My wife and I had a talk about my reasons for writing. It’s a conversation I’ve had with many adults. I’ve paid some to have these conversations with me; others did it for free. The one with Jennet was the most valuable, because she’s calm, listens, and it quiets my mind. She asks, “What do you want out of it?” It’s easy to say that I’m doing this for myself and myself, alone, that I simply want to feel happy sitting at the desk again. I have been genuinely happy, but I also need recognition. I’ve always needed recognition for the talent I think I have, or at least acknowledgement of the mental exertions it took to create or accomplish something. So as soon as I finished the 650-word piece, Rules of Ball, and after it was rejected by McSweeney’s, I searched “humor magazines” and found a really good database called Every Writers Resource. I browsed through and settled on three publications that seemed right for my work.
Ten or fifteen years ago, I’d think twice about publishing online, except if it were McSweeney’s. It’s a mistake to categorize all online publications as a last resort, because the best feedback I’ve ever gotten came as a result of publishing online. The last time I published on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, two literary agents and two well-known American fiction writers contacted me. No one has really said much to me after reading my work in a print literary magazine. Printed literary magazines are better credits, though, and if my work made it into Esquire, The New Yorker, Harper’s, or Paris Review I’d certainly get an email or two from someone, somewhere.
Rules of Ball, a short piece inspired by this game I created for my sons and their friends during a pretty magical three weeks on Lake Willoughby in Westmore, Vermont, appears today in an online humor magazine called The Higgs Weldon, created and edited by two stand up comics out of Los Angeles. Today I am receiving recognition for pushing through my mental blocks this summer and doing what seems to make me happy with myself as an individual – not as a father, husband, son, or brother, but as a 42 year old man answering to himself.
I will go to The Higgs Weldon all day in between meetings at a job I love deeply, and I will see how many have “liked” or “tweeted” my story, and I have no problem telling you that. It takes a strong person to write simply for him or herself and for no other reason. I am not there yet.