Golf doesn’t look that hard, right? I mean, you zoom around in a little battery powered cart across somebody else’s gorgeously manicured lawn. You swing a club at a stationary ball in a direction which will advance it toward a hole in the ground. Unlike other sports, no one is trying to get in your way, steal the ball from you or make it move in such a way that you miss it when you swing. So how hard could it really be?
You may well believe those things until you actually try golfing. Those fun golf carts are expensive to rent, and if you elect to walk, those bags can get mighty heavy on a summer day. Tell yourself that ball is just sitting there all you like. It doesn’t make it any easier to hit straight.
Golf looks easy only to those who haven’t tried it. Golf is hard.
My dad has a saying about amateur golfers. He says for every hundred slices, hooks and divots there will come that one sublimely perfect swing that keeps the vast majority of golfers going through the rough (pun intended) patches. Sure, the beauty, peace and quiet of the course may get you out there, but unless you have no sense of self-improvement, every so often you have to have some success to keep yourself going.
The same thing is true with writing.
Writing looks easy until you sit down and actually do it. Rebecca Moesta points out during every Superstars that people love to say how they plan to sit down and write a novel one day, the implication being that’s just something you sit down and bang out, no problem. I’m willing to bet most of our readers here know better.
Now, obviously with both golf and writing, there is enjoyment to be had in the experience itself. Most writers I know (myself included) would keep writing even their stories never made them a dime or won them any accolades. But if you do want to take your writing past the hobby phase, you end up plunging headlong into the grueling world of submitting your work. Whether it be it short stories to magazines or novels to agents and editors, it can sometimes (often) feel like beating your head against a brick wall.
You really need that one sublimely perfect swing every now and then to keep you going through the rough patches. The bad news is that you have to force yourself to keep putting your work out there even when it’s getting zero traction. The good news is as long as you keep doing so, your perfect swing can happen at literally any moment.
This time last year I’d allowed my short story submissions to trickle down to almost nothing. I’d had a run of misfortune with a couple of near-misses that had left me feeling disheartened with short story publication and I was focusing on a novel instead. Then on a whim, right before Christmas I submitted a story I’d left languishing for years. It was a particular favorite of mine, but too long to publish most places and one that had never garnered any positive feedback at a professional level. I didn’t think anything would come of it, but on Christmas Eve I got an email from the editor praising the story’s writing and characters and asking to hold it for further review.
The story would go on to be published several months later, but it was that initial show of interest that was my sublimely perfect swing. It was such a small thing, basically a note from a stranger effectively saying “I enjoyed this story enough to care about what happens to it.” It jazzed me up and gave me the drive to submit again. Now I keep my stable of stories on a constant submission rotation. As soon as one is rejected, I find another market and send away. In the process I’ve gotten better about identifying which markets might be good fits for which stories, which only helps matters. And you know what? The positive feedback on my submissions has increased as a result. It’s only a matter of time before I hit the next perfect swing, and who knows, this one might be a hole-in-one.