So, against all reason and logic, at the last possible second, I submitted a piece to Narrative Magazine for their first person narrative contest. I paid $20 like a chump. I'm pretty young, 24, and I've never even submitted anything to be published, though I've written all my life. I don't know why I did it; part of me felt that what I had written was what they were looking for, and part of me just wanted my first rejection so I could just get it over with already.
I feel silly even asking you this, but I need you to burst my naive bubble here. There are 3 working days left for them to send me my goddamn rejection before announcing the winners, and they haven't, and it's giving me agita. More than agita, I'm slightly paralyzed with anxiety. I am of a nature that is cursed with this eternal, twisted optimism and I want it to die. It's not even that I fear the disappointment, that will hardly make a dent, but the waiting, WR, the waiting is killing me.
With every passing day approaching the 31st (when they announce), my delusions of grandeur get slightly fatter, and I spend more and more time indulging them when I should be doing other things, like work, or scooping the cat litter, or listening when other people speak. It's distracting. I keep on imagining myself lounging in a park, eating soft cheeses and wearing beautiful dresses, all purchased with my glorious prize money, or explaining on the college applications I'll soon be sending out that while yes, I certainly did flunk out at 19, would they actually dare to deny admission to a little blooming visionary like myself, who gets the first thing she's ever written published in a big journal on the first shot? I'd be all, "Baby please. Your institution is dying to nurture my genius. Now get me a latte."
You see? It's poisonous. Please tell me it's near impossible, that it's unlikely they even read my submission. Please tell me they are just so enraptured by whatever elegant, established career writer they're set to champion next that they haven't had time to get to tell the little people they can eat cake. In your experience, in the context of a writing contest, is it at all significant to have a longer response time? I know I only have a few more days, but I need somebody to ground me a little so I can carry on with the next order of business. How do you handle this waiting game yourself?
All of the last three winners of the Narrative Magazine contest were majorly famous for the written word in some significant way. That means the chances are slim for chumps like you and me. But here's what's true: you are an 'effing literary wonder. Flunking out at 19 and getting your ass back in school a few years later and, hello, WRITING stories that you are sending out to contests. You are in the game, my friend. You are a writer, and you are young, and you have years ahead to better your craft and show everyone who has ever rejected you how superb you are.
It's unlikely you're going to win that contest this time, so you'd better take a Pepcid AC for that agita. But know that you are unstoppably on the right path. So keep it up, sister. We are rooting for you. Since you are a virgin submitter, I'll tell you this: the waiting gets easier after you get a few hundred rejections under your belt. You learn to morph your dream this way and that to keep it alive. You'd be surprised how quickly coulats and cheddar begin to look good. For you, I'd say push it up a few years, and know that there's much hard work ahead. You can buy that dress and eat soft cheese when you're in your 30's.
p.s. It's hard to listen when other people speak.