Like most non-sociopaths, talking up my own small success feels awkward. I’m not always sure that my work is good enough to publicize, even if it’s as good as I can do. The problem is it’s not Joyce Carroll Oates good. It’s not Shirley Jackson good. It’s good-ish, and somehow occasionally it gets published.

I try to do better. I spend enormous amounts of time writing, editing and thinking about or researching elements of a story. Whatever else I’m doing, part of me is always living with the story I’m working on. I’m much happier living in several worlds at once rather than one single stupid boring life. The one-world method doesn’t work for me; I need multiple universes to inhabit. Anyway, with all the effort invested in writing, I get excited enough to overcome my shyness when a story is accepted or published.

I’ve decided to come out of the closet and admit I’ve been published. I’ve also been outed once when I didn’t expect it. Attending an event led by a poet I know, she introduced me in front of the whole group as an author. Yikes. No choice but to own it.

What’s been cool about extroverting is that hidden writers come out of the woodwork once they hear me admit my own dirty secret. I wonder how many important voices remain unheard because they are too shy or don’t want to appear pretentious or have been told they aren’t good enough? And who decides which voice is good enough?

If you’ve asked me how I got a few things published and I flubbed the answer, which I’m sure I did since I’m a terrible speaker and socialite, I’d say my primary tactic is work. I rewrite a ton. I try to learn more about the story as I redo it and eliminate what is false. Stories often have their own agenda and they will lie to you. Don’t let them. Similarly, you can’t force your own agenda on a story and get good results. It’s kind of like the balance of discipline and nurturing you exert to rear children well, and it similarly requires a darn high level of commitment.

Commitment is probably what makes many budding writers fail. It’s not that they can’t commit to the work. It’s that they can’t commit without knowing the outcome. What if you invest all your free time in this project and it gets rejected? That’s the anxiety.

But guess what! There’s nothing to fear. I know the outcome. I’ll share it with you now: You’re going to get rejected! Yay! Just like I did. Just like every writer. Rejection is part of the bigger process of creative development. It’s bigger than one story or poem or novel, bigger than your current masterpiece. And God, please don’t try to write a masterpiece.

Just write a little bit better, each and every time.


Published by: Joe

Joe Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. A Shirley Jackson Award finalist, Joe is the author of The Wingspan of Severed Hands, The Couvade, and Convulsive. Their short fiction appears in publications such as Vastarien, Southwest Review, Pseudopod, and Children of the New Flesh. He’s been a flash fiction judge for Cemetery Gates Media as well as co-editing the art horror anthology Stories of the Eye from Weirdpunk Books. Find Joe (he/they) online at horrorsong.blog and on Twitter @horrorsong.

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