Publishing Roulette

Publishing is the hardest aspect of writing. Some say it’s editing, while others argue that it’s the writing process itself. But it isn’t. Editing and writing are inside a writer’s control. Getting published is not. It can be very easy to stake our self-worth on how much we get published, and where we get published. If a piece of writing doesn’t get published, we can easily assume that no one in the entire universe will ever like this piece. But that’s a ridiculous notion. We, as writers, Publishing is the hardest aspect of writing. Some say it’s editing, while others argue that it’s the writing process itself. But it isn’t. Editing and writing are inside a writer’s control. Getting published is not. It can be very easy to stake our self-worth on how much we get published, and where we get published. If a piece of writing doesn’t get published, we can easily assume that no one in the entire universe will ever like this piece.

But that’s a ridiculous notion. We, as writers, are constantly blind-sided by the industry. A finished work has just as much chance of rejection as an unfinished work; publication cannot gage how “good” a piece of writing is. Writing is an interpretive art form. The bad news is, not everyone is going to like everything you write. But the good news is, there is always going to be someone out there who loves what you’re writing, and how you’re doing it. A lit mag somewhere might decide to publish your writing–but you have to take that chance. 


After reading TC Tolbert’s “Gephyromania,” I have to say that I feel completely liberated. Not only did Tolbert test convention reading format, he continually redefined the meaning of words, even the title. Breaking through the conventional walls was extremely exciting to see, not only as a reader, but as a writer. I loved seeing a brave poet, who was also clearly technically precise, redefining the space of poetry, the definition of words, and what a collection of poems could be. 

TC Tolbert’s collection made me question what I was comfortable with in poetry. I’m drawn to uncoventional poems, which is interesting considering that I’m more used to fiction, a style of writing that doesn’t have any room at all to play with formatting, and other technical devices. I know that there are those who feel very strongly about traditional formatting, and I understand the need for those forms to be preserved. But I’d like to stress that poetry can test boundaries in a way that no other genre really can. That’s what makes poetry so deceivingly simple: the words may be less on the page, but everything counts, even the small formatting choices. Poems comes in literally all shapes and sizes, and can be shadowed through contextual details. Poetry is an art form that is unconventional compared to other writing styles, and can also be “unconventional” in its own genre. For these reasons, I am drawn to poetry. 

Call Me By Any Name

The question of writerly labels recently surfaced in a Poetry Workshop: Do those of us who feel passionately enough about poetry feel that we can label ourselves as poets? 

The reactions were mostly negative. When asked what made us feel like poets, the responses were mixed, and filled with hopeful talk about what would make the label “poet” stick. I didn’t speak in class about what would make me feel like a poet, because I don’t feel as though anything will. I’m also not a fictionalist, although it’s the genre that I prefer. Nonfiction is a genre so far away from my interests, I consider it alien in nature. I hate being called an author, even though some of my work has been picked up by small magazines. That title is too hefty for me to bear. 

The one thing that I will allow people to call me is writer, because it’s what I do: I write. I tell stories. I fabricate lies, lives, worlds, scenarios, drama. “Writer” is an androgenous word that doesn’t put any pressure on me to produce one type of genre. The word is actually freeing. Being a writer means that I have the right to produce any work I wish, show it to whomever I want, and abandon a story or poem, to start on a new one. The word has no bounds, and that is what I love about it. Writing is something that can be done at any time of the day, at any place, no matter the outstanding circumstances. And therefore, the person who produces the writing also deserves a multi-purpose word. Writer is about the only label I’ve ever put on myself, and will continue to. 

Abstract Meaning

After being asked to think of what readers should glean from reading our work, I began to think that I am one of those obnoxious writers who wants my readers to pull apart my work, and find all the hidden nuances that I hid within the words. I’m comfortable with eccentric format and strange phrases as long as they mean something.

This seems to be a tragic flaw, not just in my writing, but in reading. I thought I read for pleasure until I began to think how frustrated I get when someone says “Why does the poem have to mean something?” My frustration stems from the writing process itself. In poetry, every word must mean something; there is no where to hide on the page. It makes perfect sense that a poet would take time to choose the word or phrase that means something to the poem. And yet, there are poems that are too abstract to begin to understand. e.e. cummings is one of those poets that cause me to make grand assumptions when searching for meaning (which I search for in the capitilized words). I think it shortens my ability as a writer to not be able to simply appreciate poems that are based solely on sound, image, or experimental techniques. It’s something that I’m working to understand, and maybe one day enjoy.

