Saturday, October 25, 2014

My writing journey

I'm feeling a little retrospective at the moment. About my writing and how much I've changed over the last few years. When I started university, way back in 2010, I remember coming home one afternoon and feeling more frustrated than I possibly ever had before. It had something to do with feeling like my entire future was planned out for me, with as much room to move as if I was wearing a straight jacket. 

When I think of writing, I think of September 15, 2011 (It was a Thursday afternoon). Once again, there was a sense of frustration, but of a different sort strong enough to justify writing a poem about. That poem was my "Rain" poem, the one which set me off on a path that I can now look back on and remember as a fork in the road. I really liked that little poem. I thought it was well written, and maybe even good enough to be published somewhere. So I put it up on my blog, and kept writing poetry during times when I had no.other.outlet. Come May 2012, I was browsing the internet (no surprise there) and stumbled upon a local magazine calling for submissions for fiction, poetry, and plays. With high hopes I sent them "Rain" and a few other poems. They'd given us a date by which we would know if our work was accepted, and I jotted it down on my calendar. But it was delayed, and the fingers stayed crossed for longer than was first expected. I would be a published writer if I was accepted! An actual, published, writer! You've probably guessed by now that, no, it wasn't accepted. And my hopes came crashing down and for 6 months I didn't send anything to anyone because why on Earth would they want it? 

Further down the track, in November 2012, I was browsing the website "Duotrope", a kind of database for literary magazines which gives you information about their submission guidelines, what kind of writing they publish etc. So I thought, well, why not? I'll send some poetry to a few magazines and if nobody accepts it, that's it, I'll give up on it. Rejection after rejection arrived in my inbox and, like all writers who try and try again, I was pretty downtrodden. So I just about gave up, with a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that one of the magazines, Westward Quarterly, hadn't got back to me yet. I remember the Friday morning in January, 2013 that I checked my email and saw the editor was going to include "Rain" in the Spring edition of the magazine. Needless to say the emotions running through my system were a mix of excitement and bewilderment.

I didn't write too much poetry in the following months. I did a little bit, but not as much as I had before. My attention turned to fiction, and up until I read "Great House" by Nicole Krauss, I had little idea it didn't exclude poetry. But Nicole introduced me to prose, and so I started experimenting with it. In June 2013, I stumbled across an issue of Yen Magazine, advertising a short story competition for which entries were due a few weeks later. I gave it a try and put together a story from different bits of writing I'd done that year. I edited and edited and edited. And sent in the story. And, needless to say, didn't win! I wasn't as crestfallen as I was after my poetry was first rejected. I knew by then, if you try hard enough and send your stuff to enough magazines, eventually, you might just be published. I had my "Rain" poem to attest to that. So in the following months came, you guessed it, a flood of emails along the lines of: "Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately, the story doesn't fit the needs of the magazine. We wish you luck placing your work elsewhere." Each rejection email chips away at the writers confidence. Bit by bit, each email falls a little harder. But there was one which pulled me up even more than an acceptance could. It was a little note from The New Yorker that said my writing indicated promise and advised me to keep writing and reading. But still, rejection after rejection followed, and you get to point where you think: "Nobody's ever going to publish this." But you keep going, because, quite frankly, you have nothing to lose by a few more people reading your story. They don't even know you! So there's less judgement that way. 

In March 2014, I woke up early one morning dreading work. I hadn't had much sleep the night before, and my eyelids weighed around a thousand kilograms. I reached over to my phone to turn off my alarm and glanced at the "new email" icon at the top of the screen. Weary eyed I checked my inbox and, there was The Deltona Howl Magazine saying "Neither Happy Nor Sad" would find a good home within their pages. Reading that email felt like the part of me that had  been walking through the desert finally made it out, and to use their words: "found a good home." Since then, I've been writing. and writing. and writing. I'm now at the point where I don't go a day without writing, and each time I sit down at my desk, I can't help but think about that day in 2010 when I felt like I had no say in my future. Because now, I just about have no plans. But I have a goal to aim for, which has loosened the straps of that straight jacket. 

Kudos to you if you made it this far. I honestly feel like the only person I wrote this for was me.

Sara xx 

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