Storks Eat Babies: Taking the Myth out of Submission

funny-evil-angry-stork-eat-babies-bird-picsI read a lot of writing blogs. I can find some useful nuggets of information in any blog, whether it is a new technique, a new idea, or just some good, old-fashioned inspiration. Writing websites tend to lean toward the romantic. It makes sense. We are writers. Writing is an art, and arts are often thought of romantically.

We push the general notion that art is special, and that our words are somehow divinely inspired, as if the muses sweep down, choose their target, and pour poetry though his blessed lips. Articles on submission can be nearly as romantic as articles on creation. Create something you truly adore, they say. Find the market that would be perfect adoptive parent for your word baby. Drop it off in a basket with a professional cover letter.

It’s a nice idea, sort of like how the stork is a nice idea. Who wouldn’t want their kid dropped off in a crisp white sheet carried by graceful, elegant bird? Except that is not how it happens. Trust me. I was there. Babies are born in to visceral environments full of pain and bodily fluids. They arrive not sleeping, but screaming. By the way, storks eat small mammals. You know what happen to be small mammals? Babies.

I’m not a nice idea guy. They don’t help me that much, and I think they can cause damage when they fall apart. In my experience, they fall apart during the submission process.

You will not love everything you write. I’ll be upfront about that. Some of your writing will speak to you. It will stimulate your brain and leave you with a buzz like nothing else. Some of your writing will seem purely perfunctory. The thing that no one tells you is that the two aren’t that different. If you love it, it’s probably not as good as you think it is. If you don’t love it, it’s probably better than you give it credit for. Not everything you write will be at the same level. But, in general, your writing quality won’t waver that much. As you keep writing, it will become more and more consistent.

The truth is, you may absolutely love a piece and have a rough time trying to sell it while some piece that you thought was just okay gets picked up in a heartbeat. For one, you are too close to your work. Your mind fills in blanks and creates meanings that just aren’t there for the reader. For another, you never know what someone else is looking for.

Finding your perfect market is even more of an issue. You spend hours weeding through listings and websites to find that perfect market, one that is everything that you desire. You send off your polished masterwork of love. You cross your fingers every day as you open your email. Then, days, weeks, or even months later…BAM! Form letter rejection. It’s like dating. You may think that Kate Upton is perfect for you, and that you could make her happy in every way. Unfortunately, Kate Upon may not feel the same about you. She doesn’t want your baby. Besides, Justin Verlander is a big dude. I wouldn’t mess with him.

Feel free to get romantic about certain markets. I have a few that I would love to crack. Cemetery Dance and Black Static, just to name a couple. Unfortunately, they are off cavorting with Stephen King and Jack Ketchum. They don’t even know I exist, sort of like Kate Upton. I take my shot at them. But when I get rejected, I quickly move on. Richard Thomas’s “Chasing Ghosts” is in the current issue of Cemetery Dance. Richard published over a hundred short stories elsewhere before he got accepted there. Do you think he got hung up on the perfect story and the perfect market? He just kept working and kept getting published where he could. Get a general idea of what a market publishes. Find something that seems to fit your tone and style. Follow their guidelines religiously, and then submit. It doesn’t have to be terribly detailed research. I can usually tell in less than five minutes if a publication is my style or not. If you get rejected, find another market in that style and send it out again. Do it immediately. Don’t wait.

Ideally, if you want to take a shot at being a prolific writer, you need to finish everything you write and submit everything you finish. Unless you think it is garbage, submit it. If you DO think it’s garbage, have someone else read it and get their honest opinion. You could be wrong. (It’s good to have other people read your work, in general.) Even though I don’t make my living by writing, I try to approach writing as if I do. I don’t get paid when I write something. I get paid when I publish it. I doubt Stephen King loved everything he ever submitted.

If you only submit the work you fall in love with to the market you think are perfect, you aren’t going to get much out there. Maybe you’ll be Harper Lee. You’ll write your To Kill A Mockingbird and then walk off in to the sunset. Personally, I consider it a great tragedy that Lee never wrote another novel. I want to be Stephen King. I want the sheer physical weight of my writing to bow bookshelves.

I appreciate that articles on writing try to make what we do special. I appreciate the need to use good judgement when submitting to markets so that writers don’t waste their time (not to mention the publisher’s.) But you are going to be rejected. It’s going to hurt. The only way to move past it is to realize that writing is tough, gritty business and that it is difficult for everybody. Writing is hard. Submission is mostly disappointment. Kate Upton doesn’t like you. If you had a stork, it would eat your baby. Suck it up, dig in to the mess, and keep moving on.

