A Year in Writing
Even though I’ve been writing all my life and have had short pieces published for a decade, I still feel like I’m a beginner in my writing career. There’s always more to do, more to learn, more to write, edit, and submit. And every year I feel myself growing and getting exponentially better.
2018 was a weird writing year for me. I got a poem accepted by a lit mag in January (which still hasn’t come out and I’m getting anxious) then a 5-month dry spell with no acceptances whatsoever happened. During the first 6 months of the year, no one published any of my creative writing.
Then something kind of magical happened. I got a tattoo I’d been wanting for a decade. It’s of a pen and it’s on my right forearm. The location is symbolic both because I’m right handed and it’s over the bright blue vein that runs the length of that patch of skin. Writing is my lifeblood, literally.
I got the tattoo in late May as a promise to myself that even if I never succeed and never have another thing published, being a writer is who I am. My tattoo is a visible promise to myself and the world that I’m not giving up.
I shit you not, 3 days later I had an acceptance––this time for another poem. Coincidence?
That poem is “when i say fuck men” in Heavy Feather Review.
After that it was like something broke: a spell, a curse, who knows. Things get easier. Maybe they got easier because I’d learned patience or because I was too busy writing to wait around for things to happen. It’s the writing equivalent of the old saying “a watched pot never boils.”
Not long after that, my flash essay “Winston Street. Birmingham, Alabama” was published in Barely South Review.
A few weeks later, my essay “The Last Summer” was published in Deep South Magazine.
A week or two after that, I had a weekend for the record books. On Friday, I got an acceptance for an essay that’s dear to my heart that had been rejected about a million times. And the magazine wanted to pay me legit dollars to publish it. (That’ll be out soon––stay tuned!)
Then on Saturday that weekend, I got an acceptance from The Rumpus, one of my bucket list publications. If you’re not familiar with them, they published Cheryl Strayed before she got famous with Wild. Agents read The Rumpus looking for up-and-coming talent. My essay “Grape Leaves” being published there was a dream come true.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, the following Monday rolled around and I learned a flash essay I wrote last year––”Salted Wound” published in The Citron Review––was nominated for Best of the Net. That’s an honor because only editors can submit Best of the Net nominations and the competition is a way of identifying the best writing of the past year.
A weekend like that made me feel bonafide. I couldn’t help thinking, this must be how real professional writers feel.
A few weeks after that, another poem was accepted by a magazine. It was one I wasn’t sure would find a home. Shortly thereafter, I got more surprising news: the one short story I wrote this year (I don’t often write short fiction) had been accepted by a respectable literary magazine. Then I finished out the year with having an essay accepted to another literary magazine. These 3 things aren’t out yet but should be soon.
I don’t tell you all this to brag, but rather to encourage you if you’re a writer yourself. No matter how bad you’re feeling about your work or how long it’s been since something of yours was published or whatever the case may be, your journey is valid. And you never know where it’ll take you. (I mean, a 5-month dry spell AND a bucket list publication in the same year?? Seriously, who would’ve thought!)
I also tell you this because a lot of wonderful people in my life have encouraged and believe in me throughout 2018 and I might have quit if it weren’t for their insistence that they wanted to read the things I wrote. I tell you all this because, even being cheered on, I didn’t publish a ton this year. (And it wasn’t for lack of trying––I submitted 124 times.) That’s okay. Things worth doing are slow processes. I’m okay with where I’m at. I want you to be okay with where you are too.
I tell you all this to say the important thing is that you stick with it. Keep going. Readers need your voice. Magic will happen when you least expect it. Luck comes when your nose is to the grindstone.
And may 2019 be our best year of writing yet.