Guest Blog Posts

Missing the Mark – guest blog post by Mike Griffith, The Blue Nib poetry editor

Guilty pleasure confession: I love classic KISS.  Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, and Paul Stanley. Yeah, the whole make-up, pyrotechnics, costumes, stunts, and usually loud songs KISS. They were my first rock band and they will always have a special place in my overly-nostalgic heart.

This week I've been listening to and watching live clips of them on Youtube.  Takes me back!  These clips reveal that these rock 'n' roll legends miss the mark on a good number of their live performances.

Oh, they thrill the crowds. How could a band with a blood-spitting, fire-breathing demon playing bass NOT thrill? They put on great live shows. But the various members sometimes muff a line or miss a note they tried to hit as they sang or played guitar.

Hey, it happens to the best of performers and artists. It happened to me more times than I'd like to remember while on stage in my own high school-era rock band. You have to keep the song going, keep the show running.

I bring up KISS mainly because I've been listening to them this week. But it occurs to me that they persevered, they kept going on and on, muffed line and missed notes be damned.

And that level of perseverance is the mark of true performers. Keep going, keep trying to entertain, to reach your audience.

As writers we sometimes miss the mark. Stories, poems, scripts and so on are rejected time and again. You're probably very familiar with Stephen King's first novel Carrie being rejected 30 times. Talk about missing the mark! But his (and his wife's) vision, drive, and persistence paid off, as we all well know.  (For an engaging account of how Stephen King's wife Tabitha saved Carrie, and perhaps her husband's success as a writer, read this article from Mental Floss. Those wishing to get right to the nitty gritty, scroll down to the heading "Published at Last.")

We've all faced rejection of works we are enamored with. It stings. Resentment at our work, our skills, the publishing business, at editors or all these elements can settle in. It will pass once you hit your target and get an acceptance. But to get the acceptance you must do two things:

1.)    Don't give up on your work. Send it out to other markets after trying to revise it, especially if an editor was kind enough to offer suggestions/critiques.

I revised a short poem based on an editor's comments and it landed immediate acceptance on my next send-out. Likewise with a longer poem that was rejected with no critique beyond the "it's not right for our publication at this time" line. Fine. I brushed it off, made slight revisions, and it was accepted by a different publisher the very next week.

I have several more poems which have been rejected and are ready to find new homes in my next round of submissions. If I gave up on them, who knows what success I may be passing up in the future? Who knows how many people I would deny enjoyment if I trashed them just as Stephen King was ready to trash Carrie?

I'm sure I miss the mark with some of these poems. Not all poems can be equal to each other, but who am I to determine what works and does not work? If I expect to publish the poem, I must trust the intended audience to let me know if it works or does not work. Editors are the first intended audience. And if the poems don't even have a chance to reach an audience, well' they'll be wasted.

2.) Don't stop creating. Even if you're disappointed, gloomy, and feeling a bit low on talent and enthusiasm, don't pack it in. Move on in your writing by doing writerly things such as revising older works, arranging your books and files, read over your notes, write letters or journal entries, follow Twitter conversations, work on your website, read, watch a movie, take a walk, or visit family and friends.

Do things that will eventually spark your creative fire again, for what is an artist if she is not creating art?

KISS is ending their almost 50-year career with their current world tour. In a recent video shot during a show, Paul Stanley (the one with the black star on his eye) misses a lot of high notes during the performance. Yeesh!  But he and his fellow band members kept on rocking and had the audience on its feet and cheering.

Belief + Effort + Persistence = SUCCESS!

Do you have something say about poetry? An essay on being a poet, tips for poets, or poetry you love? is now accepting pitches for guest blog posts. 

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Michael A. Griffith's chapbooks Bloodline (The Blue Nib) and Exposed (Soma Publishing and Hidden Constellation Press) were released in fall 2018. He was nominated for the Pushcart Prize for poetry in October 2018. He lives near Princeton, NJ and teaches at Raritan Valley Community College. He is Poetry Editor (US/Canada) for The Blue Nib.

2 replies »

  1. When I’m reading a book of good poetry, some poems stand out and make me sit up straight, like, “Wow.” I think this is how poetry editors work. The editor or editress may like the poems enough for a “send again,” but some stand out enough to include. Also, poems rejected by one magazine may publish in another, and here is the persistence part–find another compatible ‘Zine and send off again.

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