The Evolution of Gentleman Jack

Recently, I sold my short story “Take It Home” to eFiction Magazine. It was a monumental occasion for me. It’s not the first story I’ve sold, not by a long shot, and it isn’t even the best story I’ve written. “Take It Home” was originally titled “Gentleman Jack,” and I wrote it in the first fiction writing class that I took at Iowa State University. In many ways, it is the story that taught me how to write.

It’s the story of a professional wrestler who disgraces himself, gets fired, and returns home. The problem is that it isn’t really his home anymore. I wrote the story as an homage to professional wrestling, which I have loved since I was a little kid. I had read Pure Dynamite, the auto-biography of The Dynamite Kid. If you are a pro wrestling fan and don’t know the book or the wrestler, do yourself a favor and seek out both. The Dynamite Kid was best known as one of the British Bulldogs in the WWF, but had some amazing matches in Japan, particularly with Tiger Mask. His autobiography is brutal and heart-breaking in many ways. The thing that struck me most was that after he had hurt his back and went home, he found that his wife didn’t really want him around. He was in the way. She had her own life in the 300-plus days that he traveled every year.

The idea that your home could somehow stop being home stuck with me. The name Gentleman Jack came from one of my favorite books when I was a kid. I read Blackstone Mystery Adventures’ The Case of the Gentleman Ghost several times. It provided a link from the days of Encyclopedia Brown and Choose Your Own Adventure to the horror stuff that I would later read.

I’ve re-written the story several times since 2003. It’s changed drastically, lending credence to the idea that a story is really a combination of scenario and the writer. As a writer changes, his stories change with him. Technique improves, sure, but everything else adds in to it. When I wrote the story, I wrote about loss, but hadn’t really experienced it. I wrote about mistakes, but my biggest had been not working hard enough and choosing the wrong major. I wrote in a cynical, nihilistic style, not because I felt that way, but because I had seen Fight Club and thought it was cool.

I re-wrote “Take It Home” for the last time in 2013 as a divorced father with the fear of my son moving across the country fresh in my head. I had ten more years of experience and mistakes, ten years of life really. I’d even had a short-lived attempt at becoming a professional wrestler, training every night and coming home to find my son already in bed. The story changed. It became less about what Gentleman Jack had done, and more about where he was now and where he would go from there. Back then, I was fascinated with people who knew the costs of the mistakes they had made but kept making them anyway. Sort of like a man suffering from a critical wound, putting a band-aid on it, and going back in to the battlefield again. Now, at age 35, I can see how it happens.

In the last re-write, I changed the name of the story to “Take It Home,” an homage to a term in wrestling for finishing a match. I think it is fitting, since I finally had the experience and skill to finish the story that I started as a college junior in 2003. It took a long time to see it in print, and I will always remember the story as a mile-marker in my professional development as a writer.

My Macabre Mentor

My Macabre Mentor

Writers get bombarded with no shortage of tips and advice. Writing is something that everyone does a little bit differently, yet countless books, classes, and workshops have been made in an attempt to isolate the working parts that build a better writer.

This week, The Confabulator Cafe asked us for the best and worst writing advice we had ever received. See my answer in “My Macabre Mentor” at

As always, thanks for reading.



Minor Moments

It is human fate to have our dreams and to chase them throughout our lives. But dreams are fleet-footed. They tease our hope then slip through our fingers time and again. But, in the end, the chase and those minor moments of success are what will matter.

I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately. A friend of mine, a professional wrestler, is retiring next month. I’m sure part of his dream was always to be famous, to make it to one of the major companies and tour the world. But, it didn’t happen.

However, looking at his career, you could never call it a failure. Michael Strider has wrestled all over the Midwest. Independent wrestling fans know him as a guy who always gives them a great match. He has been a champion many times over, and has wrestled on television, even minor appearances on national television as a sort of wrestling extra. He has been featured by local news outlets, including a feature I produced for Kansas Public Radio. Most of the wrestlers in this area have trained with him, or benefited in some way from his vast knowledge of how to make a crowd love or hate you. He has wrestled with stars and legends. His years of experience will leave him with scars, aches, pains, and more memories than he could probably count. Maybe that is enough. On June 2nd, in Kansas City, for Metro Pro Wrestling, he gets one last memory of his life in a wrestling ring.

