Writing Means Dealing with Rejection
Second in a series: read the First Post.
Rejection is a fact of life in any creative pursuit, be that writing, speaking, music, teaching, preaching or other endeavor where you have to put yourself in front of the public.
I would tell any aspiring freelance writer or editor (to paraphrase Harry Truman’s old saying) that if you can’t handle rejection, stay out of the kitchen.
When I started writing in pre-internet days, one approached magazines or other publications the old-fashioned way: an envelope containing a query letter and some sample clippings to show the editor you knew your way around a keyboard. Plus, an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) so the publication could respond.
Early in my career, I tried like the dickens to get published in Guideposts, the inspirational magazine founded by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.
Not only did they pay reasonably well, their circulation far outdistanced other Christian market publications. Every freelancer I knew wanted to get published there for prestige as well as pay.
Breaking through the Veil
Following advice from various writing publications and editors, I started reading Guideposts regularly and obtained a copy of their writers guidelines.
However, trying to follow the guidelines to a T never got me in the door. I tried again and again and again, always first sending a query letter outlining the story I proposed to send.
After a couple of years of vain efforts, one day I received a letter from the editor agreeing to look at a story I had written (today, I can’t remember what it was about). In fact, he said it had enough promise that if they didn’t use it, he would send me a kill fee.
Hot dog! It looked like I was going to break through the veil. Since those were the days when we were never sure if we could pay our rent on time or if a check would arrive so we could go to the grocery store, a sale would be most welcome.
A couple of months later, a letter from Guideposts appeared in the mail. My hands shook as I opened the envelope, expecting a check as part of the package.
Then my expectation turned to dismay as I read the editor’s letter saying they wouldn’t be able to use my story. It felt like getting drop-kicked in the gut. Not just because I had hoped to get published in Guideposts, either.
“We really needed the money,” I thought, gloom descending over me like a blanket. “And what about the kill fee?”
A month later, the editor called out of the blue one day, apologizing for forgetting his promise to send that kill fee. It wasn’t much, but then again, it was something.
End of the Line
That modest check also marked the end of my attempts to get published in this magazine. After about a dozen unsuccessful tries, I decided if they didn’t want my writing, then I would work for places that did.
I realize this likely sounds like a case of sour grapes, but that’s not my intention. A freelancer’s time is valuable, so one can’t afford to waste it in fruitless endeavors.
This doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel after one or two failures. Sometimes you have to keep going even when it looks like there are no answers or connections ahead.
Yet, at times you also have to recognize the obvious and change directions. Striking out in one place doesn’t mean you’re doomed everywhere.