Every time I get a refusal from a journal or agent to whom I submitted a poem or a query letter or what have you, I feel a little shocked. Not so much because I’m surprised I got rejected (my head isn’t that big, I hope!), but just because it’s a reminder that I need to reevaluate my progress and work constantly.
There’s always a tendency to settle into a comfortable routine, after all.
I’ve been going through a long, sort of ‘dry’ spell with writing, where I can hardly work up the interest or enthusiasm to pursue my various story projects and poetic inspirations. I’ve had lines of poetry floating in my mind for months which I haven’t been able to focus on for the sake of seeing what fleshes out around them. I was sent a blog post by my friend, the Fashionista, which consoled me during my dry period: it reminded me that everything has to happen at the time that’s best for it, so demanding things of yourself when you truly don’t have the energy to pursue them is counter-productive and possibly destructive.
Still, though, it’s pretty discouraging to know that one is a writer, but to feel utterly lacking in inspiration and drive. I submitted some poems to a journal and a novel to a contest in June, in the hopes that I might get a good response on one or the other and that might jump start my interest again. I’ve not heard back yet on the novel, but the poems were politely declined a few days ago.
I did the only thing appropriate in the situation: I wrote a new poem about getting rejected!
While I was working on composing that, I reflected on my current writing life. A few weeks ago, I decided that I’d start up a ‘Writer’s Sequestration,’ on Wednesday evenings after work, where I get take-out and do nothing but edit for a few hours straight. It’s been quite productive, as I’m working through House of Mirrors at a pretty reasonable rate now, and also it has made me feel a little less like my writing is running away from me. Things have been looking up, in other words.
Because of that, I was able to take the rejection of my poems with considerable equanimity, but the shock of having someone say, ‘No, thank you,’ did force me to rethink my writing priorities. See, in the ten weeks between submitting the poems and hearing the answer, I read a lot of poetry from the online journal to which I submitted. I realized during that period that the poems that are accepted and published all have a certain ‘style’ to them. I’m not criticizing them, actually – I’ve enjoyed and admired almost every poem I read. However, they all obviously follow the current trend in poetry and my poems do not.
So then I had to ask myself, ‘Do I want my poems to follow the current trend?’
I’ve always been fairly good at imitating things. I got good grades on all my writing assignments in high school where I had to mimic the tone and voice of a particular writer. I could probably pretty easily figure out how to write poems which share the same structure and characteristics that I noticed in almost all the poems accepted to this particular journal. In a way, the challenge would be sort of fun, as I would of course then resubmit and see if they got accepted.
However, I feel like this would be selling out, in a way. I like the poetry I write. It has my voice; it reflects my way of experiencing the world, which tends to be more on the analytical side, and which quickly leaps from individual happenings to universal meanings. I don’t really feel like I’d gain anything from training myself to write according to a different trend, other than technical skills, perhaps. So, I’ve resolved to be an amateur rather than a published poet. My novels have always been more important to me, and it’s time to admit that perhaps I’d be happier if I just wrote poetry for myself and my friends, and instead focused on getting the novels published.
With that in mind, I decided to revamp my blog. I’m still going to write posts on balancing the many elements of life, but I think I’ll also start posting my poems (and possibly short stories, when those occasionally happen) here. No sense having them languish in digital files on my computer, unread. It will be better and make me happier to see them posted here for others to read and enjoy. Perhaps they may generate some commentary and feedback.
That being said, I hope anyone who reads my posts will enjoy the change and the new mixture of prose and poetry. Please look forward to a poem to be posted in the next few days!