September 13, 2017 § 25 Comments
By Gargi Mehra
I subscribe to several newsletters and websites focused on writing, and they often feature success stories from their readers. A common theme I see in these stories is an unfortunate predilection for amnesia. The typical entry reads something like this:
I saw a call for submissions for a contest in your newsletter. I sent in a story I’d written, and promptly forgot about it! A month later, when the winners were declared I was pleasantly surprised to find my name at the top of the list!
I read these words, heave an exasperated sigh, and move on. There are writers out there who submit and having submitted, forget.
I am not one of them.
From the moment I send out my work into the ether, bombarding the inboxes and virtual queues of unsuspecting editors, I grow obsessed with the state of my creation. Has it survived the journey? Will it come back to me dirt-ravaged? Or will it return to my arms carrying the virtual seal of editorial approval? I am anxious to know, and online submissions systems only fuel my anxiety as well as enthusiasm in equal measures. In the submission era of yore, one waited by the post-box to receive SASEs or cover letters that featured a hastily scribbled ‘No’ across the top. But even for that we waited. We stood by our windows and craned our necks for a sight of the postman who might bring tidings of joy or reports of dismal failure, more often the latter.
Even with email, the writer often exercises his index finger vigorously to execute a fervent and frequent tapping of the refresh button.
But nowadays, with Submittable and CLMP, we can observe the various stages of our submission. Watching my story progress from the initial to the more advanced stages fuels my adrenalin. Climbing up even one rung from Received to In-Progress carries significant weight, and portends success, at least in my fantasy world.
I diligently maintain a spreadsheet of my submissions. One of the columns my eye strays to quite often is the ‘Due Date’. In this column, whenever I submit a piece, I place an approximate date by which I might expect a response. It serves as a reminder to me that I must alert the publication when the time for consideration has elapsed.
In the moments that follow after I make a submission, the heart pounds, the imagination soars with anticipation, as if the receiving editor might cast a mere glance over my piece and decide instantly that she must have it in her publication else life won’t be worth living.
This feeling usually fades away soon.
In the days that follow, work and the rigors of daily life swallows me in its obsessive clutches. It is true that I do forget about my submissions, but this feeling is temporary, fleeting. As the time for a response draws near, I turn to the due date for solace. I dread sending a gentle nudge to the editor, knowing full well that she must have valid reasons for not responding. But my fingers are quick, and when the dreaded rejection does not appear, I type out the words with ease, shedding my worry about virtually prodding the journal through the ether.
If I ever sent in a story to a newsletter, this is how it would appear:
I saw a call for submissions for a contest in your newsletter. I sent in a story I’d written for the contest and promptly began obsessing about it! I checked my email every four minutes, tinkered with old stories, wrote nothing new, and waited for ages for the response. A month later, when the winners were declared I was hardly surprised that I hadn’t made it to the list, but I was grateful I could have my life back, even for a few moments until I sent in a new submission and a cycle of obsession began anew.
I long for the day when I can send in an entry and soon afterwards wake up to an incandescent mail declaring me the winner, astounding me in the process. I long for the day when I will acquire that particular brand of amnesia that allows me to submit and forget.
Until then, my fixation with my submissions promises to continue.
Gargi Mehra is a software professional by day, a writer by night and a mother at all times. She writes fiction and humor in an effort to unite the two sides of the brain in cerebral harmony. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines online and in print, including The Ilanot Review, Literary Mama and Papercuts magazine. She recently placed on the Editor’s List of the BlueShift Journal’s Brutal Nation Prize. She blogs at gargimehra.wordpress.com/ and tweets as @gargimehra