Aiming For Rejection(s)
February 27, 2018 § 16 Comments
A guest post from Amy Braziller:
Who aims for rejections? It’s a crazy notion. Not for the fainthearted. And definitely not for those prone to negativity. But since the beginning of 2017, I’ve been aiming for rejections. This intention spurred writing, encouraged finishing, and helped me put more pieces out into the world than previous years. An original idea? Nope. In late 2016, I read a piece on LitHub, Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections A Year. Sold.
Years ago, such a risk would have stopped my writing. I’d spent dollars on therapy to deal with my writing demons. I wrote pieces about quitting writing. I swore that I didn’t stand a chance in the world wide of publication. Fear. Yes.
But after years of writing workshops, sending out random pieces here and there, and on rare occasions getting an acceptance, I felt ready to commit. Ready to say I have work worthy of reading. Ready to risk rejection.
I created a writing intentions calendar, noting pieces that needed revision, listing pieces I wanted to create, placing deadlines for submissions of particular pieces complete with lists of potential homes. Each month, I crossed through what was done, and when things weren’t touched, I re-evaluated, deciding whether to move them to another month or simply remove that intention.
I began submitting. Aiming for rejections. And I received them.
Eighty-two times in one year.
In the past, I’d received rejections without much grace. Often, I’d utter nastiness at the publication, holding a fuck-you finger to the computer screen. Other times, I’d run to my faithful partner and ask her if I was wasting my time (I still occasionally do this after too many rejections in a row). But starting last year, I handled it like a business. I persevered, refusing to let external readers determine my writing life. I’d note the rejection in a list, add the number to a tally for that month, and evaluate whether the piece should be sent to other journals or put back into the revision pile.
When my rejections passed 50, I got a bit excited.
I hadn’t crumbled.
I hadn’t stopped writing.
I hadn’t submitted to fear.
There were moments I wondered if I could truly withstand 100 rejections. For years, I had worked and reworked an essay about the onset of my father’s Parkinson’s disease. Writing pals declared it ready—it would find a home. I sent it off to my dream publication, checking the box that said I wasn’t simultaneously submitting. I waited. It took only six weeks to receive a friendly, impersonal rejection wishing me “the best in placing [my] writing elsewhere.”
I submitted the essay to what I thought would be a sure shot. I’d read their issues. Read their mission. This fit. Again, it took only six weeks for the rejecter to wish me “the best finding a home for it.”
Fortunately, encouragement occasionally showed up in my rejection pile. Several pieces garnered “…we hope you will consider sending us more in the future.” Then there was the rejection that I celebrated as much as an acceptance. A hybrid piece of polyvocality, part Twitter/part narrative, had made it up to the editor’s table at another dream publication. The rejection came directly from the editor. She told me how interested they were, that it was a close call, even though my essay didn’t make the final cut. She gave me hope for a piece that was having difficulty finding a home.
My new mission of aiming for 100 rejections helped me finish pieces. After years of generating lots of starts and little finishes, I knew that in order to have enough material to aim for 100 rejections, I had to actually produce and finish work. A specific number gave me accountability.
At the end of last year’s experiment, I had four pieces published and one forthcoming. I had enough polished work that when someone solicited me for a potential submission, I actually had several pieces I cared about to send in (and one was selected for publication). It’s too early to predict this year’s outcome, but I’m into 2018’s writing intentions with a busy calendar filled with promise—and rejection.
Amy Braziller is a former punk rocker, sometimes banjo twanging foodie, and current Professor of English at Red Rocks Community College. Publications include Front Porch, Entropy, Split Rock Review, and Hippocampus. Amy is working on a hybrid memoir related to her punk rock days in NYC. She writes about food, film, music, GLBT issues, and social media distractions at amybraziller.com.
Well done not crumbling! I’ve been pretty lucky so far in that I’ve essentially only submitted where I know I’ll get in…as arrogant as that sounds. But you know, start-up digi magazine looking for content generally aren’t that picky. I did get one rejection from a competition which got me to create my webpage, so it was constructive. Keep writing, keep aiming high, and keep being awesome!
Amy! Good for you. This is so inspiring. Thanks for sharing about your experience.
Last year I had 74 rejections. I am aiming for 100 this year, but have gotten off to a slow start. However, this not only got me finishing new work, it sent me back through my files where I have found old stories that deserved a dust-off and polish. Good luck to you on your pursuit of the 100!
Thanks for such needed encouragement! This very week I am pushing myself to complete a piece for a submission deadline coming up soon, even though I don’t feel like it, as a sign to myself that I’m serious about writing.
Thank you for this! One of my writing teachers mentioned this as a goal, and I decided to try for 50 this year. Already, I’m racking up the form dismissals, but I did get one “almost, please send again” from an admired source that buoyed my spirits. Then I got two form rejections last week and they hardly registered. I think it’s like getting out of bed and doing life: sometimes it’ll go well, sometimes it won’t, but keep getting up and going.
That is a great way to think about rejections – thank you so much for sharing the idea!
I love this! Thank you for sharing your perspective. I’m going to try this. The way you described your pre-aim self is similar to my patterns: write stuff, submit occasionally, get upset when I’m rejected. Appreciated this post!
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Thanks, Amy! You have inspired me to aim for those rejections. Thanks so much for this insight and (much-needed) humor.
I am grateful that you wrote and shared! I needed this today. Just curious, how do you (or writers in general)budget for submission fees. 100 rejections represents around $2000, no? I suppose that for what you get for the cost it is worthwhile (AKA YOU are worthwhile). I find concern that my writing may not be worth money or time to be the big hindrance for me. Not too mention my own time! I give myself time to write, but squeezing in research to find right-match publications feels nearly impossible. I have 4 kids.
Many lit mags don’t charge submission fees. I don’t tend to submit to contests that charge $20. I haven’t calculated how much I spend on submission fees in a year, but I would guess it’s closer to $100.
Exactly. I almost never submit to contests. Journals I submit to are either free or $2-3 through Submittable. (And in the latter case, I am saved paper, postage, and a trip to the Post Office.)
Always a topic worth revisiting. I remember an essay a few years ago that was published in a national magazine after I’d had at least 30 rejections, including the very first one, which was from them! They had originally been my first choice, and when I noticed they had changed editors I sent it there again. Bingo…
35 years ago I entered the Stock Photography market and experienced the same rejection/dejection syndrome that you have described. I can still remember my excitement when I received a personal rejection letter from an editor instead of the standard returned form. I have turned my attention to writing and look forward to the rejection cycle once I have some stories worth submitting to the marketplace.
Thank you for sharing this! I’ve thought of myself as collecting rejections before, but putting a number on it changes everything. I have have got to get much busier!
Another encouraging content. Thank you for sharing!