Don’t think you’re worthy of publication? Pretend you’re Pam!
Did you know that Stephen King was reportedly rejected forty-one times before his first manuscript was accepted? Every writer who submits work for publication gets rejected. The majority of us get rejected many, many, many times. In fact, the more published work a writer has, the fatter his rejection file is likely to be. It’s just the way this writing business works. You could let fear stop you from submitting. Or you could do whatever you need to do to prepare yourself for the inevitabilities of rejection, and count every rejection letter as a badge of honor for having the courage to try and for moving toward what you want.
One way to create some emotional distance is to pretend you’re sending out the work of someone you admire, instead of your own. Early in my career, I would pretend I was submitting my dear friend and colleague’s writing. Her name is Pam, and she is fabulous and talented. This made it easier for me to detach from the fear of what might happen next. When the rejections came, I would hold them with compassion as I would for Pam, which was far simpler for me to manage than taking it all personally. This may sound silly, but it has quite possibly been the most useful fear management strategy I have ever used. And after a decade or so of Pam impersonation, I moved on to being me.
Another useful practice I’ve adopted per Natalie Goldberg’s recommendation is to always have the next envelope stuffed, addressed, and ready to go so the machinery of my submissions system is not interrupted by whatever emotions come up along the way. You may also be served well by looking to rejection letters as free editorial feedback that could help you make your work more polished and publication ready. And one last invitation: As that rejections file expands over the years, congratulate yourself for sending out so much work and for the faith in your own capacity that you have sustained along the way.
The most important thing to remember is that failure is frequently a stop along the way to the destination of success. Don’t let fear derail you.
Missed the first few tips? You’ll find them here.
Transforming fear to courage: Tip #1
Transforming fear to courage: Tip #2
I’m grateful for this gracious (and well timed) post, Sage. I’m including your Pam example and your stuffed letter example in my coverage of the Writer’s Digest Conference to help remind writers how to navigate the potentially challenging waters between the victories of a pitch slam and the victories of a career as a published author. Thank you, thank you!
My pleasure; I’m so glad you found it useful. It’s always good to keep experimenting until we find the attitudes and the systems that will really help us move forward. The most important thing to remember is: if you try something and it doesn’t work, try another way!
What?!?! Are you playing with my head? In the blog post you said, “The most important thing to remember is that failure is frequently a stop along the way to the destination of success. Don’t let fear derail you.” Sure. We’re riding the same pony. But then you said, “The most important thing to remember is: if you try something and it doesn’t work, try another way!” Sure. Agree there too, except… How many “most important things” do you still have up your sleeve, Sage? 😉 The most important thing to remember is: superlatives aplenty supercharge tips! Keep ’em coming!
Oh, gosh. The most important thing to remember is that Sage Cohen gets about two hours of sleep per night and can only hold one “most important thing to remember” in her head from moment to moment! : )
Two hours? That’s not enough time to dream! I hope you know I was just kidding! 😉
Yes, I know you were kidding! And, I hate being sloppy and redundant — and tired! : )