--THE MIRROR KEEPS ASKING ME WHO I AM
…A lifetime ago, three years ago, to be exact, on May 9th, I had my first story published.
At the time, it seemed like a feat of magic to wake up, check the cell phone, and find something I'd written printed in a literary journal.
I remember standing in the bathroom, in my underwear, bleary-eyed, having just woken, re-reading the message two or three times.
For a few moments, I thought I was being Punked. I even looked over both shoulders.
Maybe for the non-writer this experience is like hearing your lover say those three words for the first time. Or maybe it’s like hearing them say those other three words—“I miss you”—for the first time.
What I’m saying is I’d never felt anything quite like it.
When I started out submitting, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't even know what "Flash Fiction" was. I’d written some poetry, a lot of it really, but the bulk was drivel. My stories, up until then meandered. My dialogue was stilted at best.
But I learned. I got better.
But I read a lot and paid attention. I found people whose writing I admired and studied the places where their work was published, and then I had the audacity to solicit those very same sites.
And I guess that's how you do it. You find the best. You find writers who are somewhat similar to your aesthetic. And then, writing in your own voice, you do the workmanlike things that they do.
And you keep doing it, knowing full well that rejection is a sort of crass, loud-mouthed friend who will tell you the truth even when it's a bullet to the gut.
Since then, I've had over 650 pieces accepted.
Six hundred and fifty is a lot of words, a lot of sentences and paragraphs.
It’s a lot of printed pages that end up recycled. It’s a lot of anguish over one or two words.
But it’s quite a bit of fun as well.
The thrill of having one's work validated never lessens. The rejections still sting, of course, but they joy of publication is what pushed and pulls and propels you to keep at it, and when it does come, no matter how often, it always arrives with both a bolt of surprise and elation, however temporary.
It's a brave thing to be a writer. I think it is.
It takes moxie to put yourself out there in the public eye.
While it's rare to be brazenly criticized, friends or family might read something you've written--say, a rather "dark" piece--and look at you a little differently. They might ask, "What the hell?" They might ask, "Is that story about me?" They might say, "You sure have a twisted mind."
Writing truthfully means standing naked under a spotlight.
Readers who know you have a hard time separating author from friend/father/husband/relative. If you write about a boyfriend having revenge by killing his lover, "Well," they think, "what's to keep you(writer) from committing such an act?"
And that’s why writing for publication takes courage to the second power.
You’re not only braving defeat, but also blanket scrutiny.
But to create this little globe of life, and to have it take form in such a keen way that it feels real--even when rendered raw or vicious--is to have shone a light on life lived in the shadows and cracks.
Anyway, that's how I see it.
So May 9th is a special day.
And like any anniversary, it creates a good reason to pause and reflect, to consider what’s been made manifest and what lies ahead.