Today I took a huge step in my writing career: I submitted to a literary magazine. Three to be exact. And I am experiencing a number of emotions: excitement, fear, self-loathing. It’s not quite as positive as an experience as I would have hoped, but I think that is more the result of being forced to submit because of a class requirement rather than taking that step myself. Although, if I hadn’t been forced to take this step, I don’t know that I ever would have!
This made me think about the different stages of a writer’s growth, from that first time picking up a marker and doodling “words” to getting published and beyond. The time in between can vary significantly and the whole process can start at different times for anyone, but the progression is always essentially the same.
Stage One: Words are fun! Basically this is when we all first discover that words are amazing, either reading or writing, or anything. Words! Yay!
Stage Two: Your first story. You write and finish that first story, either as a first grader or as a 30 year old. When does this stage happen? Anytime in life really.
Stage Three: Honing your craft. Basically this is a big step. It involves writing, finishing and editing a million stories. This is the time we all spend figuring out what we like, what works and making it all work as best it can. Of course, the fun part about this stage is that you never actually leave it, you just build upon it.
Stage Four: Querying. This is the stage where you have a story as good as you can get it and you finally think it’s worth sharing with the world. You press submit, and there it goes… This stage comes with a lot of excitement, fear and self-doubt. Every time you hit “send” you that worry that your story isn’t done you. You read it again, reassure yourself, then do it all again.
Stage Five: Dealing with rejection. This can be a short stage or a long one–just depends on how well you respond to that first rejection. Because you WILL get one and you WILL have to move past it. Or not, you can always take up painting.
Stage Six: Publication! This is the fun one. It comes with validation and sometimes a paycheck! You finally get to brag about how you’re accomplished as a writer. You really are a writer! But then you have to cycle right back to Stage Three and keep working. Your life as a writer doesn’t end until it…well…ends. Of course the sad part about this stage is that it’s entirely optional. There is no such thing as a surefire way to get published other that writing well which means a lot of time spent in Stage Three, and even then…it’s never a sure thing.
Which stage are you in?