Sometime last year, I don’t remember the exact date; I wrote a short story that I planned to submit to a magazine, hoping for publication. It seemed a good story. I’d done my research. My story was quirky, which I thought made it interesting. A quick once over before shipping it, and I was ready for my future literary glory. As expected, it took a few months before I received the inevitable, “Thank you for your submission, unfortunately we are unable to use your story at this time. Please continue to submit your writing and best of luck to you.” Signed, “The guy who rejected your story.”
That’s okay I thought, mine is a long and distinguished career of rejection. My first coming during fifth grade, her name was Galen. Patting myself on the back several times, I attempted to stroke my ego. “It’s their loss, not mine.” “Their literary taste dates back to the age of Neanderthals.” I told myself, I’ll wait awhile and find a magazine that deserves my talent.
After several months of delaying, I decided it was the perfect time to bring the reading world to its knees with my writing proclivity. Best to read over the story a bit I thought, add some luster to the well-aged tale. I read with the intent of correcting, improving two or three words. One can never be too perfect.
The self-assured smile faded quickly. The incessant use of the word – that -became all I could see. A typical sentence might read–He picked up the ball that was lying on the grass so that he could throw it to his friend that was standing there.
And that was not all that I found disturbing. Oh no, after fifteen minutes of editing, I had the need of a third red pen. The story looked like the battlefield at Little Bighorn. I changed, I rewrote, I moved paragraphs, and I drank two beers. Then the real impact of my efforts hit me. My imagination led me to the poor schmuck who had read my story many months before. I could all but hear him howling as he gathered his fellow workers around. One saying, “Tell him to buy a larger box of crayons, some additional color might help.” Another added, “I wonder if he lists toilet training as formal education?”
So here I sit today, confessing that I sent in a half-baked piece of writing and smugly waited for the adoration to come pouring in. I’ve since gone over a second edit and possibly by the fourth or fifth, it might end up being a decently written story. On dark nights, my lingering embarrassment still rears its ugly head. I call out in the night, I’m sorry!
Don’t mistake my vanity. My writing is far from what I want (and plan) it to be. As they say on the tweets I read, “What’s your current WIP. (Work In Progress) My answer,”it’s me.” I want to be a better writer, and I’m willing to do the work to accomplish that. Rejection is a common occurrence for writers and I’ve tried to accept that. During my tennis years, while playing a tennis tournament, I would think, I can win this. That’s a different view than I will win this. More realistic, more humble. But effort, confidence, and a willingness to accept rejection moves us down the path we wish to travel. I recently read what I consider a wise quote about writing. “The goal of writing is progress, not perfection.” I can live with that. Better is not perfection, but it is better than not caring or not trying.
To all those writing friends of mine, and for those I don’t yet know, I’m wishing you progress. I’m wishing you better if that’s what you want. If not, then I know a magazine that might get a kick out of reading your short story.
From Denni’s Wise Words
“Uncover your old, buried bones, sometimes they end up tasting better than the new ones.”