January 25, 2019 § 28 Comments
By Suzanne Guess
I am a woman of a certain age. If you’re that age too, you know what age I’m talking about. Let’s just say I have more years behind me than ahead of me. When I reached that age, I took some time to reflect on what I’ve done, haven’t done, and still want to do. As a result, I picked up my flute again after a twenty-year hiatus, dyed my hair purple, and earned an MFA.
I have a corporate job in the financial services industry and have been writing my entire professional career. It’s not the kind of writing that is submitted to literary journals, though—reports, business cases, statements of work, among others. Everyone raves about my writing, and some of my status reports are fabulous works of creative nonfiction (and sometimes fiction). I’ve had some success publishing in a regional antiques journal, my pieces often getting front page above-the-fold status. Surely I would have the same measure of writing success with literary publishing, right?
Rejections. Lots of them. I’ve heard the advice: Don’t take it personally! Keep submitting! It’s a numbers game! Aim for 100, 300, or more rejections in a year! Easy for you, with your seventeen published pieces and a book deal, to say. With each rejection, Over-Think-It-Me whispers to Rational-Me, An editor just face palmed herself and handed your essay to another editor and said, Did you see this crap? or, She doesn’t use quotation marks. Who does she think she is, James Joyce?
When another rejection arrives in my inbox, often at times like my birthday, vacation, Christmas, or a week that’s already had a lousy start, I dig deep into my day job until I feel like I can face the page again—usually a few days. I’m super productive at work during that time and find creative ways to navigate the project roadblocks that land in my path (accelerating the project schedule, changing resource allocations, competing business agendas). It occurred to me one day that maybe I could apply that creative problem solving to rejections that are sometimes the only email I get.
I came up with this: rejection as a writing roadblock. My objective is to publish my work, and a rejection is the roadblock to achieving that objective. The roadblock isn’t impenetrable; it’s something to negotiate around or through. It’s something I can try to solve for by finding a home that’s a better fit for the piece, getting some additional feedback, or shelving it for a while. Thinking of a rejection as a writing roadblock also removes the negative connotation that sends Rational-Me into a conversation with Over-Think-It-Me and usually ends in a downward spiral and a half gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.
I stopped writing New Year’s Resolutions a few years ago because “eat and drink more” and “gain weight” are generally frowned upon and don’t really fit with the “new year, new me” model. I didn’t make any resolutions for 2019, but I did set a goal: get 110 writing roadblocks (two roadblocks per week, arbitrarily rounded up). At work, I don’t allow roadblocks to derail my progress and I certainly don’t skip work for three days to sulk because I got called out for not adequately addressing a project risk. I show up the next day. So when another writing roadblock pops into my inbox, I’ll show up to the page the next day and figure out how to solve the problem because there are at least 110 roadblocks ahead.
I’m testing this hypothesis with this blog post, my first submission of 2019. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Suzanne Guess is a freelance writer and project manager for a large financial institution although she is bad at math. She is a fifth generation Iowan. When she’s not writing, Suzanne plays flute respectably but not expertly in a wind ensemble, and wanders antique shows and auctions searching for a working vintage Easy Bake Oven. She is a big fan of fancy pens, Doritos, and Coke. Read more at www.suzanneguess.com.