In 2017 I aimed for 100 rejections.
I fell pretty far short of the mark (only 41 rejections, I’m afraid), but that isn’t really the point. The point was that, by aiming for such a huge number of rejections, I would take the fear out of submitting applications for things in the first place. After all, it doesn’t matter if you don’t get accepted for something when you’re only counting the rejections.
(This isn’t my idea. I stole it a year ago from Kim Liao’s article.)
Plenty of writers get downhearted when they receive a rejection letter. Plenty of others use reverse psychology on themselves, and keep / frame / paper their downstairs loo with their rejections. Both of these reactions are totally natural. After all, human beings are social animals (even writers), and rejection is a scary thing, especially when millennia of evolution have instilled in you this idea that acceptance is key to survival.
But for writers, I’m afraid rejection is par for the course – no matter how good you are.
Last year, I had a good year. I got accepted on Penguin Random House’s WriteNow mentoring scheme, I had a pamphlet published and a show at Edinburgh Fringe, and I even won a couple of poetry competitions.
But I also received those 41 rejections. The problem is, those rejections are largely silent – probably because I don’t post about them, either on here or on social media. This is my own coping strategy: rather than weeping or celebrating, I note the rejection down, shrug it off, and then move on to the next application. But perhaps it gives a false impression of my success.
I have a number of friends who are writers. Some of them are very positive and upbeat about their careers – and when you look at their success, it’s easy to see why. (Though you can bet that they’ll have their fair share of rejections, too.) Some of my writer friends are less upbeat. I’ve spoken to people who feel that nothing ever goes their way; they hardly ever manage to get their poetry in magazines, or their short stories placed in competitions, etc. It’s understandable that this gets people down – especially when all your friends seem to be doing so well around you. It’s easy to compare the toughest bits of your own life with the best bits of somebody else’s.
So this year, I’m aiming for 100 applications and submissions.
Instead of noting down my rejections, I’m going to make a note of my applications & submissions, and then record the outcome: success / partial success / rejection.
At the end of the year, I want to be able to see not just the number of rejections I’ve received, but the percentage. For me, this is the only way to be completely transparent about how tough it can be to be a writer – so that I can share these figures, and show that it definitely isn’t all acceptance letters and launch parties.
I’ll share my rejection / success ratio (all being well, there will be graphs!) and I’ll also share the number of applications & submissions I manage to make, whether I achieve my aim of 100, or fall slightly short – or even exceed my own expectations.
Think of it as data sharing at the end of a scientific experiment.
But of course, the more data you have, the more accurate the experiment. Anyone else fancy aiming for 100 submissions & applications this year? It’s less than 2 a week.
Who’s with me?
I love the rejections goal, I might set myself one this year! I won’t be as brave as you with the number, but any goal is better than none. Good luck this year, I hope you smash your target!
Thank you! I think setting the target is really half the battle. Also, once you’ve done a few submissions (whether submissions to magazines, or applications for residencies, or funding bids), it definitely gets easier. There’s a lot of overlap.
Good luck with your submissions, too! 🙂