Sunday, March 12, 2017

What About That Whole "Rejection" Thing, Anyway?

I've seen talented writers give up after a couple rejections. Rejection is a part of professional freelance writing, no matter how good you are.
In many cases, rejection means you tried too soon. It's tempting after typing "the end" to immediately start querying, but you have to revise. Not only that, but it takes time to learn the craft. You're not likely to be a virtuoso the first time you sit down to a piano or pick up a guitar. It takes practice. Writing is the same way. You have to practice and pay your dues.
Even after you've worked a long time at getting good, you're probably still going to be rejected. There are so many reasons that have little to do with the quality of your writing:
  • The publication (or agent) recently published something similar.
  • Something about the query didn't grab the editor.
  • The piece isn't quite what the publication is looking for.
  • It doesn't fit upcoming themes.
  • The editor didn't feel a personal connection to the story.
  • The editor was in a bad mood that day.
  • Other writers sent in stories that are more timely or interest the editor more.
There are many more.
One way my career has helped my personal writing is that I can look at my writing like a project and create a little distance between me and the writing. I can accept editorial feedback without taking it personally. And I can understand that not every piece is right for every publication, even if the publication seems like a good fit.
I've received a lot of rejections, including two in the past week. My policy is to react to each rejection by sending two more queries. I still have to send one today to meet the two-per-rejection goal. 
Some rejections sting more than others, like when you get a positive response, such as a request for the full manuscript, and then get rejected. But a professional realizes it's part of the game.
It's like baseball. (Life's little secret: everything is like baseball.) A successful batter gets out a little less than three times for every hit. Great hitters still get out more than twice as often as they hit successfully. Over the course of a season, even the best hitters have many games where they fail to get on base.
As Ted Williams, maybe the best hitter in history, said, "Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer."
But Williams was wrong. Most writers, especially when they are starting out, face even bigger odds.
The thing about writing is, there's more competition than ever. It's always been a competitive field, but now, thanks largely to computers, everybody thinks they can be a writer. A lot of people think it's easy money.
It's not. It's hard.
No matter how good you are, your piece is likely one of hundreds competing for a few spots in a publication. It can be an incredible article or story, and still not quite be what a publication or publisher wants.
Like the great hitter who strikes out with the go-ahead runs on base, you've got to take the disappointment and turn it into resolve to make up for it next time, knowing full well that the odds are you won't succeed next time either.
Or you can take your ball and go home. There's no career after that decision. 
To paraphrase a baseball quote from Tommy Lasorda: There are three types of writers: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.