So, another week brings another round of rejections from various publications. Or – it seems to me – it does if you’re trying hard enough. A year or so ago I made a vow with myself that for every rejection I would send out even more submissions. That. Got. Silly. Quickly. Rejection is one thing. A Fibonacci Sequence of rejection is quite another. Anyway.
I usually take a long look at the many rejected ones. What was wrong with them? Some of them will be not very good, in all likelihood – let’s take that one on the chin. Some go out too fresh: call it enthusiasm. But for some: is there the remotest possibility that there is nothing wrong with them? Or is that something only a deluded writer would think? I mean: they’ve been rejected! They must be terrible. Or, is there a chance that the two minutes that the editor had to spare between their real job, their family, sleeping, all the rest of their submissions pile and yours… that yours didn’t shine. But how much doesn’t – and can’t – shine in such a short space of time. What kind of superhuman reading (and judgment) skills would you need to recognise the gold from the dross at such speed? How many judgment calls taken at such speed are good ones?
I know from my small amount of experience being an editor for Caldew Press that there is never enough time. And if you agonised over every decision to the extent that you want to, you would end up in editorial paralysis. The magazine (in this case Speakeasy volume 2) wouldn’t happen. Editors are unpaid, in the main, and doing it out of love. Only their determination to make something happen makes it happen. In my experience you have to work in the knowledge that you’re prepared to make an error. Let’s face it, you’ve read that (you know, THAT one) publication where an absolute clanger howls out from the pages and it makes you think, doesn’t it? Why have they published the rhyming poem about the horse, or the terza rima homage to Rod Hull, when they didn’t publish your genius? Does that clanger exist because of time constraints, or personal judgment calls… because without the editor’s (or editors’) gut instinct and convictions the whole enterprise wouldn’t exist. I wonder whether any small press editors look at the furthest reaches of their pamphlet shelves (shelf? box? utility room? airing cupboard? greenhouse?) and shudder sometimes.
I recently bought ‘Daydream Nation’ by Sonic Youth. I have to say I was really disappointed on first listen. It just wasn’t the blast of noisy joy that I thought it would be. After the first listen it lay around the record player a while as a reminder of my folly. Inevitably, after a while it got a second chance (because it was physically there – next to the record player, and because I had literally purchased it: I wasn’t shuffling things using streaming or clicking for something that would sound better). Also, inevitably, there was plenty of noisy joy right there: I just hadn’t listened well enough. If it hadn’t have been lying there I wouldn’t have put it back on. My first judgment call was wrong. So, what if you just have to keep submitting the work until your get the right five and a half seconds with the right editor, at the right time, in the right publication? Back to the Fibonacci Sequence.