Writing resolution 2017: 100 Rejections

It’s writing resolution time! Last year my resolution was, honestly, a bit vague and I technically met it, but it wasn’t particularly great as far as goals go. Despite that I achieved lots of things I’m happy with writing-wise in 2016. I sent out more short fiction than I ever have – three times as many as in all previous years combined. I got some form letters and some “holds but eventually rejected”s. I got an honourable mention in the Writers of the Future third quarter with one of my stories. I finished my novel.

It’s time for me to look to what I aim to do in 2017. I’ve got a large backlog of half-finished short pieces, a bunch of ideas, and I long to just be writing new things for a while rather than having this big editing and revision monkey on my back. So this year is my year of trying to get 100 rejections.

I saw this article doing the rounds earlier in the year and loved it. It encourages writers to set rejection goals for themselves – 100 rejections in a year.

I really love it as a concept for a number of reasons:

  • It ties in with my ideas and steadily growing practices around rejectionnot self-rejecting and just sending things out again and again.
  • It’s a concrete goal to strive towards that doesn’t involve me beating myself up if I didn’t write every day or if I don’t get anywhere.
  • I know I’m quite motivated by keeping up with number goals from my experiences with the Goodreads Reading Challenge each year, so a number goal for this is a good pick for me.

The thing I like most about it, though, is that it doesn’t rely on other people for me to achieve. If I set a goal to “publish something” no matter how well I write or how often I submit achieving that goal is ultimately not in my control. It’s reliant on someone else to win. A rejection goal, though? All I need to do to win that is produce enough stuff and put it out there often enough and I win. All I have to do is try hard and if I “fail” by not getting a rejection… it’s a pretty great failure. Hopefully it also means I’ll probably try to submit to things and apply for things I would normally self-reject from or think weren’t worth it.

The last few years I’ve been spending a long time on one major piece, the novel, and for now instead of diving into the next one I think I want to see what it feels like to stretch and do a lot of little things. To go wide instead of deep.

There’s an argument that I might produce shit and submit it to places that are inappropriate for the work just so I can get a rejection and keep going, but that’s not my intention. The idea is to try to create good things and send them out a lot to appropriate markets. To try harder on this front than I ever have before and doing things I’m normally intimidated by like throwing in for fellowships and writing courses and magazines and online places I wouldn’t normally, or pitching nonfiction and essays to relevant places if I get the right ideas. Sending crap pieces out to inappropriate markets won’t do anything but waste the editors’ time and mine and that’s not the aim here.

In short, trying to finish pieces and send them out a lot to all sorts of suitable places I might not have submitted to normally, to throw in anyway, even if I don’t think I’ve got a shot but I do suit what they’re looking for? Valid. Half-assing it and deliberating failing? Not valid.

To repurpose a Leonard Cohen quote about poetry[1] for my own purposes: if my writing is going well and I’m sending the things I finish out hard, the rejections will just be the ash proving that’s all burning well.

Earlier this year I started a rejections box. I found the glitteriest, most absurd box I could find and printed out all my rejections to put in it because I wanted to have concrete evidence that I was trying, like Stephen King’s famous railroad spike. This year I want to try and make a solid effort to fill it.

So here’s to 100 rejections and to trying hard and keeping the proof![2]

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[1] Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.

[2] You can follow along with me and others using the #100rejections hashtag on Twitter

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