Post-MFA Fear #2: I will never get published. Never.




Real or unfounded? I’ve been published in the past, so it is likely that it will happen again. What I want right now is big-time publication, e.g., a story in The New Yorker, agents competing to represent me, nominations and awards. Realistically, that will not happen this week. Any one of these things may happen in the future. My pieces that have been published took time to write, and it took time to match them to appropriate publications. Then it took time to submit appropriately (i.e., formatted properly, accompanied by a tight cover letter addressed to the right person, even better if my submission was endorsed by someone respected, previously published and/or connected to the publication), and to await a response. So much time.

What can I control? I know that to get published, I need to keep writing. As a professor once advised me when I voiced my publication concerns: “How about you just write first? Write, then worry about what to do with it.” True words. So my first priority while I’ve been in the MFA program has been to treat writing like my job. That has meant dedicating a specific amount of weekly hours, physical work space, and schedule and project plans. For example, on a typical week, I might designate Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday as fiction writing days. I allot five consecutive hours per day, 7:00 a.m. till 12 noon, in my home office. I create a to-do list the night before my writing days to keep me on track as to what I will work on and what I will accomplish.

I can also control the research needed to submit smartly. That has included finding out where authors and classmates I admire have been published. I have asked for suggestions from teachers, writers, readers, and classmates. I read Poets & Writers, and browse publications at book stores and libraries.

It is also up to me to submit my work if I want to get published. As a teacher once told me, “There is no market or audience for writers who keep their stories on their hard drive or desk drawer.” I’ve got to get my stuff out there if I want to get anywhere.

What do I have to accept as out of my control? Again, that darned time element. Once I submit a story, response time is largely out of my control. I’ve learned that just because a publication seems to be a perfect match or I have a strong endorsement or have been published there before is no guarantee that they’ll publish (or re-publish) me at a particular time. Ouch. Developing patience and a thicker skin is going to be a continual process.


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