This year’s NCW conference was, as in years past, very inspirational. But one of the best ideas I borrowed was a backwards competition devised by Meryl DePasquale who presented on getting your poetry published. She and one of her friends once competed to see who could reach a certain number of rejection letters within the year.
Why not just give yourself 50 paper cuts and pour lemon juice on them? Well, besides being perversely cruel, this challenge actually accomplishes something other than whimpering and crying.
First of all, it helps you look at rejections as something less unpleasant to receive. It makes you more grateful to open those emails and know that you are on your way to reaching your goal. Secondly, it gets you to put things out there with less fear than you might have before. Getting a rejection gets you closer to that golden number but if you don’t… well, publishing is a pretty decent alternative.
So, I’ve started this with one of my very good writer friends. I feel like she’ll probably take the lead of the two of us. She’s a far better writer, much more organized when it comes to submitting, has more publishing experience, and is familiar with the outlets most likely to get her work out there. (In short she’s fabulous and I’m striving to emulate her). In the end, the game isn’t really against one another, it’s an exercise in learning to accept those “Oh, sorry, no thanks” letters with a graceful shrug of the shoulders and to support your fellow writer in their endeavors.
I’ve gotten three queries out and two rejections (48 and counting baby). I’m dusting off three short stories that have sat on my computer, ignored, since their last rejections waiting to be put into the game. I have poetry that I’ve always wanted make-over and submit, and a short novel that has been hanging, at near completion, because I didn’t have a reason to finish.
Meryl DePasquale changed my perspective, and made me realize that no matter how many times my work is rejected it doesn’t stop me from creating or believing in what I write. It’s getting easier to sweep up the work they’re casting away and throw it on the next editor/agent/publisher’s desk. And that’s what succeeding in writing is all about. Tenacious optimism in the midst of varying shades of rejection.
What are you submitting lately?