I realized today that the problem with submitting one's work via email or web form (and thus receiving an emailed response) is that it's a lot harder to tell whether you're getting an encouraging rejection or just a regular one. When you get a paper rejection slip with "try us again" inked on it, you know that not everybody got that same note and you take heart a little. (Unless, of course, you're at that point of being sick to death of getting little inked notes and no acceptances, in which case it makes you gnash your teeth a little.)
But with email, unless you've had emailed rejections from the same journal before & know what their standard wording is, it's hard to know whether "The poems have gone through many hands, with interest" is just a continuation of the apology for holding the work so long (six months, in this case) or whether it means they really did kind of like the poems. Argh. Oh well, I'll choose to take it as mild encouragement, because I need that right now, and also because this particular journal is one I'd really really love to get into. (Plus, at the end it's signed "The Editors" but then it has one editor's name in parentheses -- so I'm going to pretend that means this note came personally from that editor and is not, in fact, the standard rejection form email. Or rather, that it started off with the standard rejection template but that this editor added stuff to be encouraging.)
Ah, the mind games publication -- or the hope thereof -- makes us play.
This weekend I want to finalize the new(ish) chapbook ms. and get it sent off to one or two contests -- especially since I got a rejection for the older ms. this week (it's still out to one place). I'm a little tired of the whole contest idea right now, but putting together the manuscript is a good exercise and teaches me something about my work, and I probably won't bother doing that without the incentive of having somewhere to send it, so contest submission it is. That, I think, is one of the few ways in which the actual writing (which is the important part) does intersect with submitting and publishing (which is the hobby part), and one of the few ways in which the publishing part actually does the writing part some good. I would write poems no matter what, even if some god descended from the heavens and told me that I was fated never to have another poem accepted anywhere again. But would I bother putting together manuscripts? Probably not. Putting poems together in book (or chapbook) format is, for me, a way of organizing the poems and presenting them for other people -- they already have plenty of context and narrative arc or whatever in my own mind, I don't need to put them in any order to get that for myself.
Although the process does teach me something about my work -- the last chapbook ms. I put together made me realize I do have a couple of overriding themes over the past couple years or so, and made me feel like I am writing towards something & not just haphazardly strewing poems. I don't think I'd bother doing it without the eventual goal (cross your fingers) of publication, but that doesn't mean I'm not glad to have done it/to be doing it.
Which makes me wonder why other people put together manuscripts -- would you do it if you knew it would never ever get published? And what have you learned from the process of organizing a ms. (or writing towards one, for those of you who consciously write towards one specific project at a time)? What does the "book process" give you as a writer? After putting together a first book that you're happy with (whether it gets published or not), do you feel differently about your writing? Does your poetry change at that point?
Is trying to get published a guilty pleasure? I think I've come to the conclusion that it is one of mine. Hee.