Suspend Your Disbelief

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Three Years in the Slushpile

Sorted White Paper Pile

Image credit: Flickr - Walter Parenteau

On The Awl, writer S.J. Culver describes the experience of waiting three years for a response from a journal:

[H]ere’s a short list of things I did with my life while that magazine was considering whether to publish my 16-page story: I grew my hair ten inches; I paid off a car loan; I did my taxes (three times); I got my own apartment; I read 131 books; I attended two weddings and a baby shower; I cut my hair off again; I drove across the country three times. Additionally: I completed an MFA in creative writing, taught five semesters’ worth of college freshmen how to write, and, after 149 job applications, landed a full-time position with health insurance and a 401(k). I wrote a dozen more stories and the beginning of a novel. I sold reviews and articles to various markets. I actually published the story in question in another magazine. In the animal kingdom, the elephant is considered to have an especially long gestation period at 22 months. Depending on your reckoning, 838 days is one elephant, two giraffes, three humans, five sheep, 19 kangaroos, 25 litters of rabbits or 70 litters of North American opossums. If I’m good in this life, perhaps heaven will be the chance to set a pair of possums loose in a certain editorial office.

Culver goes on to draw some pithy lessons about expectations and disappointment—and what writers can learn from them:

I think differently about disappointment: I don’t think our goal should be to avoid it. I think disappointment is evidence we’re on the right track. I think it means we’re after the things that matter. I think we should stop being afraid of getting caught caring about our failures.

Copy those lines onto your folder of rejection slips (I know you have one)—then touch your nose back to that writerly grindstone.

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