As some of you know, I am still She-Shed-less and in dire need of privacy, peace, solitude and a distraction-free space to call my own. As some of you also know, I escaped to mom’s. She has that, and more. ❤ Which is why I can now write a blog post about actual, physical proof that I did something writing related that is not a blog post. Hah.
Yesterday, I submitted a story I wrote years ago to a celebrated online magazine.
The story was something of an autobiographical experience I went through in youth. Originally written in the third person narrative, it read like a fictional tale about a young woman who allowed herself to navigate an unsatisfactory relationship for reasons that may seem rather immature to the wiser, middle-aged brain that occupies my head today.
We’ve all been through this sort of thing: “having a boyfriend” was better than “being single”, especially in the 20s and early 30s.
The online magazine which offered open calls for submissions was looking for personal essays though, not fiction.
I scrolled around the magazine a bit and read some essays. After a while, I dug out my own story from the bowels of my computer archives and re-wrote it in the first person narrative.
Let me tell you about that.
It is a lot easier to write about her experience than it is about my experience. Particularly because I mentioned a few snipped about…sex. 😯
The actual story itself didn’t change as I re-wrote it into the first person. All the predictable, consecutive events remained static. I only changed the pronouns.
But after I did that, and re-read the piece, it became evident that some polishing was required. I had to inject some commentary (mostly introspective snippets) and add a few sentences to tie things together.
While working on that piece I kept thinking how exasperated my potential readers will be. Was I really that naive, and voice-less? Did being with someone, whose main objective was to not appear without a girlfriend (aka any girlfriend), more important than my own needs? How did I continually push my own wants and desires aside? What did I get out of that relationship?
And more importantly, what did I learn?
When I stepped away from my dad’s computer (which has a wonderful, giant screen in a room with a door!) for a little break I pondered whether I had grown and matured at all.
I still do more for others than I do for myself, but for the most part, that’s directly related to the parenting gig (aka the teenage trenches). I’m ok with that. Children need nurturing and parenting well beyond the age of maturity and that often means my needs must wait, for a while anyway.
This is no less true during any phases of parenting. Teenagers may be better equipped to fend for themselves without constant adult supervision than toddlers, or really any kid pre-tween-age, but they still need a lot of direction and mental capacity from the adult(s).
I do have more time to pursue my own interests though. I am doing this right now, staying at my mom’s instead of home, letting half the family figure it out on their own. (They’re fine.)
Main objective however is not just to pursue “a hobby”, but to supplement our income. We have bills to pay and I want to contribute again, after all this absence. (Dog walking doesn’t appear to be very lucrative these days anymore what with everyone plugging into zooms and such at home.)
Still, writing is something I need in my life; I feel empty and discombobulated when I can’t get at a keyboard to pound out all that is swirling inside my head.
So, as an individual who is more than someone’s partner or someone’s mom, I found myself re-visiting the whole topic of need and want while re-writing this memory piece of my youth.
At one point, I returned to the submission guideline page to cross off all the requirements I had met. Editors will disqualify you if you don’t meet their expectations, so I wanted to make sure all my t’s were crossed and my i’s dotted.
They wanted essays sent in via an app called Submittable, which I already use. (And, as an added surprise, there was a nice list of other pieces I had written and submitted before…reminding me that I am not new to this activity.) 🙂
After I logged on to the app, I realized with mounting horror that they also wanted a cover letter.
A cover letter is not a query, or a pitch, but rather, a lead-in, an enticement for whetting the editor’s appetite. The cover letter will be the first thing they read. My job was to lure them to want to read my essay.
It took all day.
Here’s something other writers may feel familiar with: research is a form if procrastination.
I say this because I went off on a tangent looking at how to write an enticing cover letter. I googled and surfed and wrote a draft and changed things and added stuff and subtracted things and set the whole computer on fire…
Ok, I didn’t do the last part. 😛
After a while I decided to damn the internet to hell and started from scratch.
I am not usually a sheep. I don’t typically like following the masses. Although I do follow the submission requirements as outlined, my chosen words, and the order I put them in, is my opportunity do stand out and showcase my skill and competency. I can write an enticing cover letter without following a standard template.
But to get to that point was exasperating. Which is interesting since the entire essay was on exactly that topic: to go along with something, to fit in, to blend with others, to belong. To stay with a man, a lover, for all the wrong reasons.
I initially approached my cover letter design in the same way I acted during that mediocre relationship experience: do what someone else says, believe my needs are inferior, follow the social norms.
When I scrapped all that and stared at my blank screen, and started fresh, I wrote from the heart. I told my potential editor what this essay was about, how it suited their essay section, and why he, or she, want to read it. But I did it in a crafty, unique way. (We’ll see if they accept it.)
Maybe this writing gig will elevate me into adulthood after all. Finally. 😳
Prologue: I left everything up on the screen and went to have dinner with mom and daughter. When I came back, I re-read the entire thing, fixed a couple of minor typos (isn’t it amazing what you see when you step away for a while?) and then…I hesitated. I suddenly hated the entire piece. I hated my voice, and I hated the way the story flowed.
But. I. Sent. It. Anyway.
If not now, when? 😃
Worst case – they reject it and I submit it elsewhere.