Postulate 1: Who cares?
Corollary 1.1: Basically, to keep writing, you kind of have to summon up the notion that someone, somewhere, might care, even a little.
Corollary 1.2: The notion that people keep writing just for themselves--not just occasionally, but day after day, in a way that makes writing itself part of identity--seems like bullshit to me.
So today, while I was at Target for the second time in two days, to get the things I regretted not getting on the first trip, I thought of this topic, which I'm going with for my should-have-been-Thursday post. Because I also spent yesterday sending my work out to literary magazines.
Postulate 2: OMG I have submitted so much work, and the rate of return, outcome-wise, is so terrible!
Corollary 2.1: What does this mean? Why send stuff out? There is no rational basis. NIHILISM.
Corollary 2.2: OR in the face of the math (see Venn diagram above), one must simply say, as my friend the poet Jennifer says, 'Rejections mean that I am a working poet.'
Corollary 2.3: OR in the face of the math (see &c &c), one can say, as my friend the poet Wade says, 'I just send out a poem I like every Friday.'
SMALL DIGRESSION: This morning, as I chatted about these potentially soul-saving points of view with the historian, he said, 'So, it's kind of like Stan 'The Man' Musial, who could say, Well, I only get a hit one out of every three pitches. But that doesn't make him a failure, it just makes him a working baseball player. A Hall of Famer! and Karl 'The Mailman' Malone could say, I only make a basket every other time I shoot! But that doesn't make him a failure, it makes him a working basketball player. A Hall of Famer!'
I did have to point out that both Stan 'The Man' Musial and Karl 'The Mailman' Malone have better averages than I do. By a long shot.
In other words:
Postulate 3: Being a writer is a fictive activity.
Corollary 3.1: we imagine readers to whom we have no access, and then we hope for the best.
Corollary 3.2: the messages we get from our readers are sometimes robotic...
Corollary 3.3: ...but on occasion, we get a message from a human and, for a brief moment, feel real.
Let me conclude with two anecdotes from the fictional world of sending writing out for consideration:
Anecdote 1: I sent some poems to a venerable journal. I used their online submission portal. My cover letter was, as it always is, brief and grateful. The response--which is automated--said the following:
"While we try to respond to submissions , it often takes longer for a manuscript to be read. We ask for your patience as we do read every submission we receive.
If you haven't heard anything from us within a year, you are welcome to send us a status inquiry. Meantime, we hope you will take comfort in knowing that the longer it takes us to respond, the further up the ranks your submission is likely moving."Within a year!?! I find this hilarious.
Anecdote 2: Today, I sent some poems to a journal that I have periodically tried, one that I honestly think suits the kinds of poems I write quite perfectly. However, the last time I tried them, I submitted work at about 9:15 p.m., and the following morning, in a reply time-stamped 6:04 a.m., said:
Your manuscript has received a careful reading, but we have decided against holding it for our second round of deliberations.A careful reading!?! Before I even got out of bed, I laughed really hard. Although the person did go on to compliment one of the poems in the submission in such a way that, if I'm not mistaken, he patronized the whole batch. That could totally just be me.
Sometimes the fictive writer is a little bit oversensitive. But sometimes the fictive reader is a little bit of a jerk.