We all have our dreams. We can all relate to my friend and the minor moments that he will forever remember. Whether you wanted to be a race car driver and find yourself racing Saturday nights on small dirt tracks or wanted to be a rock star, but find your only fame in local bars, you have seized some of those minor moments.

Writers are full of them. Writing as an art is mostly rejection and disappointment, especially starting out. Endless strings of submissions are neutralized by an endless string of rejections, mostly impersonal form letters. Still, you dream of the day your name is on that book, in the credits of that movie, or connected in some way to something someone liked enough to put out there.

But if you do it long enough, seriously enough, those minor moments start to come. You find various projects and outlets for writing. You write a blog that is well received, get involved in some sort of project, get accepted to a magazine or anthology, or experience some other small, welcome success. Those minor moments are the ones that keep you going, the ones that you will forever remember.

If you have ever golfed, you know those moments. You know that one drive, put, or chip that was perfect, that no one could have done better. That shot will keep you golfing till the next one, little minor moments that keep you hopeful, even as you fish your ball out of the rough.

Perhaps that is success in life, stringing together minor moments. You proudly wear them on your sleeve, remembering when you touched your dreams, however slightly. Here’s to all of our minor moments, and the dreams that we still chase.

Test-Takers Don’t Change the World

NOTE: I am not a resident of Florida. But while these results do not affect me, nor my child, personally, I believe they are symptomatic of  an issue that does.

Recently, the State of Florida noted a significant drop in student test results for their writing basic skills test. The drop was contributed to a communications failure with teachers, and the passing grade was subsequently lowered so that more children passed.

Apparently, the percentage of passers dropped from 81 percent to just 27 percent because teachers did not know how the test would be scored. Thus, becoming the basis for the rant you are about to read.

For years, teachers have been encouraged to teach to the test. Standardized testing has taken the power of teaching from the educator and put it in the hands of the test writers. Teachers have been told that if the students pass the test, they keep their jobs. If the students fail, they are fired.

As a result, we are a nation of test-takers. We learn what we need to know to pass the test, and then promptly forget it in favor of the next testing subject. Our government seems to believe that education is based on pieces of paper, not knowledge. Students are passed through school, some who don’t even know how to read, because it would stunt their social development to hold them back.

The diploma was never meant to be the goal. The test was never meant to be the objective. The diploma, the degree, and the certificate are not pieces of paid for paper, but a symbol of the knowledge you obtained over the course of your education. The test was supposed to symbolize the things you learned, it wasn’t supposed to be the only thing you learned.

Our education system in the United States is a mess, and it is only getting worse. The FCAT reflects the problem. The concern, it would appear, is less about the fact that their students can’t write, and is more about some failure on the part of the test designers because they didn’t tell teachers exactly what they would be grading. They blame the low scores on a new focus on grammar, punctuation, word choice, and relevance.

As a parent, I understand concern, but the concern shouldn’t be for the test your child is taking. Your concern should be that their schools are not teaching them to write. If a child knows how to formulate an argument and communicate it in the written word, it doesn’t matter if you know what they are looking for ahead of time. They will pass because they have the skill, not because they practiced to take the test.

Education is not a sport. There is no practice. The training is the objective, not the game at the end of the week. These children are being failed, not by tests, but by people who didn’t take the time to teach them to really learn. They are being failed by the people who decided tests were more important than the sort of academic skills that can last a lifetime.

You do not lower standards so that more students pass, you bring the students up to the standard. Teach children, not for the test, but for the education, and it won’t matter if they don’t know what is going to be on the test ahead of time.  Teach them to learn or condemn them to a life of ignorance.

Test-takers don’t change the world.

Diversify Your Writing Assets

Script Frenzy is coming up next month, giving me an excuse to dust off those screenwriting skills that haven’t seen the light of day for way too long. I’ve noticed that it is not nearly as popular as its NaNoWriMo sibling.

I get it. Writing a book is every writer’s dream. It seems so easy when you think about it. You just write. Scripts use strange formatting. They have strange rules that no one seems to understand. Of course, any writer who has read much writing or dramatic theory knows there are just as many “rules” in writing prose, especially if you plan on formatting a manuscript for submission, but that is a whole different blog topic.

As writers, there is a danger of pigeon-holing yourself into a specific genre or medium. You start out to be a writer and suddenly you only write post-apocalyptic werewolf comedies. There are definite reasons for that. You find a style and a content you are comfortable with, that seems to work best, and you capitalize on it. Maybe you get readers who want to see werewolves making wisecracks in Thunderdome.

