With Writing, You Need to Get Over Yourself
Third in a series: Read the second post
About 30 years ago, I attended a meeting where a man spoke about a very meaningful personal experience. Since I did some ghostwriting for a national magazine, I contacted him later and asked for more details, telling him I would write something and see if they were interested in it.
In fact, I added, I could prepare a shorter version and submit it to the magazine published by his denomination—although warning they wouldn’t necessarily use it.
The first magazine accepted the story. However, a few months later, the denominational publication sent back a “thanks but no thanks” form rejection notice.
Since I knew an editor that worked at that magazine, I called her to see if I could find out a little more about what hadn’t worked.
“Well, sometimes these very personal stories are hard to verify one way or the other,” she said. “So we decided against running it.”
I called the man with the bad news, letting him I had tried but hadn’t succeeded.
I thought I was being helpful. What I didn’t bargain for was his heated reaction.
To say he went ballistic would be an understatement.
He complained bitterly to me. He griped to his pastor. He got so upset he said he didn’t know if he wanted to remain part of that denomination any longer.
One day I called his pastor, apologizing and telling him I hadn’t meant to stir up trouble. The pastor was sympathetic, saying he didn’t comprehend the man’s overreaction, either. All of the pastor’s attempts to smooth the troubled waters had failed.
Finally, I called the man one more time to see if I could mediate and explain that sometimes things just don’t go well with freelance submissions. The odds are always against you, especially when it comes to a national magazine, I said.
“Well,” he said, the ire rising in his voice, “you don’t know what it’s like to be rejected!”
I almost dropped the phone. What? I don’t know what it’s like to be rejected? When my article submissions were rejected every week or two? Give me a break!
I didn’t say anything, though. It was obvious my comments would have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, he did wind up leaving that church because of the denominational publication declining to run his story.
For additional irony, he never once said, “Thanks” when the first magazine did print his story.
Developing Thick Writing Skin
I lost touch with that man when we moved out of the area. I later heard that he had died. Whether he ever got over his “rejection,” I don’t know.
But I do know that if one hopes to be a freelance writer or editor, you had better have a thicker skin than he did.
Several years ago while leading a writers conference near Boston, I told attendees there was something that would help their writing endeavors, first warning that it was going to sound really mean. Ears perked up.
“Get over yourself,” I said. “If an editor rejects your article or asks you to make changes in it, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It doesn’t mean they have trampled on your precious feelings. It just means you need to make some changes. So make them and move on.”
Ditto for any would-be freelancers reading this. Life is tough. But if you know the Creator who made this world, He will help you navigate through it.