Why Do We Read Literature

In a recent discussion, the impossible question of “What makes good poetry” came up. This question seems to loom in the mind of all writers, both amateur and profession. I’ve often wondered why some literature is eternal, while some literature only survived the era in which it was created. What transcending aspects are included in eternal work? Why do certain works appeal to and transcend generations? In pondering this question, another impossible query comes to mind.

Why do we read literature?

There are many philosophers who have sought to answer this question. Shelley claimed that, among other things, people read poetry as a means of catharsis. This theory transcends to the time of Ancient Greece, where plays were actually produced and censored by the government as a means to influence citizens, and allow them to purge their emotions safely onto art. Another philosopher suggested that we read poetry and literature to study ultimate forms of beauty. These are both interesting theories, and there are a lot more ideas about why we read literature.

The best answer to this question is that there is no absolute answer or theory that is correct. Art has always been subjective, and writing is no exception. Our opinions are shaped through personal experiences, and therefore, people think differently. So the reason behind reading literature is different for everyone. This is an extremely frustrating conclusion to come to, but the inconclusive answer fits the ever-changing, fluid topic from which it was derived.

Expiration Date

I first began writing when I was fourteen after impulsively signing up for a Creative Writing class offered in my high school. Once the wheels in my head were greased with the thought of creativity, I would spend two to three hours every night scribbling in a journal, or typing on Word. Writing was all-consuming. Writing was what I enjoyed, and looked forward to do.

But recently, I’ve been struggling coming up with new ideas to write about in my prose. The ideas that I write are either refabricated thoughts that I’ve written, or have been knocking around in my head for a while. I can only properly write 1,000 words a day in prose, when I was producing 3,000. This lack of production doesn’t fit my personal standards on where I should be as a writer. Why did I start my writing career so vigorously, and why has my writing capability dwindled? Which leads me to a concern that I never thought I would have:

Do writers have an expiration date?

It’s a great wonder where the inspiration to write stems from. Some think that its our everyday experiences that pepper or inspire writing. Some think that there are ideas floating above our head, that sink into our brain, and that we become so compelled by the ideas that we have to manifest them. I have always been of the personal belief that ideas that make me write come from random thoughts brought on my observations. At least, that’s how it was before I entered college. Now I’m more concerned with manifested scenarios around current ideas. My writing has become commentary on a situation I’ve heard about or seen, instead of the inspirational idea simply popping into my head.

What does this mean, in terms of my writing? Have I drained whatever part of me manifests ideas? Have I wrung my creativity dry, after demanding so much from it?

I’d like to think that the way my writing has changed, and the source of my inspiration, means that I have matured to a point in my writing where I am looking to make a statement about the world I live in. After struggling with the idea that my creative juices might be dry, I’ve come to the hopeful conclusion that maybe my job isn’t simply to manifest work for pleasure. A good work of writing should be a pleasure to read, of course, but maybe I’m searching for the truth in my writing. I’m no longer satisfied making up extreme worlds in which the plot doesn’t have any relevance to what I’m feeling or seeing. In my prose and poetry, I am looking to portray real feelings, real scenarios, real conclusions and frustrations. I am looking for a way to reach the audiences of the world, and to hopefully teach them something about the point of view of a young woman.

As for the significant decrease in time that I spend writing, I’ve noticed that I’ve become more careful in my writing. The sentences that I put into play are chosen with several thoughts: is this sentence relevant? how does it pertain to the message of the peice? is this word in this work of poetry important, or can it be cut to make room for a better, more substantial word?

Maybe I’ve simply matured to the point where the production of my writing depends on my stalling thoughts. The things that I want to write about take time, and research, and that’s also a roadblock in production.

My creativity hasn’t yet expired, but it’s certainly slowed. I’m not sure what this means for me as a writer, but as long as I keep observing and commenting on the world, I’m fairly certain that I’ll be able to live a creative life, writing well-researched and carefully plotted prose, and poems.