Look for the Small Successes (Wherever You Can Find Them)
This past week I received two rejection letters for a couple of short stories. You would think I’d feel disappointed, setback, and uninspired, but instead I feel hopeful. The two rejection letters I received had a tone of positivity. One part of me thought, “They probably say this to everyone.” The other part of me thought, “Well, maybe not. This could mean you’re writing is getting better.”
I’m not exactly sure if my rejection letters were personalized or if literary magazines are just getting better at rejecting people, but I find that my reaction is a hopeful sign. Even if these are standard issue rejection letters, I’m not nearly as dejected as I used to be when I receive rejection letters. It didn’t set me back. Of course, I was disappointed, but this time I wasn’t entirely defeated. To me, that felt like a tremendous step forward.
Add on to this, recently I have started pitching article ideas to magazines and websites. Of the ones that I have pitched to, two have been accepted ideas. However, I have certainly received my share of “thanks, but no thanks.” Yet, the sheer effort of putting myself out there has boosted my confidence.
For many writers, myself included, fear of rejection has kept me back from putting myself out there. I’ve even struggled with the fear of acceptance (i.e. “What if they DO want me to write this article idea? What on earth will I do??”). I have found that the more I put myself out there, the easier it is for me to keep going.
One thing I’ve discovered about submitting short stories and pitching magazine ideas is to not hang my hat on one person’s “yes.” This means simultaneous submissions. This means moving on within a week or so if I don’t hear back about a pitch. It becomes far easier for me to accept someone’s “no” when I do that. The troubling thing about continuously putting my work out there, though, is that it means I have to consistently believe in it. If I submit a short story to a wide variety of magazines, I have no choice but to think it’s worthy of being published. If I submit my pitch idea to one editor after the other, I have to believe in the idea and my abilities to write it.
So, maybe that’s the key. I would recommend if you are struggling to put one foot in front of the other, step outside your comfort zone. Maybe pitch ideas to magazines. Maybe write outside your genre. Maybe sign up for a class. Put yourself out there. Don’t give yourself any other option except to believe in yourself. Because one day that “no” will become a “yes” and you would have known it all along. And don’t forget to celebrate even the smallest of successes. If you don’t celebrate the small moments, you may forget to celebrate the big moments.
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