Yesterday marked the N+1 time I officially wanted to give up writing. Or quit. Or however you want to phrase the term stop. A few factors contributed to my poor attitude, including a nasty head cold (which is still hanging on) and a rejection. Yes, I've had plenty of rejections. No, they don't usually bother me (much) any more. The story had been short listed (which is great) but the rejection cited factors such as limited space and fit the theme of the issue. Sometimes it's not about a story being good enough.
Here's the truth: there aren't enough quality venues for good stories, let alone those that pay. You can call it sour grapes; I don't mind. Those who have been around the proverbial block will understand.
I also read "What Publishers, Authors & Journalists Can Learn from Indie Rock and Music Blogs" on GalleyCat. Let me quote a few eye-openers:
"Most successful indie rock stars earn a teachers’ salary through record sales, touring, and merchandise. For publishing, that means we have to adjust our expectations."
Wait...a teacher's salary? (um, speaking of that...your apostrophe is in the wrong place, GalleyCat) I already earn a teacher's salary, plus benefits. Indie rock stars don't have health insurance plans.
"You have to work for every fan, from blog interviews to hanging out in bars after the show."
I'm trying, I'm trying. How does one fight obscurity? That, to me, is the real question.
And from the Music Blogs side:
"Let your readers create on your site. "
Hmmm...wheels turning...thoughts forming...I'll get back to you on that one.
The bottom line, really, is I'm at the very tiny end of the long tail.* I assume I'll stay there for my career (at least somewhere in the long tail). I'm pretty happy with that, but it does effect the kind of writing I'm willing to do.
For example: you know I love short stories. Writing short stories, especially genre stories of the kind I write (horror, fantasy, magical realism), won't boost one's position in the long tail much, even if a writer publishes in the biggest genre mags. I'm okay with that. I'm okay with anything which allows me to hang around and share stories. Anything which kills my desire to write...well...
Have you read Natalie Whipple's post about her harrowing journey toward publication? (she used to be one of Nathan Bransford's clients) Um, sorry. Not for me. She does follow up with a nice take on what she's learned. The truth: even after you win, you haven't won anything. Kevin J. Anderson (genre writer extraordinaire and editor of Blood Lite II) wrote about "False Summits...and Careers in Writing." Read it. Another eye opener.
I'll end my little ramble with this: Ten years ago, Aimee and I took a trip to Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Park. On our last day in the Tetons, we took a short hike into Paintbrush Canyon. We were exhausted after a week of exploring and day hikes. Aimee was sure the big Paintbrush Canyon payoff was just around every corner. She expected something big, the summit, the epiphany, the very mustache of Zeus. We stopped at one point, and the epiphany struck. We'd been surrounded by the big payoff the whole time if we'd just stopped to look around. The lesson: if you focus on a distant shore, you'll miss the journey. Enjoy the journey. It's all you really have.
*Don't know what the "long tail" is? Here's a primer from Wired Magazine and writer Chris Anderson (who basically coined the concept).