sometimes, and most of us see far more rejections than we do acceptances.

#2 has its pluses and minuses as well. It can lead to a stubborn insistence that all editors are either evil or idiots and can cause a pretty hard crash too, if the writer is forced by repeated rejection to reassess their confidence. On the other hand, belief in yourself can carry you through hard times if it is tempered with an understanding that even though you already rock, you could rock more with practice.

In the end, neither is the best frame of mind for submitting stories. That would be: This story meets my current standards as a writer. I will send it out and see if it meets editors’ standards for what they are currently looking for. If it does, hooray. If it doesn’t, that’s simply a reflection of the wrong story for the given editor on the given day, I will send it to the next market. Of course, even the most experienced pros hit this mental state only some of the time, and spend most days much closer to 1 or 2.

Ultimately all we can do as writers is trust the process:

A-Start the story.
B-Finish the story.
C-Polish the story to a reasonable degree.
D-Send the story out.
E-Start the next story.

That’s all that you control as the writer. Everything else is a roll of the dice. This is terrifying. It can also be empowering.

Look at the process again. Writing is all about the story. Your story. Publishing is the medium. Your story is the message. Remember that. Believe it. If you can do that, it will see you through all the anxieties and dark times.

In the meantime, breathe, relax, send the story in. Lather, rinse, repeat.

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog Dec 12 2007, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)