Why Don’t Writers Submit Their Work?


I’ll bet any writer reading this post already knows how to submit work to literary journals. First, make a spreadsheet with a list of your stories, poems, or essays. Add a column for journals, and another for deadlines. Spend some time reading and researching magazines in which you’d like your work to appear. Finally, proofread your submission and send, send, send!

Even for the administratively challenged, the process isn’t very complicated.

So, if “how” is the question, this post is already…over. Perhaps a better question is why writers don’t.


To get some insight, I posted a query on Facebook. The response made it clear that—unless we address the road blocks encountered between first draft and final publication—no spreadsheet in the world will save us.


  • fear of rejection
  • lack of knowledge about the editorial process
  • overwhelmed by options
  • lack of information re: what kind of work journals want
  • preference is given to subscribers
  • my work doesn’t “fit” anywhere
  • it’s like breaking into a secret club
  • difficulty finishing pieces—private/public barrier
  • perfectionism
  • not prioritizing my writing life
  • disorganization
  • resentment toward gatekeepers
  • holding out for a book
  • loss of control—what if they never even get back to me?
  • nobody reads short stories, poems, essays, etc.
  • nobody reads literary magazines

Yow! Now, I’m not a licensed psychotherapist. I’m a writer, editor, and coach. But I do see a pattern here: some of these blocks are emotional, some are informational, and some are organizational.


So let’s tackle the gnarly ones first—emotional blocks: fear of rejection, difficulty finishing work, resentment toward gatekeepers, and concerns about loss of control.

Obviously, submitting work for publication requires moving from the relative safety of your private, creative space toward the public realm. Once you’re run that gauntlet, you face another test: UNLESS you have a relationship with journal editors, you’re trying to establish a connection as an unknown, and often anonymous, entity.

This is disorienting. The self (which is honored by the private practice of creativity) is now in freefall. In addition to anonymity—and the accompanying freefall—you’re entering a situation in which the rules of engagement aren’t entirely clear, all while risking rejection of your creative work. Add to that the solid possibility that, if your work is rejected, you may never find out WHY, and it’s a wonder anybody sends anything out at all.

Seen in this context, difficulty finishing pieces, fear of rejection, concerns about loss of control, and resentment toward gatekeepers all seem pretty understandable.


In my next post, I’ll outline some approaches to overcoming emotional blocks, combating misinformation, and getting organized. Courage!

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