I teach writers, I teach with writers, I workshop with writers, I have writer friends…. two things stand out. 1) Most of these writers are women. 2) Most of these writers don’t submit their writing very much.
If the latter doesn’t apply to you, and you are a regular ol’ white guy, stop reading.
It’s pretty much indisputable that there is a gender imbalance in publishing, and yet writing classes are so often filled with women. Why?
I’m going to skip the obvious argument of d’uh, of course we can’t be balanced because da womens don’t submit enough! but you can read up on why that’s not the whole story on VIDA. The deck is stacked. It sucks. None of us can wave a magic wand and change that tomorrow.
But if you are a women who writes and you don’t offer your work out for publication, or only do so hesitantly and tentatively, for the love of all things holy, send your work out more. If you are not a woman but also not some regular ol’ white guy, or a woman but not a regular ol’ white woman, same thing–the deck is also stacked against you, but you don’t dominate writing classes, and you still need to send your work out into the world.
Why? Because the first Real Writer(tm) I ever met was Wayson Choy, who visited my first-ever writing class and signed my book with “Your stories matter.” You, dear non-regular ol’ white guy reader, need to send your stories out into the world. Your stories matter.
If your stories are being dismissed, minimized, stolen, maimed or just not told at all, then your stories matter more.
If there are barriers in your way, I’m sorry. I wish there weren’t. I hope you find a way. But if the barrier is your own self-confidence or your own fears then please practice saying “Fuck you, I’m awesome!” in the mirror. Even if you don’t believe that, send your work out anyway.
Yes, you will get rejected. You will get rejected for good reasons and you will get rejected for stupid arbitrary reasons. You will get rejected for things you can control and things you cannot control. You will get rejected by people who do not understand your story but may tell you how you should fix it anyway, and you will be rejected by people who probably didn’t even read your story. You will be rejected by people you admire and by stupid people with no taste, and sometimes these will be the same people.
When you receive a rejection, you may be tempted to see this as a sign that you should stop sending out your work. Instead, get a trusted writing friend to tell you why that magazine is a shitty no-taste rag run by hacks, and that they can go fuck themselves. Then send your work out again.
Submitting more is not the end-all and be-all solution to the gender imbalance. Or all the many other imbalances. But it is the one concrete thing we can all do. You can give me every excuse in the book and I will hand it back to you as bullshit. Send your work out in the world.
Because as much as you might tell yourself that you are writing for you, and no one else, that is bullshit. You’ve imagined a book on a shelf in a bookstore with your name on it. You’ve wondered if a photo would make a good author pic. You’ve written your acknowledgments page in your head.
And as much as you might tell yourself that you aren’t good enough, that too is bullshit. I have seen the slushiest slush in the slushpile, and it is straight up batshit crazy. You are better than that. Every single piece of writing I’ve read from a classmate, a student, a writing group friend…. every single piece has been better than the worst of the pile. If those people think they are good enough to send work out, you’re more than good enough. Your stories matter the most.
And as much as you might fear rejections, let me tell you, each rejection is an affirmation. Because Real Writers get rejected. Every rejection slip you receive is proof positive you are a Real Writer(tm). Not an aspiring writer. Not someone who hopes to be a writer someday. But a bona fide Real Writer who stands behind their work enough to offer it for publication whether other people love it or not. Because Fuck you, I’m awesome.