Getting Published


Copyright © 2013 by Mike Smetzer


I spent this morning organizing my poems, stories, and essays to send out to magazines. I updated my Word files, clicked on Poets & Writers in my Favorites list, opened the classifieds and then the little magazine database and began noting the most auspicious listings.

It is a ritual I have performed since I was an undergraduate, whenever enough happy and unhappy responses have piled up in my inbox. Pondering those listings and then the simple mechanics of formatting the letters and attachments, well, it takes a lot of time, and it reminds me that, after all these years, I am still struggling for recognition. That depresses me.

They say when anything you do depresses you, you need to examine your behavior. Something probably needs to change. I have decided that I need to change two things: my voice and my expectations.

I find that I have shifted inside and my old voice seems strange to me. What I am doing when I write is not really as important as I used to believe. My writing is no more sacred nor profound than anything else I do in life, and neither are the problems I write about. I am a good writer, of course, but I am also good at cleaning out a cooler at work, and the two are pretty much equal as accomplishments.

I also realize that I am probably much happier being unimportant. It means that I am free from all that baggage of pretense and seriousness that important writers have. I don’t have to impress anyone. Which means I don’t have to follow literary fashions or write up to academic “standards.” I can write as myself, in as common a voice as I like.

Which leads to my new expectations. I now expect and hope to be an amateur writer for the rest of my life. I don’t need to be in Paris Review or have a book published by Graywolf Press. I don’t expect to hold a creative writing chair at some university or even teach a class or two at a community college. I don’t expect to make my living off royalties and readings. I simply expect to sit down in the evenings after supper and write. I simply expect to be free.

I’ve had some grand visions of myself as a famous writer. But famous writers often seem trapped in the aura of their success and by the expectations of their followers. I have always been thankful to those editors who accepted my work. Perhaps I should also be thankful to those who rejected me, especially at crucial moments when I might have crossed over to become a professional. I don’t need to march down a paved path following one literary flag or another, not even my own. I can wander, unkempt and little seen through the fields and forests, wherever my old legs take me.

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4 Responses to “Getting Published”

  1. Fredrik R. Says:

    Expectations can be the heaviest of burdens – worse for the fact that it so often is self-imposed.

    “I don’t need to march down a paved path following one literary flag or another, not even my own. I can wander, unkempt and little seen through the fields and forests, wherever my old legs take me.” I found that closing of your essay oddly comforting. Look forward to going through some of your backlog.

  2. Michael Smetzer Says:

    Thank you, Fredrik. Yes, you are right. Expectations are a heavy burden, when they are the wrong expectations. I think, the right expectations can be very stimulating.

  3. suburbansatsangs Says:

    I am right there with you, Mike. Gary and I recently attended a writer’s fair anticipating fresh opportunities in publishing with all the new technologies. What we found were old hierarchies and gatekeepers clothed in the latest terminology. It’s actually more confusing. But nothing is really new is it? I always look forward to reading your unique “voice.”

  4. Michael Smetzer Says:

    Thank you, Tamara. I’ve never attended a writer’s fair, but I can imagine the hustles. It’s been a long time since I’ve even attended a writer’s conference. I do remember that they were fun if you went to see and hear writers you liked and to hang out with your writing friends. Not so much fun if you were an unconnected and clueless wantabe. I no more want to be a wantabe. But good luck in finding some solid info on new publishing technologies.

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