“In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you’ll dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dull and know I had to put it to the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused.”
It’s romantic, maybe, or idealistic (perhaps), or naive (probably) to think that getting published was so much easier back then. Fewer literate people, after all. No MFA programs. No teeming ranks of well-read, well-educated, would-be writers, all very talented, all very good, all very hard-working, all with great ears. All dulling their instruments, all competing. It must have been, after all, a matter of picking the right Parisian cafe. Ford Maddox Ford, Sherwood Anderson, Gertrude Stein…they would have championed your work, too, if you’d been around then.
For the sake of this post, I’m going to assume we’re all very dutifully dulling and sharpening our instruments. And after?
Every Writer has a very good top 50 list here. I’m sad to note that since this list was created in February of this year, both Tin House and Glimmer Train have ceased to be.
I’m not sure what to make of this contraction. Certainly, there is no shortage of good work in the submissions queue. It could be that most of the people who read literary journals are people who want to be published in literary journals, and that we’re so busy, after the writing, with managing the massive numbers game of getting published that we have very little time left to support the market. I don’t think that’s it, but it’s interesting to think about. Of course we buy the journals (although we can’t afford to buy all of them), and of course we pay the submission fees.
And it’s only two journals. But they’re two of the most celebrated. They’re two that consistently appear on everyone’s list. And they’re two of the more recently-established heavy hitters.
It’s a little disheartening. But, thankfully, there are still plenty of whetstones.
Alright. Back to work.