Rigged to fail

We’re closing in on the end of 2010. I’ve made two hundred fifty-seven submissions and had twenty-three paid acceptances, plus one that pays in copies. Oh, yes, and two non-fiction paid sales, and a couple of grants. I’ve also had one hundred and fifty-two rejections.

What I’m feeling now is not, “Look, I bested my original submissions goal by a factor of five – plus! And I bested my story sales goal by three, plus a sale paid in copies! AND I got a grant!” No, what I’m feeling is, “Am I gonna make those twenty-five paid short fiction sales before the end of 2010?”

Even I recognize that this is completely screwy. My original goal was fifty submissions. My updated goal was two hundred submissions and twenty sales, and I updated that again to two-fifty and twenty-five. My husband says I do this to sabotage myself – that once I’ve achieved something, I raise the bar until I fail to achieve the new goal.

I think he has a point.

I have no idea why I do this to myself. Well, yes, I do. I believe I’m a lazy person.

A lot of an artist’s work goes on subconsciously, on that old back burner. Our mental stoves are probably triangular, with six or seven back burners, a couple of middle burners, and one at the front, bubbling the stuff that’s ready straight through to the forebrain and the hands.

I’m on back-burner time right now, with two short stories and a novel simmering. On the middle burner, notes for the ultimate rewrite of “The Swan Harp”. On the front burner – um – Christmas. And wondering if I’m going to make those last two sales.

With everything I’ve accomplished this year – and aside from my novel, I’ve written almost a hundred pieces of short fiction and poetry – I’m definitely not lazy. I work in bursts, and in between those bursts, I think and dream and plan and rearrange and wonder. It goes in the job description. I’ve made my goals for this year, and more than made them. If anyone else had done this amount of work, exceeded their goals by that much, I’d be astounded. I wonder why I’m not astounded at me?

Piet Hein, poet and scientist, wrote thousands of little poems he called “grooks”. One of my favourites is on my fridge door.

“To many people artists seem
undisciplined and lawless.
Such laziness, with such great gifts,
seems little short of crime.
One mystery is how they make
the things they make so flawless;
another, what they’re doing with
their energy and time.”

Think I’m gonna have that one tattooed on my arm, just so I can read it any time I’m feeling that I’m lazy.

Pour me an eggnog. Take that pot of guilt off the back burner and toss it, wouldja? Thanks.

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