Submitting a Chapbook, Mourning a Chapbook

Well, I finally did it … I submitted my chapbook based on poems I wrote in November. It wasn’t even due yet — I had until midnight on the 31st. But I didn’t want it hanging around any longer. Or did I?

I’ve been carrying it around for days now, reading it over and over, marking it up, printing it out again. And repeat. Part of me was very ready to let it go, but part of me wanted to hang on to it … possibly forever? 

(By the way, I think that’s what was behind the grammar quandary I posted about early this morning … I ended up reverting back to my original and like it so much better. And then it was time to let … it … go.)

While I still had my manuscript — and was the only person who had it — I could polish it and love it as much as I wanted. The only critic it faced was me, and I was fairly kind to it. Now it goes out into the world to compete against so many others — the works not only of the other poets who posted their efforts throughout November, but of those who (perhaps wisely) eschewed the public display aspect and held them back. Who knows how many of them there are, and what utterly devastating poems they wrote? I don’t know … and it bothers me.

As I am putting something like this together, and while I await word about a judge’s decision, I always feel as if I have permission to hold certain hopes for it. Again, I can still love it. When a chapbook comes back rejected (as all of them have so far), it’s as if it ceases to exist. I don’t reread it and wonder what I ever saw in it — I just don’t reread it. Ever. I just shrug and move on.

A certain measure of that is normal, even healthy, if you are writing regularly. When you are first getting started, or restarted, each poem feels precious. Whether or not it is accepted feels like do or die, because you truly are not sure whether you will ever write anything that fine again. Or anything at all. When you’ve been going pretty steadily for awhile, as I have now, the momentum doesn’t give you much time to feel downhearted over your rejections. That’s a blessing.

But I wonder, at times, whether I’m too quick to mentally file those efforts in a reject box and say it’s because I’m moving on to other, better things. If I were honest with myself, might I acknowledge that part of it is the bad habit, well known among writers, of accepting the opinion of one editor, judge, or critic as the last word — especially when that last word is no

Maybe my next step as a writer is to learn to love my best efforts (not blindly, you understand — I’m talking about something akin to parental love here … wherein you love them, faults and all, and seek to help them improve where they can) even when they do come limping back home.

Maybe I’ll work on that between now and February 2 — that’s when I’m supposed to hear back about this chapbook.



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