But, unless you are making a lot of money as a writer already (in that case, feel free to make a donation), then you should not be limiting yourself. There are many genres of writing, and nearly all of them have paying markets.

How can you say you can’t write poetry if you have never written a poem? Why not find a topic you are interested in and write an article to try to sell as a freelancer? Who says that script formatting is really all that difficult anyway? There is software that practically does it for you, and no shortage of books to tell you exactly what to do, especially for screenplays. Trust me. I have several.

You have ideas. A lot of them. Sometimes, you have ideas that don’t quite seem to work. Try them in a new medium. What may not be a sufficient premise to carry a novel may work as a screenplay. Screenplays are traditionally more in line with the length of a novella. Maybe you only have an image of an idea, not a full-featured premise. This might be enough to generate a poem.

Write prose of every length and genre. Try writing in every medium. You may find you have an innate  talent you didn’t know you had. You may open yourself up to new readers and new ways to sell your writing, if you are trying to do so.

There are a lot of screenplays sold every year. While there are a lot of books being made into movies, someone is writing all of those screenplays, as well, and it is very rarely the writer of the books. The world needs writers who have diverse experience and technical expertise in a variety of mediums.

Participating in Script Frenzy would be a good start. I know you have an idea. Here’s how to make it a reality:

1)      Go to the Script Frenzy website and set up an account, find your region, and join it.

2)      Go to CeltX and get their free screenwriting software if you don’t already have Final Draft or the equivalent. If you use Scrivner for writing prose, it has a script feature.

3)      Read some scripts. There are lots of places online to find them for free. Pick movies you really like and know well. Watch them scene by scene as you read the script. I use SimplyScripts.

4)      If you feel you need some book help, check out Syd Field’s Screenwriter’s Workbook, which will give you a step by step process.  His book Screenplay is wonderful. I also recommend Robert McKee’s Story regardless of whether you ever write a screenplay. I also learned a lot from Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 431Your local library probably has some of these books.

There is a saying that you could lay a truly good screenplay on a restaurant table in Hollywood and it would get made. What do you have to lose? April could be your shot to try something new.

Also, check back here next week. I will outline the screenwriting process I use. I learned it from Ron Peterson in the first Screenwriting workshop I ever attended and it is a great way to make screenwriting more accessible.

Let’s spread the art of screenwriting to a new group of writers. April is the right time to give it a shot.

Writing from a parallel universe.

“Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.” – Walt Whitman

I was mentioning to another writer this week how much I enjoy the use of parallels in fiction, particularly speculative fiction.  By parallel, I mean something that the reader can relate to their modern life, or the way the world currently works.

Humans haven’t changed much.  We love the same, hate the same, lust the same, fear the same.  Nothing has changed except for the targets of our love, hate, lust, and fear.

You don’t have to re-invent the wheel.  In fact, the great works of horror were often based on real life parallels.  Dracula, Frankenstein, Godzilla, and zombies were all born out of real fears.  Parallel to the strange, you found the realities of nuclear war, science, and disease.

You don’t have to see someone run from a zombie to know how their mind is going to work when faced with the zombie plague.  You only have to look to the worldwide reactions to bird flu, mad cow disease, and similar epidemics.  You distill experiences, yours and others, down into an emotional base on which to build your story.

Your characters aren’t that much different from you or your friends.  Chances are, somewhere in the rich tapestry that is your life, there was a scene that can be related to the emotional state of the scene you are writing.  There, in that memory, find how you felt, the way your pulse seemed to radiate, racing from your heart.  Feel the tingle of your skin, as if every molecule in your body was threatening to pull apart.  Watch as your vision becomes cloudy and narrow, your mind seeming to disconnect from physical flesh.

Then, you write it.

At some point in your life, on some level, you have felt ever emotion your characters will ever feel.  Find it.  Amplify it.  Use it.  Write your pain.  Write your hate.  Write your lust.  Write your joy, your pride, your sorrow, your doubts, your stubbornness.  Write it all.

This is nothing new.  Actors have done it for decades.  They have used their real-life feelings and experiences to crawl inside the skins of people who never existed.  They have made characters real because they felt what the characters felt.

Real life runs parallel to fiction, crossing over for brief moments that anchor our stories to reality.  Our stories are real, not in the sense that they happened or that they take place in real settings, but in that they feel real.  If your story feels real, if the characters feel real, then your reader will believe you.

