I might have done something dumb. Or I might be getting the hang of self care. The line between the two, at least for me, is occasionally hazy.
The email came from out of the blue, with Congratulations! in the subject line next to the name of the University Lit Journal. I’ve been published in this journal before (2 stories in one issue, actually), and submitted to it multiple times…but not this past semester. I hadn’t had time to work on anything I felt confident submitting.
Confused, I clicked.
They had accepted my piece for publication, pending revisions, and needed a bio and headshot of me by Friday. I didn’t recognize the title of the piece they mentioned, but the girl who had emailed me knew me from previous classes and one of my other friends was the managing editor, so it probably wasn’t a case of mistaken identity. I texted Editor Friend.
“Um, it’s the piece you wrote for Professor C’s class,” he said. “Last spring? Here, I’ll email it to you.”
Vague memory dawned. It was a creative nonfiction piece about my time abroad the summer before, but I was thoroughly “meh” about how it turned out. Professor C, though, loved it. He had encouraged me to submit it to University Lit Journal and, when I wasn’t sure, asked if he could at least use it as an example for his creative nonfiction editors. I said that was fine, and maybe I would revise and submit it for publication eventually. I never got around to it – had forgotten all about it, actually.
And now University Lit Journal was offering to publish it.
I remember how it felt getting the email saying that not one but both of my previous (fiction) pieces had been accepted. I was exhilarated. Over the moon. Skipping down the sidewalk (well, I do that anyway because I’m basically a 5-year-old pretending to be a college student, but you get the picture). The meeting with the editors to go over revisions was one of the best workshopping experiences I have ever had, and I was truly proud of the product when it came out in print.
This time around, all I felt was panic.
I did not have time budgeted for this. I did not have a spare hour to meet with the editors again, much less several afternoons to devote to revising the piece to a point where I would be happy to see it in print (again, this was not my favorite thing I’ve ever written, and though when I reread it I could see some potential, it would take a while). And I had no desire to carve out that time. I didn’t want to rush to a meeting where my own writing would make me feel harried and inconvenienced. I didn’t want to spend energy that I needed for class, work, thesis, feeding myself. I didn’t want to pick up a project that someone else had started on my behalf.
“How much would you hate me if I said no?” I texted Editor Friend.
Some people might think I’m crazy for retracting my piece. “How much time could it really have taken?” they might cry. “You should have jumped at the chance to get published again! I’m sure if they wanted to print the story it would have been fine no matter how you felt about it.” And maybe, being a young almost-graduate who’s hoping to get an entire book published eventually, I should have been grateful for the chance to have another printed piece on my resume.
But I just wasn’t. And I have enough of a sense of ownership of my writing that I wanted to be excited if I was going to have something printed. I didn’t want it to feel – well, like this.
So I retracted my “submission” and immediately breathed a sigh of relief. Now I could focus on the stuff I want to write – like my thesis, my manuscript, and this blog. Maybe it wasn’t the best choice for my resume, but it was what I needed to do for myself right now. And I’m okay with that.