I’m preparing to submit an original first-person POV essay to a literary journal for black women writers. It’s been about four years since my last submission to a publication. Not that I haven’t been writing during that time. I have. But I haven’t submitted work to places that pulse with the heartbeat of my community and experience as an African American woman writer.
A collection of things can account for the delay in my submissions: the whirlwind of life, work, relationships, new responsibilities, travel, the ending of a romantic relationship, health challenges, new beginnings, putting life into my growth as a runner. Yeah, that’s enough to keep anybody delayed.
As I’ve matured emotionally, physically and mentally, I realize it’s very valuable to me to select places where my words actually need to be.
I don’t want to publish for the sake of being everywhere. I want my words to be in the places and spaces they are meant to be.
Four years ago when I submitted a piece to a website, the publication kindly rejected my work. Reflecting now on what I wrote, I see why it didn’t work for them. And in some ways what I wrote about was prescriptive than reflective and transparent of my own journey.
I didn’t realize it then but I’ve learned the lesson now. The best type of writing is that which connects in vulnerability and humanity with readers. Yes, there is a place and time for prescriptive words and ‘how to’ lists. But sometimes people just wanna know that you’re human, just like them, and see that you struggle too and you’re trying to navigate your way through this crazy-maker called life, holding onto as many of your marbles as possible.
There are some gems in that rejected submission four years ago that I want to revist now.
Maybe there’s a new place for these words with a stronger re-write applied. Maybe what I offered in that submission was only a half-completed work (I couldn’t see it then) and it needs to find the proper resolution that will fill it out more. Maybe I need to wrestle with the issues I discussed in the piece more and find out where I am with those questions and even the opinions and judgments I held. Was that piece to judge or was it to invite more human wrestling to help others see where they are in their relationships and identity?
I do feel that good writers consistently keep their readers in mind. We can write for ourselves and never publish, holding all those words to ourselves. But when we do publish, there’s an intention in that because we want to affect others. We want to connect with others, to show them that they are not alone and maybe, just maybe, my words can connect to your story in a way that brings life, laughter and maybe just a bit of healing.
As I sit with the gift of reflection, I’m learning that where I may have thought I wanted my words to be in the past actually isn’t where I want them to be now. Submitting my words to publications that fit my voice accurately is both honoring to myself and a measure of stewardship of my gift. And that’s not only okay, it’s very, very freeing.