I’m sure that every aspiring writer in my audience is well familiar with Duotrope. It’s a great search engine and tracker for short story submissions. You just enter your requirements (mine are usually: accepts science fiction / pays above 5 cents per word) and you get a neat little list of every publication that meets those requirements and is currently open to submissions. It’s invaluable.
But until recently, this invaluable service was intermixed with a truly horrifying one. When it takes you to the market page, Duotrope also lists the average time it takes that market to accept or reject a story (they usually take longer to accept than to reject). And you can click on a little button that will list all the responses that Duotropers have gotten from that market in the last 30 days. Ostensibly, I guess this is to see if a market is still actively responding to submissions (few recent responses = really nonresponsive market). But actually, the purpose of all this data is to propagate horrible euphoria and anxiety amongst aspiring writers. Basically, when you have a submission out, you spend hours just staring at these statistics and trying to scry some meaning from them.
You think, “Oh, look, here are a bunch of responses to stories that were submitted 15ish days ago AND a bunch to stories that were submitted 45ish days ago. The latter must be the stories that got past the slush readers. Thus, since my story was submitted 25 days ago, I must’ve been passed up to the next level of editorial scrutiny, woohooooo!”
And, yeah, sure, that’s fine and it’s exhilarating. But it’s also just a huge waste of time. If a publication wants to buy your story, they’ll definitely let you know. Anything less than that really doesn’t matter very much (I mean, a positive rejection is nice, but rarely has much of a positive effect on my mood nowadays). Furthermore, the constant agonizing over submission status is just exhausting. It’s way more emotional variance than I want or need in my life. I just want to send out my stories and then forget about them.
But my efforts were doomed. It required a constant act of will to avoid the teeming mass of data that lurked on duotrope, just waiting to be picked apart and used to fuel my hope-machine. And I succumbed quite often, too often, to that pointless game.
And then duotrope saved me! Recently, they put all of their response-time data behind a registration wall. You can access all the publication info (i.e. the useful stuff) with no hassles, but you need to log in to see the response-time data! As I was walking around the lake the other day, I realized that my problems were solved! I could just log into duotrope and change my password to random and unmemorized letters. I mean, I’m sure the password is recoverable, but I’ve found that putting even a slight barrier between me and a negative activity is often enough to stop it. And now there is more than a slight barrier between me and this horribly annoying response-time browsing.
Yet another victory for good mental health. I think that someday I will regard today as one of the greatest days of my life.