Actor Jim Carrey says desperation drove him into show business. Years ago he needed money and he knew how to make people laugh so he forced himself onto the stage at the comedy club, despite the inevitable rejection that would initially accompany his amateur attempts. Sometimes he admittedly stunk up the place but he kept going until he became one of the most successful comedians in Hollywood history.
No one likes rejection. As writers we’re told not to take rejection personally. There are so many factors involved in getting published that usually a “no thanks” from an editor can mean many things other than “you stink.”
Sometimes it’s timing. The editor may have just accepted a piece similar to yours. Sometimes it’s the wrong angle. Sometimes it’s too long, too short, too dated, and the editor is too busy to tell you how to make it right.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and each editor has a different pair of eyes. In response to one piece I sent out, I received the following response from some hole-in-the-wall publication:
“We don’t need this. I can’t begin to tell you all the things that are wrong with your writing.”
Undeterred, I sent the exact same piece out to a larger publication which promptly replied:
“Having to pass up a nice article like this makes me wish that we had more room! I hope that you will market it to other magazines, as it definitely deserves to be published. And I hope that you’ll keep us in mind for other article ideas in the future.”
And sometimes, let’s face it, your article which you so proudly offered to a faceless editor does, sadly, stink.
That’s what we all fear. Just as someone thinks she has the most beautiful baby in the world but everyone else fears it looks Martian-like, what we think is a beautiful article is just plain ugly.
One of my articles’ ratio of “no’s” to “yes’s” was 100 to 0. Okay, I’m not so sure about the 100 but I’m sure about the 0. I felt like a poor, helpless child on the playground being beaten to a pulp by a gang of bullies. I feared my stuff stank. Despite many “yes’s” to other articles in the previous weeks, I threw my hands up in defeat and decided my writing work wasn’t working. I looked in the Classifieds for a “real” job.
I called on a job at the local fitness center. As I talked to the manager about which evenings I was available to work and which mornings I could show up by 7:00 am, I began to feel desperate about being locked into a schedule. I loved working my own hours. I loved being able to drive my kids to school in the mornings and tuck them into bed at night. On top of my family, where would I find time for my other love – writing?
The manager sensed my hesitation and ended our call saying, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” I was relieved.
Returning to my computer with a vengeance, I retooled some of my old articles and found new markets to attack. I dug out my contact list and wrote new pieces for previous editors. I had a renewed enthusiasm that would not be deterred. I turned the “No’s” I received to “Next try is