That’s what writers do. We write, and then we submit our work to various places, for various reasons. If a writer does not submit, she or he will not be published. To not be published is unfathomable to a writer. It is the benchmark defining a writer.
submit 1. To yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of another. 2. To subject to a condition or process. 3. To commit (something) to the consideration or judgment of another. 4. To offer as a proposition or contention. 5. To give in to the authority, power, or desires of another. 6. To allow oneself to be subjected to something. (from The American Heritage College Dictionary, copyright 1997 by Houghton Mifflin Co.)
This is on my mind because I’ve been submitting more than usual since I completed my poetry manuscript. All editors require those who submit to follow simple but specific rules. These rules vary widely, and I actually don’t think of them as “rules”; I think of them as a structure the editor has defined as the best possible way for she or he to view the work.
But, ultimately, it does require the writer to submit to their preferences. I’ve seen editors be quite blunt in saying, if you can’t bother to follow the “guidelines”, don’t bother submitting your work.
So, recently, I had to put in the email subject line “Poetry Sub: Augello-Page” and immediately my thoughts went towards a sexual bent. A “sub” in sexual terms is one who submits to the dominant in the relationship. Here, I was labeling myself as a Poetry submissive. I was naming myself, defining myself, as the sub in the relationship between poetry and myself.
I suppose I am submissive to my art. It does dominate my life. Writing is one of my greatest passions; it is a deep place within myself that I have nurtured and strengthened and trusted. It is a gift. It is a curse. It is everything to me.
From the time I was able to attach to the act of imprinting thought and idea, through crayons and pencils, I have done so. No one ever told me to do this; in fact, I’d say most people have found it somewhat odd. To write. Why? It is hard to explain when I barely understand it myself.
In fact, I have often thought that my life would be so much easier if I wasn’t a writer. Just the process of submitting work – it is a brutal process. It is more failure than acceptance. And it is not even a money issue, because right off the bat, most writers, especially poets, do not make money from their writing.
It is personal. One’s writing is so close to one’s sense of self. You subject yourself to constant review, and though it challenges you and helps you grow, it is hard. It discourages countless writers; so many give up. Too many give up. But what remains?
When I was in my early 20s, I decided I wanted to go to graduate school for writing. I had already published a few things, and knew it was a common path for someone as serious about writing as I was, so I sent away for many catalogs from schools across the country. Just as the graduate school catalogs began to arrive, I discovered I was pregnant.
Some of the catalogs were thin and bright and glossy, others were thick stock paper, ink bleeding into the pages. They began to pile heavily on my desk, and I was in love, stupidly, deeply, in love. And it was my absolute love of poetry that led me to my decision; I decided to have the child.
And many, many years later, I did go to graduate school for writing. But there was a point, right after I had my first daughter, when I thought I had to make a decision between writing and the rest of my life.
We were very poor. My word processor broke, then my old standby typewriter broke. I threw away all my poems. I forgot that everything is connected, that either/or is a construct we accept when we know no other way to define things. Nevertheless, I decided I would not write anymore. I was going to be a mother and a wife, and have a normal job, and all that. And that would be enough. Shouldn’t that be enough?
It is enough. And yet, I could not stop. I was left with a gaping hole. And when I went back, I knew I could never stop again. Since then, things have not gotten easier. I’ve been a single mother for the past ten years. I’m still poor; so poor that I think poverty has just become a way of life for me. However, I am also blessed with a rich life – things money could never buy.
When I went back, all those years ago, I knew I would have to forever submit. I would learn how to, as Samuel Beckett said, “Try. Try again. Fail. Fail again. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”