While I have enjoyed success in writing, I still feel like an impostor. This is partly to do with a long stretch of rejections for poems and stories that I felt were “better” than the ones I already published. This is also in part to the fact that I see my peers doing more than I do.
I’m supposed to feel kinship and invigoration seeing them succeed like See! Art is alive in this world! There is hope! But more often than not I feel jealous. And it always seems that someone’s posting about a new job/new opportunity/new publication/new award/new anything right after I’ve received my 50th rejection in a row.
It’s hard not to feel like an impostor after that. So many thoughts that I know make no sense rapid fire their way through my brain like What did those other editors who published me before see in my work? Have I said everything I’ve needed to say and now everyone sees it?
Submitting wasn’t feeling great. So I stopped.
I took a long break from it to focus on what I was trying to do in the first place: express myself. I got back to keyboard and blinking word processor cursors and started writing again.
For a long time when I started my self-imposed submission ban, I found my thoughts tainted. After I wrote a poem, my mind would start filing through all the journals I know of that could possibly be interested in the poem. I thought about what the audience would think about it. Worst of all, I imagined writing that celebratory Facebook post announcing its publication in one of my dream magazines.
The urge to submit was strong – I would honestly liken it to a drug. I have trained myself to quickly write cover letters and 50-words-or-less bios and scanning submission guidelines for the important stuff like deadlines and formatting and reading fees that the very act of writing became a means to an end. An end that was never promised and, lately, was never even a hope.
But I pushed on writing. I resisted the pull to submit and wrote pretty consistently for about six months. I retrained the publishing side of my personality to hand the reins over, and I’ve written some of my favorite poetry.
Just last week, I decided to start submitting again. This is where I’m hoping my drug analogy becomes moot. I don’t want to feel like I’m an addict returning to the hollow bosom of my destructive tendencies. And I hope this submitting doesn’t take me away from the page where the joy of writing is born.
But it does feel a bit like falling off the wagon seeing my Submittable page filled up again knowing that there are even more submissions sent through standard email. There are times when I feel the grime of narcissism clinging to my clothes just wanting so badly for someone to tell me there is value in what I write – and it doesn’t feel healthy.
I’m not sure if this is meant to be a cautionary tale or simply a venting session. And I would be lying to you if I told you it still doesn’t stab me somewhere when I see another success post from someone else.
I guess I’m just saying that this writing business is complicated and it probably always will be to me.