Show your reader real, relate-able emotion in the fantastic, the wonderful, and the horrible.   They will love you for it, and your writing will be a lot more fun.


The Need for Criticism

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing. – Elbert Hubbard

There are a few things that every writer should have.  When you get down to it, that is a pretty substantial comment.  Writing is largely individual and like many arts, is at least partially subjective.  That being said, there are things we should all have in common.

First off is a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.  If you don’t have it, get it.  There are few books that address writing mechanics as efficiently as this one.

Second is something to write on.

Third is a good attention span.  Writing is hard and takes up lots of time.  Even when you aren’t writing, that attention span will allow you to go about the business of collecting.  A writer is a sponge that soaks up the world around him.  Phrases that are interesting, mannerisms, appearances, settings.  Everything is stored for later use.

The fourth, is arguably the most important, and that is thick skin towards criticism.  Do not shun criticism, welcome it.  Nothing will make you a better writer than criticism.  You are too close to your own writing.  You infer things from its sentences that cannot be inferred.  You understand things that cannot be understood.  Things make sense that shouldn’t because your brain fills in the gaps.  You need other people to tear apart your stuff.

Does it hurt?  Of course it does.  It hurts no less than a stranger saying your children are ugly.  But it is important.  You are going to get rejections.  You are going to get criticized.  With luck, you will be judged by thousands of people.  Now is the time to get used to it.  Lack of criticism in writing is lack of movement forward.

I was reminded this just recently after reading a self-published first novel by a writer new to fiction.  I was excited to read the book because of several glowing reviews on Amazon calling it the next big thing.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t.  The book wasn’t bad, by any means.  The concept was good, but the writing had a lot of technical issues and the story wasn’t consistent.  This type of thing can only be caught by having your work read ahead of time by people who are willing to hurt your feelings and who worry about more than just your spelling.

Inconsistency to the rules of your story world cannot be allowed.  Your characters must be true to themselves.  Inefficient sentence structure is an easy fix.  None of those things are necessary, nor should they make it to a final draft.  Unfortunately, if you don’t know better, and no one is willing to tell you, how would you know?  All of the five-star reviews are doing nothing for this writer, especially whereas the book is to be the first of a series.  This is one of the dangers of self-publishing.  If you don’t have the appropriate support group to read your work, you risk putting out bad fiction.

Unfortunately, my own review of this book was not appreciated.  So it goes.  I feel bad for the writer.  I don’t feel bad that I said the writing was loose and needed an experienced editor or novelist to guide the writer’s next endeavor.  I feel bad that the writer may not learn anything from it.

I’ve learned so much from those who have criticized my writing.  I don’t mean insulted, but genuinely said what was wrong with it.  I recently wrote a first draft that didn’t work.  I knew it didn’t work and showed it to someone.  They tore it apart.  The re-write resulted in a focused, tighter piece that worked much better.  If I had not had someone who was willing to be critical, the project could have been lost.  Instead, I was able to submit it to an anthology.

Embrace other writers who are willing to be critical of you.  Love them.  If you don’t agree with what they say, don’t use it.  But never downplay their usefulness.  It might be the most important thing in your development as a writer.





Beneath the Avalanche of Previously Read Pages

I  have a very good memory for images and phrases.  I have largely relied upon that memory when it comes to one of my favorite hobbies, used book stores.

I will find a book by an author I like, or simply something sitting in the $1.00 bin that looks interesting.  I will then mentally compare it to images in my head, deciding whether or not I already it.  Is it one of the hundred books I own that I have yet to read?  I buy books at nearly the same rate I read them, if not more quickly, meaning the gap between read and owned just keeps getting larger.  Thus, I found myself returning a copy of The Resurrection by John Gardner, of which I found an older edition already upon my shelves.

It’s not my fault, really.  I am a book addict.  I walk in to a used bookstore and I breathe in the pages.  The bookstore is a comforting smell and a comforting sound.  Despite being a mercantile establishment, the bookstore is quiet and serene as a  library.  I walk the aisles and find books with worn spines.  These books were once read passionately.  If I listened closely, I could probably hear the dreams of its past readers.

I open the book and flip through the pages.  Sometimes I am lucky and find artifacts of the book’s past life.  Here, an inscription to John, from his mother, who gave him the book.  John, in turn, apparently sold it to the bookstore.  I  found entire papers on literary theory written in the margins and blank pages of As I Lay Dying.  My favorite recent find was a postcard used as a bookmark within Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.  Someone visited a place they loved enough to buy a postcard.  Finding it inside a book on the writing life was like finding seeing another person’s life in object form.

