The Art of Persistence By Alyssa Kagel

For most of my adult life, I’ve felt pulled in two career directions: renewable energy and freelance writing. Though my 9-to-5 job took me into the renewable energy world, I never gave up on my other passion. I sent pitches and articles all over town. On the good days, I received personal rejection notes. These, at least, were better than the generic “this isn’t quite right for us” or – even more prevalent – “no response” responses.

One weekend, I wrote a personal essay tailored to an environmental magazine’s monthly column. After two months of no response, I emailed the editor. She wrote back one of those personal rejection notes I’d actually come to celebrate.

I pitched again a few weeks later, suggesting I cover a local green event for their website. This time the editor told me to go for it. I was ecstatic. If I hadn’t sent that first essay – if the editor hadn’t reviewed my green-themed writing – she wouldn’t have given me the – green light. Without any published green articles under my belt, that essay was the only way for me to show my green-writing skills. Though the editor rejected my essay for publication, she didn’t reject my writing.

After the green event article was published, I pitched again – this time on a renewable energy topic. I played up my contacts and expertise in the renewable energy field. Again, the editor gave me the go-ahead.

A few weeks later, I received an unsolicited email from the editor: she asked if I’d be interested in responding to an “ask the experts” question about renewable energy (a regular, paying gig). I said yes, of course. Months later, I’m still writing for the publication.

So now I know: when I want to write for a certain publication, I keep pitching interesting ideasóideas that, ideally, capitalize upon my expertiseóeven if I’ve been rejected in the past. So far, persistence has paid off.

Alyssa Kagel is a writer and environmentalist based in Washington, D.C. Her writing has been showcased in environmental and general interest websites, magazines, and newspapers, including The Electricity Journal, Plenty Online, Renewable Energy Access, and Spirit Magazine (the magazine of Southwest Airlines).