Does your writing suck? I don't know. I can't say. Bukowski said 'only the writer is the judge', and I tend to think he's right, however very few of us are going to have his level of success in writing. That may not mean much because 'success' can be measured in many ways to the individual writer. You may just want to keep a journal or express your thoughts on a blog for instance, or maybe you just like interacting with your followers on social media. All those are great but to some writers there's a need to push themselves to see if their abilities with the written word are up to some friendly competition. I was at the dentist recently and we got to talking about what I did. I hate this question but I decided to play nice, because anyone with a knife in your mouth deserves respect.
Anyways, when I wasn't slurping and spitting out years of plaque, I mentioned that I’m a writer. I always say this even if I'm not writing for a living, because it sounds interesting, plus people don't really care what you do they are just practicing the polite societal conversation banter. She perked up her ears and mentioned that she was writing a book, and then proceeded to tell me about how it’s a romantic murder mystery; the bastion of originality. I said that sounded interesting then she asked me what I write. I thought about it a minute, then said 'nothing much'. She looked perplexed until I explained that I never know what I am going to write, until I actually sit down and write it. I might have an idea, but it comes together when the words transfer from my brain to the keyboard. She didn't say much after that so with newly polished teeth I paid the bill, and realized her writing career was going nowhere fast. She's doing just fine as a dentist, and the thought of dropping her career and just being a writer probably seems like the worst idea ever.
I know I did. In December 2014, I resigned from a secure teaching job with decent pay and great benefits. Why? I wanted to do something I love doing and that obviously is writing. Now, I could honestly say that I am writing for a living. I don’t' recommend you do this, unless you have a significant amount of savings, or you're independently wealthy. If you want to go for it, might as well. You only get one chance, might as well do something you're passionate about. People are afraid to take a chance and go to their grave asking 'what might have been?' I never want to feel that way. I'm on year three of just writing and it’s not easy, but it's been productive. I wrote a novel which did pretty good initially and my poetry books continue to rank high in their categories. I wasn't sure what this column was going to be about when I sat down to write it, but it kind of morphed into something else than I originally thought. I was going to talk about the ignorance of those that bash literary magazines, and give the many reasons that they are indeed very important. For example, after a hearty debate about them on Facebook in which I just played along getting the other writer whipped up in a frenzy over nothing—this is something I always do on social media by the way—I recently talked to an editor of a mid-level literary magazine that has a circulation of two thousand readers, which is pretty good actually. She said that they get 1500 to 2000 submissions from writers for each issue they print. Now that's just one magazine from out of the thousands, and many are much bigger and get twice as many submissions then the one she publishes. So that means you're most likely going to get rejected and whether you believe it or not, you're competing against other writers.
So does it require talent? It sure does. I can hear you saying ‘yeah but it's all subjective’, and maybe it is, but to get published out of thousands of submissions is an accomplishment. Did you ever try out for a team and not make the cut? Did you say well it's the coach being subjective? Ask those that made the team if the process was subjective? If you made the team would you say it doesn't matter because it's all subjective? I didn't think so. So if someone criticizes something they know nothing about, they most likely never tried out for the team (i.e. submitting their writing in a competition). I have and I've made the team over a hundred times. Do I want it more? You bet your ass I do. Does your writing suck? I don't care.
Thom Young is a sophomore contributor to The Weekly Degree and a literary artist of Thirty West. Since his first article, he has been nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Award along with the release of the highly anticipated, A Little Black Dress Called Madness Part II, which has arisen to #1 on Amazon. His chapbook, Don't Wish Me Luck, is available through the 30 W. Shop.