Thursday, May 14, 2009

Win at what?

My manager sent a link to an article from the innovation issue of the New Yorker. "How David Beats Goliath," by Malcom Gladwell, examines how David can win, and how rarely the Davids in life choose to.


The idea is that if you play by Goliath's rules, Goliath will win. If you want to beat Goliath, you have to break the rules, change the rules, make rules that work for you. The article tells the story of a girls' basketball team of girls who haven't really played much basketball and how, by changing the dynamics of the game (not the actual rules, even), they managed to win game after game.

When I read this article a few days ago, I had just come out of a fairly long and steady string of poetry rejections (the last couple of days have been SASE-free, from the "no news is good news, I guess" department). I wondered, "How could this apply to poetry? How could you change the rules?"

Right away, a couple of answers came to mind:

"If it's a contest, you can't change the rules. Don't even try."

"Writing is not about winning. Writing is about writing."

True. But is submitting not about winning (in a sense)? And if it isn't, why did the recent issue of Poets & Writers include articles on slush piles and agents and literary nepotism and the lit mags that will do more for your work?

If the premise is that your odds for success can become greater if you try something different, what might that something be?

(The article also discusses how indignant your peer group might become if you begin to play by a different paradigm.)

To me, it's worth thinking about. "Winning" at submitting won't help me write that better poem. But I think my poetry has changed some over the past 15 years, while submitting (on the writer side of the equation) has mostly stayed the same.

Could I try something different? What would that "something different" be?


Kristin said...

Would submitting to online journals be something new? I've not spent as many years submitting to online journals, so it feels different to me, after a year of beginning to submit.

In 15 years, though, maybe that submission process will feel as tiresome as endless stamps and envelopes!

Joannie said...

Good idea! I think that submitting to online journals is one way to try something new. I've found that I still receive a hefty number of rejections from online journals--in addition to a couple of really nice acceptances. It's important not to forget those.

I guess I'm not thinking just of numbers, but of the where I want to see my poems in print or pixels.

Premium T. said...

Submit the same poems to a group of magazines that allow simultaneous submissions. (I think I have that list of magazines lying around here somewhere.)

Joannie said...

Now that's something I haven't tried, T. I guess I need to get my organizational act together and give it a go.