I sent out a couple of stories yesterday. There used to be something eternally optimistic about sending a manuscript out. Now it’s that plus the culmination of far too much research and poking about. Good markets — like this is news — are scarce.
I’ve had this same conversation numerous times before with some of my gloomier colleagues. The few really good markets have their pick and, if they sometimes don’t choose wisely, that’s their own fault. It’s not that the material isn’t being handed to them by the shovelful. Unless your name is of such magnitude that it alone will sell magazines or pull pageviews (or at least the editors think so) you take your chances with the hundreds or so others who sent in stories that month. Then you manage to get through anyway, and your story is bought and published in a good venue. Many happies and much joy.
“Publishing short fiction is like throwing rose petals into the Grand Canyon and then listening for the thud.”
That quote has been attributed to Gene Wolfe, among others, but whoever said it first or last, it isn’t too far wrong. Obviously, writing and publishing is a lot like that. That story you sweated over for weeks will sink without a trace along with that bit of fluff you tossed off in an afternoon as a lark. There doesn’t seem to be much difference, practically speaking. You think of that whole “rose petals” analogy again. “Rose petals” is certainly a nicer image than some, but I see it just a little differently. Those of you who have dogs or are ever around dogs know that sometimes they bark at… absolutely nothing. They just stand there, wagging their tails hopefully every now and then, barking. It’s annoying, but what can you do?
For one thing, you can think of it a little bit differently. Maybe they’re not barking at nothing. Maybe they’re barking at the silence. I sometimes think that’s really what I’m doing, what a lot of us do. A little silence now and then is a good thing, but when there’s nothing but silence, well, that’s a different matter. Silence is oppressive. It wears you down, it grates. So it feels good to bark, to make a little noise, even when you’re convinced that no one hears you. And, sometimes, despite the odds and the feeble distances your barking travels, it reaches someone who understands what you’re trying to do. And they answer. Not all the time. Maybe not even often. But it does happen, and the silence is pushed back for a little while.
Reason enough to bark.