The torment doesn't end there. After going through all the other motions necessary in the submission process, I send my work out into the world. Like other writers, I speculate about how great it would be if they sent me back a letter saying "YES! This was amazing! In the future, we promise to publish everything you ever send us and to pay you buckets full of money for each wonderful piece you send our way." I'm fairly certain that no publication has ever, or will ever, send out a letter like this, but wouldn't it be nice?
Even with these wildly improbable fantasies, I'm more realistic than that most of the time. I know the odds are not in my favor. There are always a great number of fantastic stories assailing these publications, and they can't publish all of them. At least, that's the true story I tell myself. If only my writerly brain would accept this is the reason why I ultimately receive that rejection letter. My main problem starts long before the publisher in question has a clue I exist. The moment I hit send or drop that crucial package into the mail box, I start to second guess everything.
- Did my cover letter have the right information on it?
- Did I put enough work into the cover letter? Does it sound professional?
- I misspelled something. I just know it. I have spelling errors all over the place that my multiple read-throughs failed to detect. The person reading my submission is going to laugh at my ineptitude.
- I wrote something they're going to find offensive. The first person who reads it is going to be so taken aback by something I wrote that they're going to send out a department memo saying "If you ever receive a submission from this person again, burn it IMMEDIATELY upon receipt.
It's obvious that my brain doesn't have my sanity as its top priority. These thoughts are silly and unproductive. I keep wanting to look over everything I sent and pick it apart. I've learned though, that I can't let myself do that. Instead of agonizing over it, I need to put that aside and work on my next project. I now take all of my submission materials and put them in a separate folder. Once the submission has been sent, I put that folder in a safe place where I don't have to see it every time I bring out my writing materials. I do my best to pretend it doesn't exist.
I resolve not to look at that story again until the rejection letter comes. If and when it does, then it is once again safe to dive back in and see what I can improve. Before that time, worrying about it is only detrimental to my creative process.