On not submitting

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I haven’t submitted any new writing to a magazine or journal since mid-June, which is just three months, but seems much longer. I didn’t arrive at the decision to stop submitting after long soul-searching and contemplation. I felt burned out. Uncertain about exactly what I was doing with my writing and exactly what I wanted to be doing with my writing. My husband said, “You should stop sending stuff out.” Around the same time, I saw Kathy Fish say something similar on Twitter. I thought to myself, if Kathy Fish is doing it, it can’t be a bad idea. So I stopped. Here’s what happened:

2015-09-15 10.31.41– I stopped checking Duotrope and Submittable daily. Okay, let me be honest. I stopped checking Duotrope and Submittable several times a day. I stopped checking them hourly. Yeah, it was like that and to stop doing it felt good. Every few weeks I would think, hey, maybe I should check Submittable. And I would. And then I’d move on.

– Eventually, I buckled down and got to work on something longer—a novel. I fell into a rhythm. It felt good. It felt really good. I looked forward to getting out of bed every morning and writing. I didn’t feel trapped and miserable while I was sitting in my chair. I wasn’t thinking constantly that I just wanted to be done. I realized that eventually I would be done, and that would be good, but it would also sad, because I was enjoying what I was doing right then. That was enough.

– I finished a draft of a novel. Another one. Maybe it’s the one. Maybe it isn’t. I’ve finally resigned myself to the idea that I’m going to have to write more than one novel in order to learn how to write a novel. That’s okay. I’m learning. I think I did a better job on this one.

– I took an online flash fiction class with Kathy Fish which was amazing. Truly. The exercises we did had me writing stuff that made me say, “Who wrote that? Did I? Wow.” We were amazing. Everyone in the class wrote blow-you-out-of-the-water flash. Really. If you have a chance to take a class from Kathy, do it.

– Because I took the class, I now have some pieces that, with some editing, I could start sending out. I’ve finished the novel draft. The school year has started back up, which makes working on something longer a bit harder. There’s a lot of discontinuity when you can only squeeze in an hour every few days. So working on smaller pieces should be ideal, but…

– I think maybe my attitude towards submitting has changed. The things I wrote in Kathy’s class—some of them are quite good. But “quite good” doesn’t feel like enough anymore. I’ve only just started thinking about this, but at the moment, I feel like unless it blows me away, I’m not really interested in sending it out. I want to ask myself why I’m sending something out. Is it the very best it could be or just good enough? Is it something that needs to be out in the world, or just a step to another publishing credit? And if it’s the latter, should I just maybe keep it to myself?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. I’m not sure exactly what it means that I’m asking these questions. For now, it feels okay and that’s enough.

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