I’m not super competitive in my life. I don’t enjoy playing games. I don’t watch sports or follow a team franchise. I don’t compete in any sporting events. So it amuses me that I am so intent on being a “good” poet. I put a lot of time (and money into student loans) into learning how to write better. Now that I’ve got my crumpled MFA tucked in my back pocket, I’ve started sending my work out. Or at least I was until I hit a dry spell in acceptances.
In the beginning of the year, I was rolling in acceptances. I felt like I was finally moving forward into the writing life I’d dreamed of since I was in ninth grade and started keeping a “poetry” notebook. I received a prestigious scholarship to attend a prestigious writing conference. It won’t surprise you if I tell you that I was fairly bursting with confidence about my writing.
Then, I hit a dry spell. By the time August and the conference rolled around I was feeling a little shaky. Then I went to Vermont and hung around with a lot of writers who really had their “writing careers” in full gear. Almost all of the other writers at the conference who had received scholarships or fellowships were in academia. And by academia, I don’t mean behind the desk in a high school teaching Shakespeare to semi-dozing adolescents. I left that conference really re-evaluating what it would take to be a successful writer. Then I spent some more time wondering exactly what being a successful writer would look like for me.
I’ll admit that I’ve slacked off on submitting; my day job has eaten up a lot of my time. However, I’ve still sent a few things out these past few months, and I have quite a few poems waiting at various literary magazines for acceptance (or rejection, but who wants to think about that?). Still, I’m not that submission churning machine that published writers tell me is necessary to reach their status.
And still, I write. Almost every night. If not poetry, then something towards my novel, or even a blog posting. Rarely a night goes by that I don’t write. I’m a writer, that’s not in question. However, if I want to be a published writer, I’ve learned, I have to take that submission side more seriously and not be waylaid by the inevitable rejection letters or silence from editors. I need to be open to the idea that being a “successful” writer might not look like a college professorship and a book contract. Going forward, I’m going to apply this lesson by being a) more diligent about submissions, and b) more open to the various incarnations that my successful life as a writer might have. Hey, if anyone has any suggestions, I’d be glad to hear about them.