In the first installment of this three-part column, Eva Recinos explores how we can get out of our own heads and into a space where we can submit work
This probably won’t work out for me, but let me try anyway
Shouldn’t you be better at this by now? Why is it taking you so long to write this draft? So-and-so is super prolific; why aren’t you?
I like to keep track of my rejections, and I know there’s lots of literature out there about the benefits of racking them up, like this Literary Hub essay by Catapult instructor Kim Liao. One argument is that seeing “no” time after time means you are putting yourself out there. But I’d suggest it’s important to track the “maybe” answers too—no matter how few or how many submissions you make. If you’re rejected but encouraged to submit again, make a note. If an editor or publication says they’d like to see something else from you, don’t take their words for granted. If you can apply again next year for that grant or residency, set a reminder and give it another shot.
Whenever I hit submit, I like to walk away from that essay or project. I start working on something else, a tip that many writers recommend. Or I read a really good book or commit to a new show with a half dozen seasons on Netflix. I try not to think too hard about how much time has passed since I hit that submit button. Or, as this Women On Writing piece suggests, you can try a new hobby . . . maybe something completely separate from writing, like “underwater basket weaving.”
At the end of the day, writing and reading are both subjective practices. When you send in a submission, remember that you can’t totally know what the editors or magazine want at that given moment, though you should be familiar with the publication and know what kind of pieces they publish. And remember that other people go through it too. Even those people who you admire and love and stalk on Twitter. Rejection loves everyone. And so does self-doubt.
If I hadn’t taken the risk of applying to the Idyllwild program, if I’d listened to the doubts in my mind, I would’ve missed that opportunity. After I attended, I had the confidence to start thinking more seriously about my manuscript. Now I tell myself that it’s worth at least taking a chance on that application or submission. But, most importantly, it’s about doing it when the time feels right.
You don’t have to do everything all the time. Tell your self-doubt to sit down. You can submit when you really feel the drive and the focus to do so—and if you don’t manage to apply to every single opportunity that comes along, that doesn’t make you a failure.
Eva Recinos is a Los Angeles-based editor and writer. Her profiles, features and reviews have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, GOOD, The Guardian, KCET Artbound, Art21, Bitch, Jezebel and more. Her essays have appeared in Electric Literature, PANK, Blood Orange Review, Catapult, Refinery29 and more. She was a 2019 Idyllwild Writer's Week Nonfiction Fellow and a 2021 Pen America Emerging Voices Fellowship finalist. Eva runs a free monthly newsletter for creatives called Notes from Eva.