I’ve mentioned this before, but it is my belief and experience that writers (and artists as a whole) are a naturally self-depreciating bunch. Oh sure, we all have our moments when we feel on top of the world and are convinced that our writing is the most brilliant thing to come into this world since Shakespear, but the majority of the time we’re meak little creatures, hiding in a corner and insisting that if you just give me more time it’ll be perfect and then you can read it, I swear! Admit it, fellow writers: does this sound like you?
There are two major downsides to this kind of attitude. One, no story ever written was perfect, especially from the writer’s point of view, and trying to make it perfect will only drive you insane. Two, if you never get to the point where you’re ready to show you work to another human being, you’ll never go any further. Sometimes you have to be willing to put yourself out there, if only to know that you were brave enough to do it.
A little while ago, when I wrote my first “Things I Know About Kids” post, I had a thought…the kinds of things I was talking about (and planning to talk about) seemed like the kinds of things that belonged in a parental magazine like Today’s Parent. I considered this concept for a little while, even going so far as to look into how one would submit an idea to a magazine, but in the end I didn’t do it. Why? Because, like many writers before me, I look down on my own writing. I thought to myself, “There’s no point in persuing this idea because it’s never going to happen. Why would any magazine want to publish my awful schlock?” Admit it again, fellow writers: how many times have you thought this exact thing when considering a submission or query?
It wasn’t until three days ago that a little light flicked on in my head. I recalled a ridiculously cheesey quote that my husband once brought up back in high school: “You always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Yeah, it sounds hokey, but it’s true. You can’t succeed if you don’t set yourself up for the possibility of failure. That’s just the way things work. Not many people in this life are lucky enough to be “discovered”. Most of us have to put in the hard work, put ourselves out there, and risk failing. And when we fail, we have to pick ourselves up and go through it all over again. Glamorous? No. Necessary? Yes.
So with that on mind, on Friday I took some time and wrote a query letter that made me cringe, but that I knew to be more-or-less the proper way of doing things, and I shot it off to Today’s Parent. I’m not expecting to have my idea accepted (though it would be nice!) but what I realized was that there was zero chance of it being accepted if I never put it out there.
It’s a scary thing putting yourself at the edge of a cliff with the chance of being pushed off, but if you don’t do so you can never see the view. No, I honestly don’t believe that Today’s Parent is going to write be back and tell me I had a brilliant idea and they want to publish it immediately, but it still feels good to have taken that step, to prove that I’m brave enough to stand on the edge of the cliff. And should I, in the following weeks, recieve a kindly-worded (or even not-so-kindly worded) rejection letter, I shall do as many before me have: I’ll print that sucker out and stick it to my wall, because each rejection is just a step toward acceptance.
If you’re an unpublished writer, have you ever submitted anything for publication, or sent a query to a magazine or other venue? How did it make you feel? If you’re a published writer, how many rejections did you get before getting something published? Do you keep your rejection letters? Please share!