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22 Things Learned From Submitting Writing

by David Miller Jul 20, 2011
Lessons shared from HTMLGIANT editor Blake Butler on the submissions process.

LAST WEEK, Blake Butler, author of 3 books and editor / co-founder of HTMLGIANT, posted his entire submission record (and what happened to each piece) from 2006-2008. The record shows dozens if not hundreds of pieces.

As one commenter, Ben Mirov, said, the document is “strangely comforting.” It seems like the tendency for many people is to just look at a writer’s accomplishments, his/her book titles, then compare them with one’s own in a way that’s fixed to a certain moment in time. This can be intimidating, disheartening. A transparent record like Blake’s is a reminder of the progression underneath it all, which, I feel, is what really matters.

A couple days ago Blake followed up this piece with a new bomb 22 Things I learned from Submitting Writing. I STRONGLY recommend you read this if you’re a writer. Excerpt:

11. Set goals. I had a list of like 5 places I really wanted to get into, and I worked at them incessantly, even if “working at it” simply meant trying to figure out what would come from me that they wanted, and letting time pass. Sometimes shorter works of writing could be seen as little keys, toward an end that extends beyond the piece. Like learning little methods that contribute to a larger vocabulary. I think I eventually ended up in 4 of the 5, though it took years. But having a substantial place you want to be and then getting there is a good bonus fire, and things begin to connect maybe.

12. Writing and submitting don’t go hand in hand. Writing is yours. Submitting is a fucking video game. Play the game hard when it’s time to play it, but don’t get eaten. I would set aside time (sometimes whole days) where I did the research and work of submission. Then when it was time to write, that was the last thing on my mind.

13. Don’t lose sight of someone you love in the midst of this.

14. The larger project is more than even being more than the sum of its parts. All these magazines, once I got in them, are just on a big black shelf next to where I brush my teeth at night.

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