Friday, October 10, 2014

Changing course

I was going to write about what it feels like to see something published in a journal you've submitted to that seems to you not as good as what you wrote that got rejected. I was going to do this by looking at the Spring/Summer Glimmer Train. But this seems stupid to me now, for a few reasons. It's one thing for me to air my grievances with a writer who I paid to be my editor/adviser on here, it's another to rip on another writer, like me, who's just trying to get his/her stories told. It's just not charitable. My own frustration shouldn't be a cause to be unkind.

Anyhow, it's a given that in a volume with a dozen or so stories, there will be a few the editors liked that I don't. I do usually like most of the stories in GT, which is why it's one of the few lit journals I subscribe to. I've just given my explanation of what I like and what I look for in fiction; others are welcome to their own aesthetic. Maybe what I'm more frustrated about is that in general, I don't see enough of the kind of stories I love. It's one of the reasons I decided to start writing again.

Why else did I start writing again? God, what a played out question--"Why do I write?" In my twenties, I really believed in the nobility of literature with an unquestioned faith. In grad school, I began to think that literature could actually make a person evil. I certainly thought most of the people who did literature for a living were not good people. At some point, I decided to get a real job and focus on using my status as a gainfully employed person to stop mooching off others and actually help out a few. It felt a lot like when I cut ties with evangelical Christianity in my early twenties. I was giving up a high-minded philosophy that made people care less about others in exchange for what I hoped was a more humanistic way of thinking.

I really started writing again because one day I thought I might lose my job, and I wondered what I would do with myself. Writing seemed like something that could be meaningful--like, if my time were running out, that was what I would really want to do. I guess it's a common reason to write--to leave something behind that's lasting. Considered a little more skeptically, though, I guess you could say that the reason I write is awfully close to vanity. I want to think that my life wasn't a waste, that I did something. So why don't I spend more time helping refugees, my sole volunteer work I do? Why don't I try to make more money to give to others? Why writing?

I'm not sure I want to know the answer. My petulance over other people getting published over me gives me a hint that it really is about my vanity. Except that when I write something that I look back at and actually like, it doesn't fill me with pride. It makes me feel humble, small. It puts me in a good place where I don't feel needy for attention. So is writing about vanity, but really about the fight to expunge myself of it?

1 comment:

  1. please get out of my brain.

    seriously, though, i get the insidious ego thing. your brain is a strange mix of humility and overweening pride. i think you have to ignore both and keep writing. it IS meaningful.