Today I’m pumped about being a writer, and about the possibilities of living on my work. Why? Because today was Mission Submission day in Thessalon.
Mission Submission is not only the name of my office on Zoetrope, but also the name of the little business-of-writing group I belong to. There are five of us, all with different writing commitments, different directions, different styles, but a single purpose – to make some money, with any luck at all a living, from our writing.
We’re all making something at it. Some of us make a token amount, some of us make a living. I fall somewhere between those two points. We meet once a month at a potluck breakfast to report on how we did the previous month, set goals for the next month, encourage each other and share ideas.
We’re all decent writers. Pauline is a magazine editor, and she and Angie are journalists. Angie and Gordon do corporate writing. Tracy and I are beginning to sell magazine articles. We’re all working on fiction, although I’ve been at it longest and have worked hardest on selling it. Several of us write poetry. We’re a diverse group with diverse experience, and that’s our great strength.
It can be hard sometimes, when there are pieces out there, queries and pitches and submissions, that seem to return only rejections, or, worse, nothing at all. (Did they not get my piece? Did someone line the office cat’s litterbox with it? Has it been lost in a slushpile Everest?) Sure, you can follow up, but sometimes they don’t answer follow-ups, either. It can be wearing on the heart.
However many things have gone wrong in the writing world over the month, I always come away from a Mission Submission meeting with my confidence renewed. To start with, we all check in, report on our accomplishments. Did Tracy meet her goal to write three scenes on her novel? Did Pauline get three full-page features done for the paper? Who pitched, who sold? The reward for achievement – besides achievement – is chocolate. A bar of 70% dark sits on the table, and as each writer finishes reporting the month’s accomplishments, the rest of us look around the table at each other.
“You get chocolate!” we say. (I’ve never known a meeting where everybody didn’t get chocolate.)
Then we swap ideas. Who has a lead, or an idea for somewhere someone else could pitch? Is there a fiction contest or an anthology coming up that would suit some of us? What about a column? Why aren’t you pitching to this magazine? You know that piece you were thinking of writing? I bet this place would take it!
Finally we set the next month’s goals. Ten thousand words on the novel, or maybe just another scene. Six pitches. Setting aside specific time for fiction writing. One flash fiction or poem or short story per week. Learning to say “no” to people who want to cut into your writing time with their demands. Entering this contest, writing for that anthology. Improving your platform. Pitching a column idea. Getting a book proposal out to an agent. They’re small bites of the overall work of becoming a writer who lives on writing.
When the meeting’s over, we are refreshed, with a new sense of possibility and purpose. We’ve reinforced our accomplishments. We can do this! Onward and upward! New achievements for next month’s meeting!
Whose turn is it to bring the chocolate?