If I got paid for every rejection I’ve received from past queries I’ve sent to magazines, newspapers, journals and book publishers, I’d be as rich as J. K. Rowling.
When I started taking writing seriously (again) about twenty-five years ago, I sent out a column to the local weekly magazine and had a nice reply saying they would like to print it. I was ecstatic and literally jumped up and hit my head on the door frame. Luckily, for my head, I was able to eventually contain myself and start on the next project. “Hell,” I thought, “If getting published is this easy I’ll be a successful writer in a few months.”
Reality soon set in and I received at least fifty rejection slips in a row. Most were quasi-sincere apologies. “Please excuse this form letter, but we get so many submissions it is not possible to personally reply to them all. Your submission has been carefully reviewed. Our decision to not use it at this time is based on numerous factors and is no reflection on your writing.” Some were more personal, yet just as maddening.
“Thank you for thinking of us. We liked your story, but it wasn’t quite right for our focus.”
“The focus of your idea was well done, but the writing lacked clarity.”
“Your presentation of the material is very good, but we recently did a similar piece.”
“You are a gifted writer. Good luck.”
“You write well, but your book doesn’t fit our plans. You may want to try a smaller publisher who specializes in your genre.”
“We appreciate your finely written story, but we are a small publisher and have to be very selective. You may want to consider a larger, more diverse publishing company.”
Within months I had gone from the ecstasy of my first published piece to a continuous stream of rejections. I became a manic-depressive insomniac who was willing to walk on hot burning coals to have my writing accepted, let alone occasionally paid for.
Slowly, year after year, as my writing improved and my ability to ascertain which markets were more appropriate for my nonfiction and fiction, I began to make the great leap forward having only ninety-eight out of a hundred queries rejected instead of the previous hundred and ninety-nine out of two-hundred! My odds were increasing by one to two-percent annually. At that rate I would soon have a hundred percent success by the time I was one thousand years old!
A transforming and sanity-saving moment occurred while writing late one night, when I realized that I had to write because I LOVE writing MORE than getting what I write published. This attitudinal shift turned me away from the self-defeating behavior of a masochist scribe, into a peaceful warrior who writes for the joy of the creative process.
Yes, it is always a thrill when someone accepts something I have written, but luckily I was graced with the insight that I AM a writer, whether others acknowledge that fact or not and the more I practice, the better it gets. Rejection letters come and go, but I no longer take them to heart. I wouldn’t shy away from a six-figure advance for my next best seller, but I don’t live my life waiting for it to happen.
If you can’t live without writing, then write. Write every day, as if your life depended on it. Write, write and rewrite. Be open to constructive editing and commentary from others, but never disregard what you want to say and how you want to say it.
Writing for publication is like preparing a good meal. Even if what you cook is meticulously prepared it may not suit someone else’s tastes. Keep trying new recipes and spices. Sooner or later someone will savor the dish you’ve concocted and you’ll get to enjoy the main course of a writing life and the delicious dessert of publication and pay.