Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Virtuous Circle

It's been several months since I sent a batch of stories to lit mags and the like, and only a few have rejected me. There are still about 10 submissions floating out in the ether. That means I gotta wait and wait some more.

If "Waiting For Godot" entailed an eternal vigil for something that will not happen, "Waiting For the Goddamn SASE Back" is a less-than-eternal vigil for something that mostly likely will not happen, that is, acceptance.

As anyone who has submitted to literary magazines and journals will know, the usual rejection (it's never a letter, but a slip of paper, those cheap bastards) contains no encouraging words, no critique; it's nothing but a heartless form letter that might as well be an extremely sharp kitchen instrument.

Waiting for a response

What is most evil about this process is that one will wait months for this scrap, this Xeroxed piece of paper that rips out the heart and renders you suicidal for 24 hours. If your story sucks, you would think they could tell you in less than eight months.

Worse, the longer one waits, the greater the expectation becomes. They haven't rejected me yet, you think, so I must be close to getting published! I'm in the finals! Then, reality crushes you like you're a bug and they're Sidney Greenstreet.

Several months ago, I wrote about sending stuff off to the Great Literary Vortex & Cabal. Now I wait. So, in case you're wondering, here is how I pass the time before getting the inevitable rejection letters:

--Write new stories that I pretend are essential, perfect pieces that those SOBs will have to take the next time.

--Delude myself into thinking that the Northwest Shithole State Journal is reading my prose with rapt attention, with nubile 23-year-old grad students swooning in my wake.

--Provide support to Wife, who is getting rejections of her own, except hers are actually nice, handwritten letters that beg of her to send more stories.

--Waste time on blogging.

--Expand the mind via televised media (WWE Raw, South Park, Brain Surgery Network), exciting new hobbies (computer games, a musical instrument gathering dust, crashing cars into piles of dead refrigerators), or exploring old favorites (sports, porn, beer, porn, rearranging CD collection, porn).

--Read books that are either a) well written but not too well written, so that I believe that surely that I could get my stuff published; b) that are written like manna handed down from the gods, to the degree that I consider hacking off my digits, one by one, for what the fuck am I doing compared to, say, Nabokov or Garcia Marquez; or c) reading crap in the same literary magazines that are going to reject me, and screaming, Jesus Christ!, wondering why they wouldn't publish me as I am obviously writing circles around these chuckleheads.

I've always said that to varying degrees, writers are malajusted, neurotic, or social outcasts. (Me, I'm all of the above, proud of it, and heading to a mental ward near you.) I'm beginning to believe that these various mental conditions are a result of waiting for rejection letters. It's a virtuous circle of despair, you see.