This Writing Life--Aiming for Rejections

I began 2017 aiming for rejections. Negative? At first glance, it's easy to assume that's the mindset. But now, in the final light of 2017, this intention spurred writing, encouraged finishing, and helped me put more work out into the world than prior years. An original idea? Nope. In late 2016, I read a piece on LitHub called "Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections A Year." I was sold. It made sense.

Years ago, such a risk would have stopped my writing. I'd spent dollars on therapy trying to figure out why I didn't write (even though I never actually stopped writing). 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 practice, writing for writing, sending out random bits 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 ready for revision, listing pieces I wanted to create, placing deadlines for submissions of particular pieces complete with lists for potential homes. Each month, I would cross through what was done, and when things weren't touched, I re-evaluated, deciding whether to move them to another month or simply remove as an intention.

And I began submitting. Aiming for rejections. And I received them. 82 times. In the past, I would receive a rejection without much grace. Often, I'd hold a fuck you finger to the computer screen and utter nastiness at the publication (usually in my head). Other times, I'd run to my faithful partner and ask her if I was wasting my time (and I still occasionally do this after too many rejections in a row). But this time, I handled it like a business. I'd simply note the rejection in a list, add the number to a tally for that month, and evaluate whether the piece should be resent other places or whether it needed a bit more work. When the number passed 50, I got a bit excited, realizing that I hadn't crumbled, I hadn't stopped writing, I hadn't submitted to fear. Instead, I persevered and kept crafting, kept finding words, refused to let the external determine my writing life.

I finished 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. This gave me accountability.

It worked. At year end, I had four pieces published and one forthcoming next year. In the piles of rejections, I had some near misses, nice notes from editors, sometimes just as satisfying as an acceptance. At year end, I feel grateful for all the writing I started, finished, and sent forth, looking for a home.

Will I do this again in 2018? Youbetya!


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