I go through phases when submitting stuff to be published. I’ll send off a whole slew of stuff in a scattergun approach, hoping that somehow one of them will hit the mark and when nothing does, I say that’s it. I’m not submitting any more and go into a deep trance for a while. Then I come out of it again and start submitting stuff.
I’m sure there are lots of analogies for this process. Some scientific processes must feel this way, as if you’re firing random electrons at something and hoping one of them might break through. Or searching for new stars in a vast emptiness of space. Or digging for a lost king in a car park… no, scratch that last one – sometimes you get lucky. But luck is usually the result of sustained and unsuccessful effort. It might take only one day to find Richard III but it took 600 years for that day to arrive. Nevertheless, heaving a huge sigh, you have to keep trying and in that spirit I have today sent off three poems to the Mslexia 2020 Poetry Competition. They are: The Artist, about male and female writers; Sisyphus, about the guy in Greek mythology condemned to push a boulder up a mountain for all eternity, and Live Poets’ Society which is about the uses of poetry. Kinda.
Having done that I feel rather as if I’ve climbed a mountain myself – and it’s only eleven a m. It’s not so much the process of editing and filling in the forms and paying the entry fee; it’s the emotional roller-coaster you can’t seem to help climbing aboard when you go for these things. Is this what they want? Will they like it? Do I stand a chance? and at the back of it all the dreaded question, Am I any good? This whispered query hovers in the mind of every artist, whether of stage, screen, canvas or print, and there doesn’t seem to be any getting away from it.
Yesterday I went to B&Q and bought some curtains. For some reason they didn’t have any in pairs only singles, and there was only one left of the one I wanted. Determined to have that colour as it perfectly matched the study walls, I rooted around and found a pair that were – as I thought – slightly too large. But when I got them home I discovered that the dimensions were the other way round from what I’d thought and they came right down to the floor. ‘Never mind!’ I thought valiantly. ‘I can make something from the leftovers.’ And lo! it turns out there will be enough to make a pair for the futility room (as we call it.) Joy.
So that’s today. Snatching triumph from the jaws of disaster. There will be another episode of ‘Backstop’ later.