A friend suggested I try tracking the books I owned on  Last night, I logged them.  I own around 350 books.  If you add the collection on my Kindle, that puts me well over 500.  It’s amazing how quickly the count snuck up on me.  It didn’t seem like I had that many books, even though the wall of my bedroom is lined with shelves, straining from being overfilled by paperbacks.  Most of them are in their second life, having been purchased used.

As a writer, I find them comforting.  They represent a successful writing project for the author, as in successfully published.  Some of the books aren’t exactly successful, if you know what I mean.  They also represent a past reader.  Within the bookshelves exists hundreds of examples of the writer-reader relationship.  It is a reminder that people still care about books, and what is written in them.

I can’t imagine trying to move again.  Books are heavy and the last time was a real pain.  Ironically, for a used book lover, I have a very hard time selling books.  Although before long, space might force my hand, or risk dying under a heap of collapsed oxidized-yellow pages.

Next time you are in a used book store, don’t shun the books with writing in the margins, or names written inside the covers.  Realize they were loved once, and you may love them again.  Be suspicious of perfection in a bookstore.   Books without cracked spines and dog-eared pages can’t be trusted.

Happy hunting.  You may find yourself lost for hours, or at the very least, with a very space-consuming habit.  Just don’t blame me for the weight of the UHaul boxes the next time you move.

You Are Not a Beautiful and Unique Snowflake

Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. – Tyler Durden in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club

Writer’s are a fragile bunch.  We are primarily solitary creatures, except when we are gathering with other writers to talk about writing.  We spend most of our lives dancing to music that exists only in our heads, talking to characters no one else can hear, and trying to effectively communicate what they say to everyone else.

That can be a lot of pressure.  Sometimes it can be overwhelming.  In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott writes about the delicate psyche of the writer and the oppressive gravity a blank page can place upon them.  I think sometimes we let ourselves get frightened by the gravity and scope of what we are trying to do.  There are so many things to worry about.  There is plot, characters, theme, setting, dialogue, grammar, spelling.  We may invest hundreds of hours in a work of fiction that sucks and no one will ever read.  We want to write something special, something that means something.  We want to write the great American novel.

Anne Lamott deals with this by telling herself she only has to write what she can see through a one inch window.  What I do is far less romantic, and likely the by-product of a blue-collar upbringing.  I remind myself that I am not special.  I cannot sit and watch a beautiful masterpiece flow from my fingertips.  I am working.  That requires practice, attention to detail, stubbornness, and the little bit of skill I possess.

I am not special.  Thousands of writers are facing that same blank page at this moment.   Hundreds of thousands of writers have faced millions of blank pages, and amazingly they have managed to be filled.  The Library of Congress has 33 million books, not even a small percentage of all the writing done when you include magazines, screenwriting, playwriting, etc.

I am facing the same problem as everyone else.  My answer will be the only thing different.  When I stopped writing for awhile, a lot of it was about pressure.  Some people around me who had read my stuff said I had talent.  I felt pressure to perform and to do so immediately.  Write a best-seller, my ex-wife used to say, so we can live on the money.  She was trying to be supportive and encouraging, but a few rejection letters later, I stopped submitting.  It was one thing for Ray Bradbury and Stephen King to say to persevere through rejections, they could literally crap on a sheet of paper and a publisher would buy it.  But I am not either one of them.

Lately, I’ve been going to writer’s groups, and that has made the difference.  I realized that I am not special.  I am not the only writer struggling to start a literary career.  I’m not even the only writer in my sub-genre in this city.  Hell, for all I know, I’m not the only writer on my block.  Somehow, that all makes me feel better.  It calms my agoraphobic social phobia enough to get to work.

You don’t worry about mowing your lawn correctly because everyone does it.  You don’t worry about shoveling snow the right way.  You just shovel it.  If you are working on a car, you know other people have done the same repair before and you just go do it.

When I approached writing this way, suddenly the blank page wasn’t near as offensive.  Writing is just another thing I do.  I love doing it, but in the end, it’s just another project.  A blank page is nothing.  I’ve filled them before.  My colleagues are out there filling them right now.  My fellow writers of the Dead Horse Society, the Writers of the Weird, and the Lawrence Writer’s Group are out there punching keys along with me.  Some of our stuff will be good, some of it great, some of it God awful, but it will be there.

I’m not a beautiful and unique snowflake, and that is fine by me.