Knute Rockne, head coach for Notre Dame’s “Fighting Irish” team brought his team to national prominence and wasn’t afraid of his critics. “If I flop, let’em pan me” he once said. It takes confidence to make that statement.
My step-father, Bob, also radiates self-confidence. He’ll take his limited knowledge on any topic and discuss it with the assuredness of someone who has a PhD. in the subject. After he read a couple of my stories, he decided to try his hand at writing.
He began to write with the fervor of bees during the height of summer pollination. Within a week he had documented more events than I had in six months. Every time I called the house, my mother would say “He’s on that computer writing those damn stories again!”
One afternoon I went to visit. I was barely through the door and Bob stood directly in front of me. “Here. Take a look at this.”
I looked down saw that he had handed me a story he had written. It was assembled in a make-shift plastic jacket with cover illustrations by Microsoft clip art. I flipped through it and saw that the story was about 5,000 words.
It was his next statement blew me away.
“I figured I’d send it to Reader’s Digest.”
What? I don’t think an entire issue of Reader’s Digest contains more than 5,000 words! Does he think they’ll devote the entire month to him? I simply replied “good luck”; yet secretly I admired his confidence.
Weeks later he received his rejection letter which left him undaunted
In severe contrast to my step-father’s overly assured demeanor, I live by the motto “discretion is the better part of valor.” My overly cautious attitude carries into my writing; precisely the part where I’d let an editor see my writing.
Although I wanted to be published, I’d never submitted any of my manuscripts. Successful marketing of my essays meant selecting the right publications. Yet, even when I’d locate a good possibility, something would always stop me. I began to wonder what was wrong with me.
Did I have scriptophobia, the fear of writing in public? No – I participated in writing class.
Did I have ergophobia, the fear of work? My mounting stack of completed manuscripts indicated that I knew how to work.
Then it became clear. My self diagnosis was that I had reject-ophobia. Alright, I made that up. But my fear was completely and unmistakably about the “R” word.
Reflection on our different attitudes led me to one conclusion. Neither Bob nor I had taken the correct approach!
Confidence alone will not get you published. But lack of confidence will not get you published either.
I remembered once reading about the “rule of thirteen” which states that in order to receive one acceptance, you should send out thirteen submissions. Thirteen sounded like an unlucky number. But zero submissions hadn’t worked out too well for me either.
Recognition of my fear forced me to finally submit an essay. Once I sent one, it became easier. And eventually the day arrived when I received a response that started with the words “Thanks for submitting this essay. I plan to use it in the August issue…”
Knute would be proud of me!
Sharon Struth is a freelance writer who lives in Connecticut with her two teenage daughters and husband. Her work can also be seen in Sasee Magazine and Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution (in bookstores December 23, 2008).