I Submitted My Poems and Prose To 100 Different Places… Now What?
For the past two years, I’ve taken part in a challenge I’ve named the 100 Rejections Challenge. I’ve explained a bit more about it and my reasons for undertaking such a challenge in another blog post, but for the purposes of this one, it means that I have to submit my work to at least 100 different places. My ratio has been pretty decent for the most part, and I had hoped that rejections would sting a lot less if I incentivised getting them. I’ve included other rejections outside of my prose and poetry in separate categories to make rejections in other places a bit easier to deal with. So, that includes job applications, review enquiries for Keep On Spinning and other opportunities.
Over half of everything I have submitted has been rejected. Considering what the challenge is, I should feel pretty good. And yet… I don’t. At least not today.
For the past month or more, I’ve received an uninterrupted streak of rejections. It’s normal. It’s expected. There’s no shame in that. So, I kept going.
Last week, I finally hit the 100 submissions mark. Here are my current stats:
Submissions: 100 (+ 4 job application, 11 review queries for my chapbook, 2 application for workshops)
Rejections: 52 (+ 4 job application, 2 review rejections and 1 application for workshop)
Total publications: 9 (includes things to be published) (+2 reviews for my chapbook)
All things considered; these are still pretty good numbers. Bear in mind that these are just my numbers. 9 publishers have liked my work and decided to publish it. 50 or so publishers decided against publishing my work for whatever reason. The only number you’re in control of is your submissions, and when you’re going through this challenge you need to keep reminding yourself that. I say this because this is what I do as well.
Yet, I find myself feeling ashamed for it. There’s an innate demon we writers have that if you’re rejected multiple times, it means we’re bad writers. I am a perfectionist, so I am incredibly hard on myself. Part of the challenge is finding strategies to deal with these thoughts and feelings, and being compassionate to ourselves when we have these moments.
I am, however, realising the hard way is that the poems I’m sending actually need more editing than I thought. My stories are already getting a lot of editing, but that’s because I only started submitting these recently, it’s hard for me to gauge how much more I need to do. Most magazines, especially ones with high rejection rates, often don’t have time to give you personalised feedback. Those that do tend to make you pay money for it, but they’re not prices I can afford.
Finding out that some of my work isn’t up to scratch for paying markets yet is really disheartening. I don’t know about you, but a lot of my worth as a writer ends up coming from my published work. Part of this challenge is trying to break that “rejection=bad writer” mentality that a lot of us have, but it’s really not easy.
Maybe in my last post I made it seem that way because I was being published more during that time. Rejection was more palatable when I felt successful. I could take the rejection email well not only because I was focusing on the challenge number going up, but also because there was always a chance that my stuff would be published by someone. When I started aiming for paying markets, I hit a brick wall and nobody accepted anything I was sending. It made me feel that I, as a writer, didn’t deserve to be paid for my work and would never make it. This is a really unhelpful way to think and is more reflective on how I feel about myself during my down days.
I say all of this because saying that this magically solves your ability to handle rejection forever would be dishonest. Anyone that says their methods ‘instantly solve’ any problem is either lying to you or lying to themselves or both. In my post about toxic positivity, I vowed to you that I would be honest in describing my experiences and giving you advice. I was going to avoid feeding into our society’s attitudes to productivity and need to look good or happy all the time. I intend to keep my promise as best I can. This year I’ve been avoiding masking my autism and letting myself fidget when I need to, because it’s exhausting.
Because of everything I’ve said above, I will be taking a break from the challenge for a few months. I’ll let the rejections roll in and I’ll try take them as gracefully as I can. It’s been a long journey, but if I want to reach 100 Rejections, I’ll need to submit to another 50-60 submission calls. Maybe more. Maybe less. It’ll depend on the ratio. In any case, I’ve got a good idea of what I want to do when I come back to it. I’ll probably do more simultaneous submissions when it comes to my short stories.
On a brighter note, almost 1/5 of the work submitted has been published or will be published soon. I’ve started using spreadsheets more to keep track of everything writing related, and it’s very satisfying. It’s the closest I get to a ‘life hack’, it’s made my life so much easier. I have a better grasp on covering letters. I have a better grasp on how to pace myself when it comes to covering letters too! I have a master document of the mini-pitches for poems and prose pieces for them that I’ve had proofread to make sure they sound professional and pithy enough.
Although I’m having a tough time at the moment with it, the challenge has been good for me. It’s taught me some valuable lessons and helped me grow as a writer. If I hadn’t been determined to submit my work to more places, I wouldn’t have had my chapbook published. I stand by what I said in my previous blog post. This has changed my life, and it has changed it for the better.
Despite how ‘challenging’ it is, I’m glad I’ve started it and I’m looking forward to finishing it.