Becoming the Living Poet

Submission (Not the Kinky Kind)

Posted on: June 17, 2009

Buddy in Bondage

As much as I tell myself I write this blog for me alone and thus if I wanted to henceforth write about tap dancing ferrets ’til the end of time it would be my prerogative, I start to feel a little guilty when I haven’t written about poetry in awhile.

So today’s topic is: Submission, i.e. submitting work to a literary magazine or contest.

In terms of writing I’ve had a pretty good run recently. I’ve written a poem a week for the last two weeks. Technically one piece might be microfiction, it’s very narrative and not very metrical, but it’s definitely a complete piece of creative writing so I’m throwing it in the pile of writing that counts as me being creatively productive. I generally don’t count the blog posts or the letters I write to friends, though sometimes I wonder if I have too limited a view of what counts as literary art.

A recent post on Creative Juices titled Who Is YOUR Creative Alter Ego? got me thinking about what counts as being blocked and how idiosyncratic that concept is for different writers.

Here’s a quote from the post, but you should definitely read the whole thing, particularly if you think you’re creatively blocked in some way:

Our creativity is interested in us becoming whole human beings. It wants us to stop living such a small and narrow life. Acting out that same darned, tired and tattered, one sided and unidimensional script that we were given as children is just plain no fun and boring. It’s old. It’s been done. Over and over again. And the last thing that the creativity goddess wants for us is to be bored senseless by a life of going around and around the same ancient, well worn grooves in our psyche.

So the next time you find yourself stalled at a creative roadblock take a moment to ask the following question “Who is it that you are trying to please? What status quo are you busily trying to maintain?”

Reading Chris Zydel’s post which features one example of the labrinthyne methods people find to block their own creativity made me think a lot about the nature of writer’s block. Specifically, it made me think about how in many cases writer’s block is a myth that writer’s tell themselves to keep from putting work into the world that might be emotionally dangerous.

Which brings us in a roundabout, cat and mouse sort of way, back to the theme of today’s post.

Submission, i.e. submitting work to a literary magazine or contest.

I haven’t done it in over a year.

I’ve been telling myself that that’s because I haven’t been writing.

That’s total bunk.

I didn’t finish the process, but as I was packing for my move to Norcal I started going through old notebooks, and my suspicians were correct. I have scores of untyped and unedited poems.

To provide a little background information, my two most common methods of writing poems are:

1) I carry a notebook with me and write poems when inspiration strikes, usually after a particularly good conversation or when reading a particularly inspiring passage in a book. Often I write poems after attending a reading and hearing other people read poems. I guess you could call this method cross-pollination. The world demands a response and that response is a poem. Cross-pollination requires paper. There’s a kinetic element too it. The feel of the pen in hand. The mad flipping of notebook pages to get to the next blank space. A computer doesn’t cut it. I don’t think it’s the feel of the keys that is the problem. I love keyboards. I think it’s the blinking cursor and the terrifying whiteness of a blank word document screen. The word processor demands an answer. A blank sheet of paper merely invites one.

2) In my computer I have a folder called ‘Finish Me Please’. This folder is filled with poor orphan poems that had wonderful beginnings and uninspired endings or, saddest of all, single homeless lines that were too beautiful for any poem yet in existence. Sometimes rather than writing my poems from scratch I go through the ‘Finish Me Please’ folder and try to put bits of poems together like puzzle pieces. I guess I would call this the collage method. These poems are often the most experimental and odd duck of my poems. Sometimes they seem like industrial machinations in comparison to my more organic poems. They are like children raised in an underground colony, preparing to live their adult lives in the world above, anxious over what sunlight might be like. Bringing some measure of completeness to my neglected orphan poems and homeless poetry fragments feels downright humanitarian and I enjoy it immensely.

I haven’t been writing many poems using the collage method lately, but I have been writing plenty of cross-pollination poems.

Cross-pollination poems require an extra step to make them fit to leave their humdrum domestic lives and venture out into the world to become gold miners or befriend wolves in the Alaskan wilderness or do other things that both poems and Jack London are fond of doing.

Cross-pollination poems need to be typed and I haven’t been typing them. I’ve been filling up notebooks, sticking the notebooks in a pile by my bed, and, worst of all, telling myself I never write anymore because if I were writing I would obviously be submitting work.

Stuff and nonsense!

Writing, feeling guilty for not writing, and bemoaning not having anything to submit is no way for a poet to live.

So unconscious fear of rejection and ridicule, I’m calling you out. Your rein of terror is done!

As soon as I get back to the U.S. I am on a mission. I am going to dig out every buried poem and type it up. I will then begin researching literary magazines to find homes for each of my completed poems.

I think I would like to ritualize the submission process in some way using this blog. Perhaps we’ll have an every other week or even a weekly accounting of where work has been sent.

I also want to have some fun with my rejection letter collection. Right now my collection of rejection letters is fairly modest. My goal is to have a rich and varied collection of rejection letters and I want to find a good way to display them. The rejection letter wall is a classic, but I think I want something more artistic. Perhaps rejection letter collages or rejection letter lampshades. Rejection letter wrapping paper on holidays.

Fear of rejection and writing have no business living in the same psyche, I like being a writer and I daresay I’m pretty good at it so the fear of rejection is just going to have to go.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Quotes of the Day:

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist. – Isaac Asimov

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. – Jack London

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5 Responses to "Submission (Not the Kinky Kind)"

Ooh! A collection of rejection letters, I love it. What better way to focus on just *getting in there* in the process? I vote for rejection-letter decoupage 😉

Hi Eileen,
Decoupage, I like it and I’ve always wanted to try it. Thanks for the suggestion. I also read through some of your blog posts and really like your themes and writing style, so I’m adding it to my blog roll. Thanks for stopping by.

Hi, I saw your comment on Havi’s blog. (I’ve found so many great blogs that way.) Just wanted to say that the kinky kind of submission also rocks! 😉

“I think I would like to ritualize the submission process in some way using this blog. Perhaps we’ll have an every other week or even a weekly accounting of where work has been sent.”

That is an awesome idea! Yay. I hope you do. Myself, well, I told myself I’d submit 2 pieces this week. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve ever submitted and I think I need to join you on your mission of collection rejection letters. Let’s take the shame out of rejection! Woo hoo!

[…] In my post, Submission (Not the Kinky Kind) I professed an interest in rejection letter art […]

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