As we approach the end of 2022 there is an opportunity to reflect on the last year in terms of writing progress. I didn’t set out to be the next Stephen King or JK Rowling. My aims have been much more modest than that. But I also did not impose any limitations on how I would approach getting my work out there in gradual steps. For many writers I think the biggest hurdle is themselves. I have found a couple of mantras have really helped me to focus on what I wanted to achieve and maintain resilience in the face of any perceived setbacks or failures. Everyone has them. When you actually think about what you are doing when you send out your work to a press or a magazine it is simply this:
Here is my work, do you like it enough to put it in your magazine?
You are not asking the entire population of the world, some 7.5 billion people currently whether they like your work or not, just one or maybe two people. So what happens if they don’t like it? Well that’s just two people out of the above number who it didn’t appeal to. This is not a reflection on the quality of the writing, more often it is about a good fit. Editors have limited space in the magazines and sometimes have tough choices to make. Perhaps look on it a bit like you are sending your poem or story on a date. When it comes home despondent, you could ask – how did it go? Likely your story would reply, Oh you know, really nice person, but, just not for me. And so you your story moves onto the next date. No loss, and maybe you have found a friend.
There are two key pieces of advice or guidance that I have stuck with and will continue to apply in response to the inevitable rejections I will receive over the next few years. The first is this:
I will not be deterred by rejection. It does not in any way define my writing
This is really about resilience. Many writers will give up at the first hurdle, taking the rejection itself as a personal slight. of course, it hurts when you have put your heart and soul into something and it gets returned with a hard pass. Much the same way you would feel if someone walked up to you in the street and said they didn’t think much of your children. Getting a piece ‘returned’ to you in my view is more about an opportunity for someone else to see it’s value. Of course it is also an opportunity for you to review that piece you wrote 6 months ago and wonder if it really does hit the mark or not. This ties in nicely with the second piece of advice:
I don’t hold anyone else’s opinion higher than my own
You may think there is an air of conceit about this, but nothing could be further from the truth. What I mean by this phrase is that I don’t hold the view of others any higher or lower than my own. Very often we think of an editor as the one holding the power in the relationship. They do over the content of their own magazine, but not over the entire literary world. Many editors will rightly disagree about what they feel constitutes a great piece of work, that is what makes their publications unique from each other. If you want to take this thought a little further, it might actually be a good thing if someone hates what you do. At least you will know that your work is not so middle of the road that whoever it was was indifferent about it. I would rather someone love it or hate it than comment ‘well, yes. that was okay I guess’.
As an example, I have three poems out this week with Roi Faineant press. All of these have been rejected before, and that’s fine, it wasn’t for those guys, it doesn’t meant that someone else won’t put it out there. You can read all of these pieces here and draw your own view
I hope this advice helps anyone considering sending their work out, face it, you literally have nothing to lose.