Random Essay Submission Guide

I shared this guide to submitting to NYT’s Modern Love column with my friend the other week. Useful for other stuff too.

Modern Love is a great weekly column in the NYT for anyone who doesn’t know about it. People submit stories about love – not just the sappy, rom-com kind, but also the kind we have with family members, friends, mentors/ mentees, strangers, etc.

The Modern Love Podcast is an audio version of the essays. The experience is different because actors and other artists in show biz read the essays. Readings are often followed by comments from the author, the subject of their essays, and Dan Jones (the column’s editor).

I don’t remember where I found the guide or how it came to be, but it is fairly detailed and has good advice in general for how to approach writing submissions. We don’t have to be career writers to write. No matter who we are or what we do, we have things worth sharing that can inspire, teach, and make others feel a little something.

A couple takeaways from the guide that stuck with me:

  1. The emphasis on discovery in the process of writing and creative output in general (and a ton of other things). It’s often more of a painstaking, iterative process rather than a stroke of brilliance at 3am, though this does happen. When authors of good pieces set out to write or make something, they often struggle to figure out what they’re even trying to say until the very end, and then they go back and try even harder.
  2. Take time to revise. If an editor likes an essay enough to give feedback, he/she may be wary if you send an updated version back right away. It signals that you may not have taken enough time to explore the changes that need to be made. Dan Jones mentions how he’d rather wait 6 months than 6 days before a revision is sent back. As we’re so eager to be better, it can be easy to not take the time to reflect and ensure improvements are real and stick.

I’ve never submitted to Modern Love, but maybe one day. It’s a fun exercise to write and submit to different publications. Doing these kinds of “extra things” like writing essays, reading, or learning a new skill only takes a little more time every day than most people dedicate. 23/24 hours will be almost the same, but the increments + exposure to possible upsides from that 1 different hour add up over time! Or that’s the hope, at least…



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