I’ve been having a crisis of faith, lately. Faith in myself as a writer, faith in myself as a student, faith in myself as a functional adult. I’ve been in a kind of stasis this last month, wringing my hands and bemoaning my inability to do anything useful or good. I don’t just mean with my writing—with everything: washing my dishes, cooking myself a meal, keeping my apartment somewhat tidy. I haven’t updated in weeks and feel terrible about it. Suffice to say, my promised Gone Girl review is not happening.
Last week I was fighting a sinus infection and an ear infection at the same time. I assumed it was the antibiotics that were putting me to sleep so early every night. But now I think that’s just been the stress. I overwhelm myself to the point of immobility. But just because I’ve stopped doesn’t mean the world has stopped with me. It keeps going, piling more on my plate as I watch Netflix and feel sorry for myself.
The reason I write is to be read. That’s it. I write stories or poems or essays with the hope that someone will read them and connect. There’s more involved there—changing the world would be nice. But it boils down to a desire to be read. One way of getting read is by publishing, whether traditionally (which seems to involve mostly luck once you reach a certain level of competency) or though self-services.
But I can’t think about that now because I just don’t believe I currently have anything worthy of publishing. Part of the problem is being a member of a talented community. When I’m reading other people’s work multiple times a week, work that makes me laugh or takes my breath away, it adds to my inner inertia.
But it’s a perspective problem, I can see that now. Readers on the outside world read published works as finished products, even if the writer feels those works are not finished and could never be finished. Readers in the workshop world are reading works in progress. Their responsibility is to help the writer improve (or give the writer something to fume over at the bar that week, which is helpful in a different way). The focus is not on how much someone loved your work (though complements and positivity do abound here) but on what your fellow writer thinks would make the work better
I will get past this bump in the road, this lump in my throat, as I have before. I will find it in me to convince myself that something is worth sticking in front of an editor’s nose. I will rack up more rejection emails because, now that I think about it, I was happier getting those, knowing someone somewhere took the time to at least read my cover letter if not the story in its entirety. Rejections to small magazines are easy to shrug off because you know they get a staggering amount of submissions and only have space for a few.
The publishing date for my story “An Emptiness That Burns” in An Unlikely Companion still says November 2014, but the anthology has not been released yet. I am hopeful that having that trade paperback in my hands, seeing my name in print, will give me a small boost and reignite that old hope inside me.
My job right now is not to publish or produce shining, award-winning work. My job is to fully inhabit my role as a student: to take risks and fail as spectacularly as I can.
Note: Today’s post title is from Samuel Beckett’s Westward Ho