Friday, May 13, 2011

WHY I DO THIS

By “this” I mean write and submit short stories. I did a quick count the other day, and came up with close to 600 rejections to short story submissions in the past 4 years. For those of you keeping score at home, that breaks down to 150 a year or nearly 1 every 2 1/2 days. Ouch.

Anyone can write. I have to believe as much to survive my day job as a high school English teacher. Some days are harder than others, for my students as well as me. Writing well and developing one’s craft requires patience. Patience requires a healthy dose of perspective. Since I started my writing journey four years ago, I’ve gained as much perspective as any bit of craft. Rejection is part of the game, and I’ve received my share. Each “no” used to sting like a solid punch in the gut, knocking the writing wind out of me.

But I learned from my rejections. Editors would offer bits of advice. Occasionally, when a story was accepted for publication, an editor would work with me and I’d learn little nuggets of craft which I applied to my next story. Through the torturous process of submission, rejection, and revision, I learned to be a better writer. I started submitting to more challenging markets. I saw many more rejection letters. I continued to submit.

Sometimes, one of my stories squeaked through the golden door.

I believe in short stories. I believe they, along with the grueling slog of submission, made me the writer I am today. It might not be the only way to learn your craft, but it’s an honest one.

Aaron Polson

15 comments:

  1. Hear, hear! Or: Read, read! Even better: Write, write and submit, submit!

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  2. Agreed! 600, wow. I'm almost up to my hundredth. How do you track them, btw? Or your stories for that matter. Spreadsheets must be getting rather crowded these days for you.

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  3. Thanks for helping me keep my rejections in perspective. Great post!

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  4. What a wonderful and encouraging post. Thank you!

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  5. (and yes, the spreadsheets are out of hand)

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  6. I'm happy to have the forum to flay myself open and reveal all the juicy, er, failure. :)

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  7. I'm open-mouthed with admiration here, not only with the quantity but also your ability to accept criticism, work with it and constantly improve as well as with your evident self-honesty.

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  8. When we make it about the work, I think it becomes easier to do as Aaron has done. When we allow the work to be our clinging shadow, it's difficult to create enough distance. That's why (to me) the number of rejections is an important element in this process. We have to become numbed to the stings so that we might better hear the bees. Or something like that.

    Great post, Aaron. Thanks!

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  9. You are a brave man to count up all those rejections!

    Between the novels that weren't accepted and the stories that weren't accepted, well, let's just say if I counted up all my rejections, I could wallpaper every room in my house...and my neighbor's...and probably the house of the neighbor on the other side... :)

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  10. I admire your determination and ability to accept failure and constructive criticism from the editors. It shows in how many stories you have already had accepted. I tend to curl up like a wounded hedgehog when I get a rejection or criticism and it takes a while for me to straight up again and crawl along to the next challenge. I wish I had more of your zeal :O)

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  11. I'm sorry gang, and especially Aaron, but blogger ran into some difficulty this week and had to take down the posting (among many others, apparently). They restored it, but we lost our comments. It's a shame because there were some useful ones.

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. Um, these hiccups to happen. I still love you, internet!

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  14. Blogger is finally back.

    I agree with everything you've said and know exactly how you feel. In the last two years I've submitted 152 short stories/flash fiction pieces and the vast majority were rejected. However, they often came back with advice. And with those that were accepted, I was able to compare my original with the published version, noting any changes the editor had made. All valuable lessons to an aspiring writer.

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  15. @Ellie Well stated. We write for ourselves. We publish for others. Which means we do have to understand what other minds take from our words and what they thirst for.

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