You have to write what you can write

One thing I hear from other authors is how easily they become discouraged when they look at the websites of other authors and/or the authors’ listings on directories such as the one maintained by Poet’s and Writer’s Magazine.

Even though many of these authors are publishing books, stories, or articles, they feel they’re coming up short when they look at the bios of other authors and see lists of grants, awards, fellowships, and literary magazines. It’s always worse, I think, to see that an author one has never heard of has been published in literary magazines that have rejected one’s work.

I’ve never been able to get a short story of mine published by Glimmer Train Magazine. They’ve been around for 30 years and are notoriously difficult to get into. They pay better than most, so they attract the best. When I heard that the magazine was discontinuing publication at the end of this year, I tried one more time. No dice. Had the story been accepted, I would have received a nice payment and some wonderful resume material.

But, there’s no sense dwelling on that. I have to accept that in addition to nonfiction, my strength is novels rather than short stories. So, I am grateful for that rather than the fact my shorter fiction work hasn’t found an audience. And, as for poetry, forget it!

Dwelling on what one usually cannot write is, for sake of a better analogy, rather like a successful tennis player wishing that s/he was also a successful Olympic swimmer. There are different skill sets involved. So, why not improve the one where your talents excel rather than feeling down and out about the venues where your talents don’t seem to fit? Nonetheless, I like submitting stories (and even poems) to a few contests a year because it’s good practice. Sure, one usually ends up editing and polishing material that might not win or even be called a finalist, but I think this work helps make our writing better.

If you’re interested in finding contests that might give you a chance to practice your craft, “Poets and Writers Magazine” has a well-maintained listing of opportunities on its website. Also, check out the listings on Funds for Writers: they have a free newsletter as well as a more extensive newsletter you can subscribe to.

As “they” often say with the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t pay. The same is true for grants and contests: if you don’t enter, you can’t win. (Even being listed as a finalist looks good on your website.) Unlike the lottery, contests require some work. That’s time well spent.