On why I haven't been published and other excuses

I’m lazy. Notoriously lazy. It has taken me about 10 years to come in terms with that fact, and by 10, I mean this year. All I ever want to do is go home after work, sit on my couch, and watch 90 Day Fiancé while inhaling dinner. I’m not actually ashamed of this, but I don’t think it’s a recipe for success in the world of poetry or writing, or in general.

For the first few years after graduating from my MFA program, I blamed the failure of my few attempts to publish my poetry-book-thesis on the fact that I was Arab, brown, Palestinian, and all those not so exciting labels, then I blamed it on my grief and called my writing “too real” (gross),  then on my forced move back to Palestine, and most recently, on the editors who haven’t discovered me while I’ve been sitting on my couch eating dinner and watching TV.

Don’t get me wrong, it is very hard to get published. It is as hard as a comedian getting a Netflix special, or breaking into Hollywood. I’m not sure why it’s so hard, but maybe it’s because a lot of us actually believe that we have a very important, life-altering, totally special story to tell. I’m sure editors face desks cluttered with heaps of poems, stories, and essays about suffering, in all its forms, waiting to see the light of day in the pages of a magazine that’s exclusively sold online, or manuscripts that are waiting for authors’ photos and obscure art to grace a desperately sought cover. We think that if we get this pain published, it might feel like it was worth it, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that the pain sometimes is just pain, and even if it gets published, it’s still awful, and not worth it.

More recently, I have been thinking about why I want to get published, and why it means so much to me to have poetry books to my name sitting in bookstores. I think it’s important to for me to acknowledge that getting published is about my ego, not about the art or the pain. I want to be recognized and called special and talented in a public forum, so I can believe that I’ve done something meaningful with the little talent I think I have. This is not a noble purpose, but the alternative is just as egotistical, because if I really thought that I need to get published because my writing is so unique and needs to be released to make the world a better place, then not only am I highly delusional, but very obnoxious.

My mother used to say that we’re all very special and not special at all, and I think she repeatedly said that because she felt like my brother and I both had artistic talents and tendencies, but if we were to indulge ourselves in the idea that we are both exceptionally special, we were going to get lazy. Sadly, we still turned out lazy, but we are learning and discovering our strengths and weaknesses as artists, and though it might take us a little bit longer to accomplish something that our mother can be proud of, it is truly, tritely, about the journey.



Tala Abu RahmehComment