Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear,
And I need a job,
So I want to be a paperback writer,
– The Beatles, 1966
Every writer, author or journalist who has submitted work to various places knows all about email and the feelings it provokes. A notification will appear in your inbox from a place you sent your work and your mind takes a wild ride. At first, your spirits go up, way too high up, as your hopes skyrocket. Then you become realistic, remembering just how slim the chance that your writing has actually been selected for publication.
Thoughts of the deck being stacked against you flash through your head. Your hopes plummet, remembering all the times this has happened to you before. Your hands shake as you open the email and you scan it, looking for a few words that might reveal the content of the message. Words like happy, sadly or sorry.
When I first started writing, I got a lot of rejections but as I honed my craft they seem to be fewer and fewer. I have learned that everything I write will not be used and depending on the venue I may only get one out of every twenty pieces published. I have become pretty good at differentiating between someone rejecting my work and rejecting me as a person now. There are millions of reasons why an article doesn’t fit with a magazine, print newspaper or online newspaper and absolutely none of them has to do with me personally.
So, I get another email. Sometimes the message title reveals all I have to know. “We are sorry to inform you ……….” I would like to say I don’t care! There is more than just one outlet for my work, but I do care. This is the part of becoming a writer that sucks. It sucks so much worse than what you see in the movies. I feel my soul sink into a deep hole that feels like there is no escape from. This was something I had spent hours on writing, rewriting and polishing to get it just right until it became like one of my own children and all you can say is “We are sorry to inform you”.
But I’ve learned it’s less about whether people like my work and more about the constant battle to get published, to see my by line. If this particular newspaper had accepted my article, it would have been over. But because they didn’t, it’s time to “shop it around”, to send it to other places, or to possibly find new places to send it to. But I’m once again back at the start again, feeling like I might not be on my way to being a paid, professional journalist.
Rejection is as much a part of being a writer as putting the words onto the page…
Rejection is as much a part of being a writer as putting the words onto the page, a completely unpleasant part though. It’s just as much a part of being a writer as the late night and the early morning edits. It is as much a part of being a writer as every proposal, every inquiry letter, and every abstract.
This is the writer’s lot, their baptism by fire, the broken glass and hot coals we have to cross barefoot in order to make a living at this. If it were easy, then everyone would be a writer. Every single kid from your creative writing classes in high school would be a writer. Every single freshman who worked on their school paper would now write for the New York Times. But it’s not easy. There is no easy way. Truth is rejections suck.
But rejections won’t kill you, they may just slow you down temporarily. You have to learn how to keep plugging along. It’s very easy to be a writer when the words flow and your blog rankings spike. It’s easy to be a writer at a party, when people ask you questions about your cool job, about what you are writing about now. It’s not the easy days that differentiate between the weak and the strong, the successful from the wannabes. It’s the days when you feel like packing it all in and quitting. But then a tiny voice in the back of your head tells you to give it just one more try, just one more try.
So we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. We send out our work into the world once again. We edit, we rewrite, we inquire and we submit again. No one said that the life of an independent writer was easy, but if you stick with it and you make it through the dark times, it could all be worth it.
Lead image: dave