Fiction Submission Games

Every now and then it occurs to me how utterly ineffective I am at keeping my fiction “out there” (by which I mean on the market, not “in left field,” since there’s little doubt I do well at the latter).

I have, at the moment, over a dozen short stories just sitting on my hard drive. They’re completed, and I very much suspect that they’re good enough to be published. Some of them have been to two or three markets, some have been to none, but not one of them is currently making the rounds. And this is not something new to me.

I’ve mentioned this sort of thing to many fellow writers, and more often than not they are rather condemnatory of it. They seem to be of the opinion that if one is not plugging away and plugging away — publishing whatever, whenever, and wherever one can — then one is not a writer.

For whatever reason I thought once more on my lack of submissiveness (ha!) this morning, and it struck me, all at once, that perhaps some of my fellows look unkindly on my write-and-neglect habits because they see it as a fundamental betrayal of our shared craft.

I started trying to articulate a response to this a few minutes ago, and this is what I wrote:

Art is Suffering CartoonBeing a writer, you understand, is theoretically egotistical and practically masochistic. Writing is egotistical at its core, of course: composing a story posits a reader to read it, an audience that by definition cares what you, the composer, have to say. It’s the same with any creative act: to commit it, you must at some level be placing yourself in an authoritative position relative to the world around you. Writing, too, is masochistic: not only does it inherently open the writer to criticism, it invites it. (Indeed, some writers revel so deep in the pool of rejection — perhaps as a defensive reaction against the looming reality of failure — that one might term them self-flagellants.) Writing thus becomes a kind of martyrdom of heroic suffering “for the art.” I imagine, then, that my fellow writers view me as not being serious about my writing, because I don’t do all I can to see my work in print. …

I wrote this only to find myself cornered by my own thought process.

I want to argue that seriousness and desire for publication are not causal companions. One need only look at Kafka or Tolkien for a rebuttal. But even so I cannot say why some writers aren’t desperate to see their work in print. Is it a lack of egotism? Is it a lack of masochism? Or is it a lack of desire? By the terms of the argument that I’ve set-up there’s not much excuse beyond those options, and I’m not comfortable labeling myself with any of them.

Perhaps, when all is said and done, I’m just lazy.

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