The Creator of Chill Subs Doesn't Submit to Literary Magazines
On impostor syndrome and choice paralysis while submitting to lit mags.
I'm 27, and my things to do before 25 list is laughing at me. So, of course, it increasingly feels like each step I take has to be this calculated milestone on the path of not fucking up my life.
In the case of submitting writing, our database has grown to contain over 3000 magazines. Wow.
Once, Ben told me I should just send him all my stuff, and he'd figure out where to submit it just like he does for people in Submitter's Club. But I couldn't even compile a document without second-guessing it. Oh no, he's a more experienced writer, he kills it with content every single day, and I'm sending him my teenage angst poems that I didn't publish on time, and now they seem weird. Maybe I should just let them die. And then when I have time (in 5 years) to become better, write new ones! Problem solved. Ok, moving on.
Moreover, now I'm too self-conscious that people would know I'm the Chill Subs person, and it would be too awkward. Like "Ohh Chill Subs! Love it! Too bad this poem sucks, though."
Here's a little sneak peek into my process:
Alright, alright, let's go. Time to submit.
Let's see. Well, obviously, I'm not good enough to be published in fancy journals.
But hey, I don't completely suck either. I want to submit somewhere decent. I still need to impress strangers, you know.
Okay, here the tone is too serious.
This one doesn't have a masthead. Easy, bye.
This one does, but this dude seems like an asshole.
No assholes here, but I won't feel validated by these editors. I want this acceptance to mean something.
This one has dead socials. How else am I gonna become famous after publishing only one poem?
This one won't have a URL for my story, and I won't send people to read page 62.
Oh, okay, I like this one!
"This is our last issue, we're shutting down." Shit.
Maybe?..?..?..? I guess. Bookmark.
Ok, I narrowed it down to 50 magazines.
But in what order do I submit?
What if this one publishes it, but then the other one is better, and if only I submitted there from the start?
God no. Stop. This is stupid. I should be grateful to be published anywhere at all. Look at all these writers slowly getting there. Step by step. Publication by publication.
Alright! I PICK THIS ONE. OOF. YEAH. I THINK THAT'S THE ONE.
Hi Submittable! [sweat, horror, tears] Send!
Oh my god, was the editor's name correct?
—3 months later—
[thanks so much for giving us the chance to read BLURPY BLURP. unfortunately…]
—3 months later—
Okay, I think I recovered. Let's do this again. Ohh, but print or online? Print is fancy, but who will read it? Won't even read it myself because I don't have a constant address they can send it to.
This mag is cool, but it's closed now, and I'll no longer be in the mood for it when it opens.
This mag is open, but 4 days till the deadline is not enough to understand whether I hate this poem or not.
Acceptance rate too low, acceptance rate too high.
Looks nice, but examples are only in the print copy. What am I, rich? Also, address.
Alright, themed call. Luminous light. What?! Which of my poems are about that?
Too impatient for this response time, too poor for this submission fee, too good for this ugly website.
Oh, this looks like a place that publishes similar stuff. Eh, but it's just this one poem. Was it just a glitch? Also, it's kinda better than mine.
God, just one poem by this person seems better than all of my poems.
Alright, I should lower my bar (maybe just stick to programming?) There are a lot of nice smaller magazines! Like this one, see.
Ahh, but if they accept anyone, what's the point? I'd be better off just posting this on social media. I would at least get comments. Yeah, I'll do that.
You have a new comment!
[promote it on wRiTeRsWhAtEvEr]
Oof. No. At least in the magazine, the work will be properly published.
I'll get respect.
[the magazine goes down in 6 months, and no one ever saw your story]
That's nice. That's prestige. Cool.
Why is my ego so big that I have to do all this at all? Why am I trying so hard? Why can't I let this go and just have fun?
Get shit done! Release shitty work! Build up your portfolio! Write more. Write better. Stop being a baby.
Watch another Friends episode. See another poet go viral for tweeting funny things.
Look at your empty profile.
Go to bed.