Some people in my grad program submit their work to magazines and contests often, some sporadically, and some not at all. I’ll freely admit that I fall into the first category. I guess it’s because before I started my MFA, I spent so many years writing in the dark, afraid to show my stories to even my closest friends and family members. Now I’m like a baby who’s learning to talk and babbles constantly, testing out this new voice he’s discovered. Even as rudimentary and incomprehensible as that voice sounds (as I often feel is an apt description of some of my writing) all that baby wants to do is share it.
There are benefits and drawbacks to being a frequent submitter. Benefits: when you have success, you get to do cool things like, for example, write a blog for an awesome magazine like WD! And success also leads you to validation. Writers are neurotic and we need people to tell us that we’re good enough. Professors and classmates will do that, and we will gratefully lap up their snippets of praise, but there’s always the chance they’re just being polite. Or maybe they just like you as a person and therefore claim to like your writing too. But when an anonymous editor chooses YOU from the slush pile, you know they’re being objective.
Drawbacks; You get rejected. A lot. For each success you have, there are many failures. You’ll submit to a contest or a magazine, and six months of frequent trips to various submission managers will end with an anticlimactic, one-sentence rejection email. That hurts, but it doesn’t hurt as much as never knowing.
Ernest Hemingway, unsurprisingly, said it a lot better than I can: In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dulled and know I had to put it on the grindstone again and hammer it back into shape and put a whetstone to it, than to have it bright and shining and unused.”