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Inventory

I spent much of Sunday spring cleaning my computer; the files were a mess. I have seven completed manuscripts circulating—three essays, three short stories, two very long short stories—and before I start revising the stripped down murder mystery, I have to take a breather, assess the submissions I’ve already made, and send more manuscripts out before the summer hiatus. This is labor intensive work.

I’m trying to be more methodical about my submissions and keep careful notes and spread sheets with the names of editors, even if they have rejected my work. If they say they want to see more, I send them something else immediately. I want my byline and my writing to remain fresh in their mind.

Even after a long career as a writer, any word of encouragement from an editor, much less an acceptance, elevates my mood. That’s only natural, but it’s not necessary. I don’t rely on any admiring response of readers, editors, family or friends to keep working. And I let negative responses roll away. A negative response is not the same as a helpful comment or a deep critique. Once a friend told me she didn't think I was novelist. She may be right--I have never had a novel published--yet. But it was mean of her to speak to me in this way in the midst of my effort to make a novel work. Writers have to ignore such undermining remarks. We have no choice.

Taking an inventory of where we are with our work is comforting as the season changes. The work accumulates and some of it is publishable. We look back and realize we’ve done well over the winter. Our writing life is disciplined, constant. We have learned to ask ourselves the right questions: Is a revision working or should we set it aside for a while? Who is the audience for this piece? Am I working on a book or a short form essay? Is a piece ready to be sent out? Have I considered a recent critique? Why doesn’t my significant other or my best friend like what I’ve written? Does it matter? Am I building my strength as a writer? Attending to elements of craft? Reading and writing every day?

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