Recently I found out that one of my short stories was going to appear in the newest edition of the Underground Literary Magazine. As someone who has never been published before, this was shocking to me. I submitted the piece back in February, and didn’t think much else of it until receiving an email from the Underground that they wanted to publish my story. Frankly, I was hesitant to even publish it. I almost said no…almost. The reason I agreed was because I knew that it was what I needed to feel more confident in my writing.
But why did I hesitate? It bothered me a little because when I got the email, I was so excited, but it was quickly dismissed by this impending doom feeling. I re-read what I submitted and I realized that it wasn’t something that was representative of what I wanted to be writing a year later. The story that I submitted is quite dark. It’s gloomy and tackles the ideas of depression, abuse, and feeling helpless. While the piece is fiction, it is written in first person, which I chose to do in order to stimulate a reaction in my reader. Though it is fiction, there are and always will be true elements about the piece, and I wanted to be able to shed light on the feelings that we create through our actions. Especially in the wake of sexual assault allegations and news coverage of cases of domestic violence, I felt like I needed to use my work to channel what I was feeling about the seriousness of those topics. I still feel as though I need to use my writing to talk about this, however, the way I chose to do it in the past isn’t the way I would choose to write about this now.
Enter my character, helpless, sad, looking for anything that makes days brighter. As someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety, I tried to do as much justice to showing you, the reader, the inner workings of the character’s mind. I don’t want to generalize, because depression and anxiety can present themselves in different ways for different individuals, however, self-deprecation is typically first and foremost a sign of depression and anxiety. Many people who suffer from these diseases, or find themselves in abusive situations as my character does, struggle to find a way out because they are led to believe that they are the problem. Many of them feel as though they can’t leave those situations because those situations are the ones they deserve based on whatever they as individuals fixate on.
In my story, though there is this hopeful element, it’s clear that there is a reason why my character is stuck, and I wanted that to be clear to my reader. My character is stuck because she doesn’t see a way out. There is hope, but she is afraid to take advantage of it because of the repercussions she is accustomed to receiving. That is the killer in many abusive relationships, and a factor that many people don’t realize exists. It becomes impossible to “just leave.” This same feeling of helplessness also relates to after one has left a relationship like this as well, which is why I decided to end the story the way I did. You don’t know much about the main character, and yet you are immersed in their thoughts and the workings of their mind revolving around a traumatic event that they experienced.
While I’ve obviously published many articles here, this was the first time someone offered to publish one of my fiction stories. I was scared, however, because I didn’t feel like it was a good representation of me and who I am as a writer. I didn’t know if the first view the public would get of my fiction writing should be such a dark piece, however, I realized that despite the depressive nature of the piece, it is what I want to be saying. This piece is showing the versatility of my writing, and in that, showing what I care about. I am very clearly a social justice warrior, especially for causes that I personally connect with. I love being able to tackle social issues in my pieces, and while I prefer to write from an outside perspective, this tackles some of the same ideas from an internal perspective. The story hardly leaves the character’s mind, and I hope that it is able to shed light on the issues surrounding domestic abuse and mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. I thought that this piece was a poor representation of how much I care about these causes, however, I think that it is the embodiment of the reason why it is important for me to get other people to care as deeply as I do. I think it is important to remember that you will likely never know the impact that you are going to have on someone’s life, so when given the opportunity, give that person a reason to smile. You may just be the ray of sunshine they need to make it through another day, or you might be the driving force in helping them see that they don’t deserve to be treated as anything less than someone else. Either way, you are saving a little bit of them that might be lost otherwise.
If you are thinking that you don’t have what it takes to get published, don’t. Everyone does. You just have to keep trying and don’t take rejection personally! Happy writing!