Feelings vs. Production
After my initial sense of rejection dispersed from that first attempt at writing a “great story,” I realized a few things. First, I didn’t know what a great story was. I mean, I could recognize one. I’d read plenty and had seen plenty as they played out on the silver screen. But I couldn’t put my finger on a great story within me and just fish it up from the depths, let alone decide whether it should be written like Kerouac or Kundera or Kafka.
Nope, I realized. Writing something awesome (and saleable) wasn’t going to happen that way. In fact, my experience of sending forth a barrage of material – tales I wrote quickly and, while fun and certainly reflecting parts of me, not nurturing within them all my hopes and dreams and aspirations – showed me that I really had no idea what would appeal to editors. Editors (and readers) found things interesting that I did not. They latched onto stories for different reasons than I expected. Their engagement with a story occurred on a different level than mine, as its author, and – while I couldn’t quite predict in advance what that engagement might look like, what form it might take – I could certainly write and submit lots of material. Once I began to figure out which types of stories resonated most with editors, my next step would be to follow-up with additional similar tales. Certain journals like certain types of material, I learned. Individual editors have foibles. I could learn those. And I could produce more work that stuck.
By producing something for them rather than producing something for me I believe I hit upon a key transition for an author seeking to professionalize his or her work.
I don’t know what perfect is. But I can reach a point of “good enough.”
This mindset also freed me from the tyranny of perfectionism. I don’t know what perfect is. But I can reach a point of “good enough.” Good enough for my artistic sense. Good enough to get a piece past the slushpile, allowing me to enter into dialogue with an editor, always with the expectation – even the express desire – that I’ll likely massage or even recreate from whole cloth some of the aspects of the particular piece based on their suggestions or questions.