“Be careful what you ask for.”
We’ve all heard that warning and most of us have come to understand the wisdom behind the words. Writing is a profession fraught with doubt and rejection and writers are sensitive souls who seek affirmation from complete strangers.
“Expect be rejected 90% of the time,” I was told when I joined a writer’s group.
I never submit a piece expecting rejection and I hope you don’t either. I happens, I admit it, and it stings when it occurs. But I’m never prepared for it. To expect rejection is to lose the passion that drives my writing. It means I don’t expect my characters to survive the trip. I steadfastly refuse to send them out into the world with anything less than my full support.
A few years ago I had an idea for a feature article for a local paper. It was a small bi-monthly paper published in a rapidly growing area. I saw potential. Gathering my courage, I sat down and wrote a proposal for a new column.
“I’ll go out and talk to people,” I suggested. “I’ll do character studies based on their personal stories. Everybody has one. It will draw readers to the paper; it will create a sense of community.”
The idea captured my imagination and I included a few samples about the interesting people I’ve met since moving here. I addressed my proposal to the editor and I sent it out.
I was very proud of myself for about an hour. Then it started. The doubt, the second guessing. The inner voice of doom.
“How could you have done that?” I panicked. “What if they not only say no, but resent being told how to structure the paper? What have I done?”
The editor’s response came back much faster than I anticipated. I turned the envelope over in my hands knowing I had to read it. I braced myself for the worst, cocked my head to the side and squinted through one eye in order to ease my way into rejection.
“Congratulations,” the message read. “The deadline for the next issue is in two weeks. Can you be ready for that or do you want to wait until next month?”
I got the job! I had a byline. Why? Because I asked for it. And in doing so I learned a valuable lesson. If you submit they might say no but if you don’t submit they never have a chance to say yes.
Be careful what you don’t ask for.