Thoughts on Submission(s)

We all run in various circles. I don’t mean that in the sense of having no direction, just a dog chasing its tail and not getting anywhere. I mean it more in the sense of social and professional circles.

In the two main circles in which I find myself running about, the word submission has two distinct meanings.

This is what submission looks like for a dog. We humans shy away from this sort of vulnerability.
This is what submission looks like for a dog. We humans generally avoid this sort of vulnerability at all cost.

In the circle labeled Writing, submission is a noun (a story or a poem sent to some contest or publication) or a process (the act of sending that story or poem to that contest or publication).

In the circle labeled Faith, submission is always a verb (us submitting to God, husbands and wives submitting to each other, us submitting our plans to God’s will).

In practice, these can feel like the same thing for several reasons.

1. It’s not easy. Submitting a story, querying an agent, sending your tender literary child out into the world–it’s hard. Taking the first step in handing control of your work over to someone else and risking their rejection is difficult in the same way it is hard to trust someone else with control of your life and happiness. It’s kind of scary at first. Submission of any kind requires courage.

2. It’s a long process. Waiting is the name of the game if you are submitting stories to magazines or entering contests or sending out queries. It will usually take months to receive a response and in the meantime you can feel like you’re in a kind of literary limbo. When you hand your plans over to God you can feel that his timing and yours do not always (usually) match up one to one. It’s going to take longer than you want it to. Submission of any kind requires patience.

3. You have to keep doing it, over and over. Submit, get rejected, repeat. That’s the process you need to follow until your work matures, hits a nerve, happens to be timed just right. You can’t give up. Similarly, submitting to God is not a one-time thing–it’s an ongoing process. You have to do it daily. You’re never done submitting. Submission of any kind requires persistence.

4. Eventually, it pays off. You can’t publish something if you don’t submit it, and if you are a good writer who is consistently trying to improve your craft, eventually you will get published. In the same way, submitting to God or to a spouse can seem at first as if you’re getting the short end of the stick–you lose the control over your daily life, you turn over the fulfillment of your needs to someone else. What if they get it wrong? What if they neglect you? But the reality is, God is better at fulfilling your needs than you are, and a loving spouse is as well. Submission of any kind requires trust.

Courage, patience, persistence, trust. Do you have those qualities? Which one do you do best? Which is hardest for you right now? If you’ve shied away from submitting your writing and sharing it with the world, what is holding you back?

Don’t let fear of rejection keep you from submitting. Everyone gets rejected. But if you never submit, never turn anything over out of fear that once you do everything is beyond your control, you can never be the writer or person you were meant to be. If you’ve been given the gift of being able to write well, that gift was given for a reason. Use it. Share it. Submit it to God. And for goodness’ sake, submit it for publication!