Wednesday, March 5, 2008

My Biggest Obstacle Appears to Be Me

First off, much appreciation to both Eric, my boyfriend and Rob, a buddy of mine, for helping me get this machine operational again. I’d have given up blogging if they hadn’t bailed me out. Hopefully everything’s in order now and the Macbook won’t be acting up again. If it does… I really don’t even want to think about it. I’m sick of having to trudge up to the Apple Store for help, and now that my warranty has lapsed there’s no help to be had there without a steep cost attached. I’m going to be avoiding that place for as long as I can.

How much objectivity is there in the opinion of loved ones? I’m sure there are parents out there at ballet recitals somewhere who, despite having witnessed their daughter’s inability to differentiate between her left and her right, still believe she could make prima ballerina. The rest of the audience knows it’s just not so, but to the parents of the confused dancer, no obstacle is too high to get around. How much of the encouragement and support of my own family and loved ones is love and enthusiasm for me alone and how much of it is for my writing? I know I’ll get in trouble with Eric when he sees this but I feel this way sometimes.

I suppose the easiest way to test this theory is to share it with others, but I’m apparently too much of a chickenshit to do something like that, at least when there’s no grade or college credit involved. I’ve no problem sending out manuscripts, but sharing my work with fellow writers isn’t something I can easily do. I can sit and shoot the breeze all I want at 100 Words meetings but to actually produce a writing sample, now that’s a whole new thing completely. I’m not sure why this is, exactly.

I know my writing isn’t complete trash, because I’ve seen complete trash and there’s no way to even compare the two. I at the very least put the time and effort into a manuscript to make sure it’s clear of grammatical and spelling errors and there are no glaring contradictions in plot or stilted, cliché dialogue. That sets me above most of the stuff being passed around message boards or personal homepages, at least for the people who take things only half seriously. I’m not really proud of this because that’s the way it’s supposed to be, so really by setting that standard I’m only assuring I meet the most base requirements of fiction writing.

When I write them, and even when I read them, the short stories I come up with seem entertaining to me. When I read sample short stories for magazines I’d like to contribute to, sometimes I think mine are better. Usually, though, I’m fairly confident they’re on an even par. So, with that being said, what do these stories have that mine so far haven’t? Am I lacking in something? Am I unlucky? Have I just not found the right fit yet? I’ve received a handful of rejection slips since I started submitting again this past Fall, and most of them have included either a gentle “not the best fit for us, good luck elsewhere,” or a short bit of constructive criticism. I appreciate them both, quite a bit, especially the ones where the rejection comes with an invitation to submit something else. Those make my day almost as much as acceptance slips. Almost.

If I take the advice of both my loved ones and my rejection slip folder, I’d have to say I’m being a bit unnecessarily gloomy about the state of my own writing. That makes me feel a bit better. I spend a lot of time in bookstores, especially on weekends, and I can’t help wandering the rows staring at the published books wondering, “Why not me?” I know the chances of being published are somewhat remote and the chances of making a profit off repeated publishings even more so, but if some of these people are making a living off of it there’s no way it’s not an achievable goal for me. No way in Hell. I just need to knuckle down and write more. It’s the only way to fly.

I’ve got six manuscripts out at various publishers right now, all of them short stories. “A Poor Self-Image” has been sent to Fail Better, “Canned Aisle” to Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, “Commute” to The Abacot Journal, “Cryptic Coloration” to Zahir, “In My Office” is still at East of the Web and “Wings” has been submitted to The Nocturnal Lyric. Out of those six, hopefully at least one will be accepted. I’m particularly fond of “Cryptic Coloration,” though I really am pleased at how they’ve all turned out. I’m still looking for the right places to submit two of my other stories, “At the Flea Market” and “The Orchard.”

“The Woman Without” is currently over at Horrotica, as well.

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