The hardest part of getting your work published in literary magazines is not the submission process or finding the magazines, or even finding the inspiration: it is the motivation to start, and beyond that the motivation to keep going once the rejections start to pile up in your inbox. The same inbox that you cannot bring yourself to make a special email folder for because of the thick income of template ‘unfortunately, the piece is not for us’ from editors.
Before we get started on any of the technicalities of publishing you must understand the absolute necessity of rejections. They suck. Hard. It’s not eloquent but it’s just a fact of being a published writer. The successful writers aren’t only the ones with talent but those who put hard work in, and don’t let rejections make them give up. If you remember that all you need to achieve your dream is hard work, then it becomes easier to see them as realistic and achievable. And with that I shall actually get to the point of this article.
Sometimes I find it is important to ignore trying to get published, to not get caught up in it, to not let the art of writing and the passion become all about being published. I have fallen down this trap before. Multiple times. The pressure becomes anxiety-inducing and it becomes less about the writing and all about the need to submit and become a ‘real writer’ through being recognised. I like to give myself a month or more in which I will write without submitting so that I can once again come back to simply writing for the sake of writing, and helping to remember how I love writing simply for the euphoria of writing. Though this advice might seem contradictory with everything else I have said the passion for writing is so important. One might only remember Van Gogh’s passionately prolific painting without much success beyond his brother.
A while ago, after another rejection and a brief period of feeling sorry for myself I came across an article in which a woman wondered how her friend got published so much. After asking her friend she found out her friend was attempting a ‘100 rejections a year challenge’, in which she doesn’t count the acceptances of her work but rather attempts to attain 100 rejections in the space of a year. Rather than attempt to contradict the previous advice here, I instead indeed to explore two different ways that might help motivate you. Sometimes focusing on getting published can commercialise and undermine one’s passion for art. However, for others it creates a competitive atmosphere in which one can thrive on the results as the publications stack up both online and on your bookshelf. I have found both approaches have worked for me at different times, however it really does come down to the individual.
- Once finishing a piece of writing I find it is a good idea to leave that work in a draw or out of the way for a few days or however long is necessary. That way I can come back with a new perspective on the piece: I see the spelling mistakes that my brain filled in correctly the first time, the clunky sections of writing, the cliche phrases and so forth.
- Just write. It’s cliche and well-known but it is important to just write and let yourself be bad, maybe even terrible. We are so often taught that something must be perfect the first time or it is not worth doing but that idea is so far from the truth: be kind to yourself and please make mistakes, make terrible writing so as to allow yourself to be brilliant.
- Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. The idea of a muse coming to you and filling your brain and soul with beautiful words needs to be discarded. Inspiration is not passive it is active and needs engagement. You need to seek out inspiration and actively work with the ideas, sights, and history that is presented to you in this world, which brings me onto the next point.
- Always carry a notebook. Whenever you can note down interesting features that you see or hear or even smell around you. This notebook can act as a constant form of inspiration, an active muse and engagement with the world.
“The writer’s market place”: this is a yearly publication that contains a list of publishers accepting poetry, prose, prose non-fiction, scripts and so forth. The entries are marked with symbols that tell the reader about publications that are free or paid to submit to, which expertise level, and short descriptions of what the given magazines requires from its contributors. This is a great place to start when first starting out on the road to publication.
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury – This book is by one of the greatest short story writers. The passion and hard work Bradbury puts into his work is evident throughout and inspires the reader in their own work. He famously came up with the system in which he writes a short story a week, a system he continued even after his wife’s death. A great book to inspire oneself, see another point of view on the craft of writing and a unique perspective on a lifetime of writing experience.
Scribophile – This website works on a ‘karma points’ system meaning that you have to critique other’s writing to earn points that are then ‘paid in’ to post your own work. This is a great environment for supportive writers where you can learn how to critique your own work through critiquing others work and having your own critiqued in return. There are also articles on writing, forums and competitions on this site.
The Write Life’s “100 best Websites for Writers 2018” – This website simply contains a very useful list of links to good writing websites on writing, editing, blogging and so forth. It is a good site to check out if you are just beginning, or feeling lost or even if you’re far along in your writing as there is always something more to learn.