Thursday, April 19, 2012

Have a Case of Rejection Depression?

After submitting a piece to 31 publications and not hearing back, the last thing I wanted to do was look up more markets and resubmit. So I decided to take a short break. Say, a week. I revisited supercouponing. I discovered Mad Men on Netflix. I discovered three seasons of it. And one week turned into two, then three.

Yep. I’ve had a relapse.

And that is why it’s so important to nurture the good habits that keep our dejected, rejected selveswriting. Here are a few things that have worked for me and other freelancers I know:

Stuff Envelopes:  Ease Your Way Back In

Maybe an editor’s rejection makes resubmitting feel like a monumental task, or the big fat zero under your blog “comments” box discourages you from writing the next post. These things ARE disheartening, and instead of trying to ignore the feelings and “man up” (resulting in three seasons of Mad Men), why not be kind and ease our way back in?

At the insurance agency where I used to work, my boss called this “stuffing envelopes”. He said the pile of work on his desk was so overwhelming that he was always tempted to procrastinate. So he let himself off the hook by starting each morning with simple tasks, like stuffing envelopes and making simple calls. By the time he was done, he was “warmed up” and ready to tackle bigger projects. At the end of each day, he prepared for the next morning by putting the easiest work on the top of his “to do” pile.

We, too, can ease ourselves back into work after rejection. One freelancer I know prepares for rejection depression ahead of time by looking up five markets for each of her pieces – before she sends them anywhere and while she’s still excited about its potential. That way, if it gets rejected by the first market, she’s not faced with doubts AND the task of trying to find somewhere else the piece will fit. She just consults her excel sheet, pulls out the email and sends it off again.

Another great trick is the task manager “reminder,” which I use to keep track of my submissions. As soon as I submit a piece, I put a six month follow-up into the manager. If I haven’t heard back from the first publication by the time it pops up, I can’t “forget” to resubmit it. And the darn thing keeps popping up until I send out the piece and re-pend the follow-up. Kind of like the alarm clock’s snooze button. Annoying  – but it gets the job done.

Ease your way back into the writing process by brainstorming ideas for your next blog post or submission ahead of time.  I often work on several blog posts or articles at once, so that I’m not faced with a blank page when an article or post flops. Sometimes writing something fun that’s not work-related is enough to get back in the groove.

The Rule of 13:  Focus on What You CAN Do

My first writing mentor told me about the Rule of 13:  once you’ve got 13 articles submitted, you’ll get an acceptance. That means that every rejection brings you closer to #13. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories about writers covering desks and bookshelves with rejection letters. In my Netflixless moments, I see my own letters as proof of progress:  each one brings me one step closer to an acceptance.

By looking at publication as a numbers game instead of a measure of your talent or an editor’s taste, you can take back control from the editors. Your fate is in your hands. While you cannot make an editor like your piece, you can send it to enough editors so that ONE is likely to want it. And you can submit enough pieces that some of your work will attract bites. Think:  to be published, you only need to get enough work out there, to enough people.

Date Around

So you submit work to your dream publication/publisher/blog – and then wait. You wait for six weeks, or six months, however long they say it’ll take to get back. And while you’re waiting, you’re dreaming up different scenarios for how the acceptance call or email is going to go. You imagine high school classmates reading your work and being sufficiently impressed. You imagine surprising your family with a glossy new copy of YOUR ARTICLE off the newsstands. What you DON’T do, is write or submit. And that’s the problem with infatuation.

Instead, try dating around. Spread out your work and excitement to many different places, and you may be surprised at how Unimportant a response from any specific one becomes. Also:  try submitting to long shots and good bets simultaneously. Even if you don’t get a “yes” from the long shot, it’ll still feel pretty great to get a “yes” – and may be just enough motivation to keep the rejection depression away for a bit longer.

Playing the Field

Related Posts:
Rejection Shmijection
Publication is Like Dating

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