The act of submitting something for consideration.
b. Something so submitted
The word “submission” doesn’t roll off my tongue easily. When I see it on the page, my heart lurches – a sudden spastic clench of unease. It is a hard word for me to type – I misspell it, as if my body is still putting up resistance to a word wrapped in a history not yet eclipsed by my new reality. And though I have personal reasons to shy at this word, many writers I know are equally repelled by the idea of submitting, as if they too are afraid they will be overpowered or lose their power.
Submission is an everyday part of writing. You write something, you send it off – submitting your work to a journal, a conference, a contest, or an agent is what you are expected to do. It isn’t easy. Even for the experienced, there is a near-electric charge that goes with pushing “send” . A sudden drop of the stomach follows the fluttering envelope into the dark void of the mailbox. It is terrifying and exciting all at once to know that now your words have a life of their own. As writers, we have to let go, release of control and have faith in the future of our work. We must believe we are more than our worst days – we must submit and trust the process of being a writer.
Truth be told, there was a time in my life when submission was another thing altogether. Back then, I was giving up – capitulating, giving in to an opponent. Refusing to fight any longer because I felt overpowered by life, circumstances and a person with motivations that were unclear to me at the time. I allowed someone else to make decisions for me, to be responsible, to cause harm or reward as they saw fit. It is this that makes the word so difficult – cloaking it in memories of weakness, lost worth and fear. At the time, I would have argued that I had no other choice – much in the same way I would say I have no other choice than to write. But, giving up to someone is not the same as giving in to your destiny. Then, I was no longer a willing or active participant . I let go because I couldn’t see what I had to hold on to. Now, I am certain of myself and my words and giving in to my writing is always an act of freedom and power.
Being in the “zone” of the creative process is a spiritual experience. and the act of writing is one of submission to it. I let go to the story that runs through me, allowing the words that patter around in my brain like the rain here in Seattle to have power. It takes trust . I never kid myself that the initial earlier stages of writing are something I control. I am very much the puppet of an unseen puppeteer; I am compliant and willing to give into the the creative well that lives within me. “Meekness” might not ever be a word used in reference to me, but perhaps humility is better – I acknowledge and accept the magic that is the writing process. There is plenty of time down the road that writing becomes grunt work, academic effort and skill that is all about what I do, but in the beginning, I simply…submit.
This isn’t to say this is a comfortable process. Reading my own writing is often torturous, full of self-flagellation and berating myself over what the hell I was thinking when I wrote that sentence?! Why would I want anyone else to see my juvenile attempts at creativity? I am not alone – all of us fight with ourselves over whether is is all a waste of time, or wondering if people only pretend to like it. Writers seem to go through a regular cycle of knowing we are complete idiots who should wear a bag over their head when in public in case someone remembers that awful thing that got published years ago. Some of us never let others see our work, worrying that we are deluding ourselves that our words are worth taking up space in the world. We all go through periods of guarding our work fiercely, alternating hope and satisfaction with a dismissive shrug. But others refuse to submit to anything other than fear.
As a writer, submitting feeds the well of inspiration and creativity and personal success. All artists are better people for releasing ourselves to the flow of creativity and the world needs better people.The dancer Martha Graham once had an amazing thing to say about our creative selves:
There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. This expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.
No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.
Taking our writing out into the world- submitting it - is part of acknowledging the power of those finally well-wrangled words. Submitting is the end result of the collaboration of the mystical aspects of the writing process and skill. There is nothing meek in this – it is an action full of power and intention. We must reclaim the word that can also denote weakness, knowing that in trusting that our creative selves can only grown stronger and more nourished. And it is not only us writers who are better for taking this risk - the world needs our voices, Through sharing our stories, we create possibility, change, compassion and understanding to say nothing of humor, adventure and love in a day-to-day world that often seems to be lacking color.
So please….submit….create….share. I can’t wait to read you!
Here are some of the recent places I am submitting to: