Yesterday morning, I received an email from the editor of a publication about a story I had submitted to them a few months ago, the typical response you get used to, politely declining to use your story because it wasn’t what they were looking for. At least, that’s the response I usually get, and, though I felt disappointed, I was mostly just relieved to finally get some closure. Instead of floating around in the ether of uncertainty, I now knew that the story was not a good fit for that publication, and now I could brush it up a little, make it better, and start the search for the next possible home. I also found that I was charged with an incredible energy to write stories, submit stories, do this and that and the other thing, which I haven’t had the inspiration for in a while. In fact, the last time I had the oomph to submit stories was when my last rejection came in, and I wound up throwing out three more stories as a result. Interesting, isn’t it, how the rejection spurns me to action?
It got me thinking of my recent interest in scratch-off lottery tickets. As someone who obsessively budgets, scratch-offs present an interesting thought: am I wasting this $1 by purchasing one of these tickets? The odds are not in my favor. I may win back the money used to purchase it, maybe a few dollars extra, not enough to make a dent or anything like that, and if I lose, that’s $1 that could have been used to buy a can of beans or a few packs of tortillas that would feed me for a few good meals. I usually come out under budget at the grocery store, and, when I was waiting for a friend to check-out, I thought, why not? Slid that extra buck I had into the machine and got myself a ticket that netted me two extra dollars. I recently had another dollar extra, tried another ticket, got three extra bucks out of it, and used that for a $3 ticket that lost. But that losing ticket just made me want to go back and try again, as if to prove that it wasn’t a fluke and I’m not wasting my money and that there is a point to all this cyclical madness.
That’s when it struck me like a roll of quarters to the jaw: writing is just like these lottery tickets. Writing is nothing more than a big, fat gamble, and, when you get little snippets of winning (publishing a book, for example, or interactions on your blog) mixed in with heavy disappointment in losses (seriously, that wait period was three long months intercepted with one editor being really excited to pass it on and the other editor just not being interested, so there was a little spark of hope there) which make you (well, me, anyway, thought I’m sure I’m not alone) want to keep trying again and again until you can prove that, see, eventually, there is a winning ticket, and, eventually, you can strike it big.
It’s fun, it can be exhilarating, but it can also be disheartening. It can seem like a big fat waste of resources (self-publishing is deceptively expensive if you want to do it well) and time, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. The rewards are far and few between, though, and even the smallest win can seem huge. Writing and gambling share an awful lot in common, which is why I see I’m so enchanted with wiling away my extra under-budget bucks on tickets, and why I continue to keep pushing forward with writing even when there seems to be no pay-off in sight.
What about you? Do you feel a correlation between gambling and writing? What else do you feel is a good metaphor so this crazy thing we’re pursuing so eagerly and happily and somewhat madly?