By Rebecca Fletcher
In 2021, I’m aiming for 100 rejections. You read that right. Not submissions, not publications: rejections. Telling people this has earned me some strange looks, so I want to discuss why I’m doing it, and why I think you should as well.
The big question is: why aren’t you going for publication? And basically I am, but I can’t force anyone to publish me, so all I can do is give it a good hockey try by writing, polishing and submitting. If they actually publish the thing, then that’s a ‘failed rejection’ and I’ll have to find somewhere else to be rejected.
So first and foremost, this isn’t my idea. The blog post I read it on was shared with me by a fellow Ballarat Writer who thought I should go for it. And after thinking about it for a few years, I’m going for it, and I want you to join in. Here’s why:
1. It forces you to write
There are lots of ways to go for 100 rejections. You can write one thing and submit it 100 places. You might write 25 things (around one every two weeks over the year) and submit them to four places each. Now you could be lazy and write one thing, send it to 100 places at once and call it done, but ask yourself what that proved?
The only real downside is that if you get a failed rejection and they publish the darn thing, you’ll have to write something else. What a problem to have.
2. It makes rejection into a positive thing
Even if you don’t care that much about something you write, rejection hurts. Because it feels like what you’ve written isn’t good enough, or that they didn’t like it. You know what? That might even be the case. But after being part of the creative editorial team for Antithesis in 2020, it’s not always that simple. Sometimes your piece was good enough but there was another piece on the same thing that they liked more. Sometimes you were the one extra poem they couldn’t fit in. Sometimes your piece just needed a little more work than the others. That’s okay.
The point is, stop thinking about it as a negative thing. Now, instead of stomping around the house ranting about how they wouldn’t know good work if it jumped up and bit them on the turnip, you can say ‘Great. Ninety-nine left to go’.
3. It encourages you to put yourself out there
You might still be at a stage where you’re writing for yourself and don’t want to share your writing with the world. That’s okay as well! But for those who are starting to feel a little braver, it can be a good way to start sharing your ideas and work with the world. It’s easy to get stuck in a bit of a rut with a local writers group (even if they are amazing!) and your critique group/writer friends. Spread your wings a little and see what’s out there.
4. You’ll read different things
Lots of people want to write but they don’t want to read things that other people have written. However, if you want to get a good idea of whether a journal or a publication is a good fit for you, you’re going to need to read the kinds of things that they publish (or don’t, but you’ll probably rack up those rejections a little sooner than you wanted). Maybe Vampire Trains is your favourite magazine, but they’re not going to publish your poem on turnips, no matter how good it is (unless the turnip is on a vampire train, maybe).
And, of course, reading different things fuels your imagination and will make you be a little more adventurous. Not to mention that by seeing the kinds of work that are being published, you’ll get a better feel for what might or might not be working in your writing as well.
5. You have a SMART goal
I’m not going to bore you all with the particulars of SMART goals, but 100 rejections is definitely one of those. It’s a concrete goal where you can measure your progress quantitatively and there’s a deadline to have it done by. Goals like ‘work more on my novel’ or ‘get better at writing’ feel good to say but don’t really give you anywhere to aim. One hundred rejections, on the other hand, is something that you can keep track of in a journal. You’ll be able to update anyone who asks in no time at all.
6. It doesn’t have to be about writing
Maybe writing is a fun thing for you and you don’t want to stress yourself out with rejections. That’s okay! But there are lots of ways you can still put yourself out there. You could write out job applications, you could submit applications for writing residencies, or, as one friend suggested, reject 100 people on the dating app of your choice. The point is to give yourself a reason to try something that you might usually talk yourself out of doing.
So why do you all care about my goal for 2021? You probably don’t, but I care about yours and I want to invite you to join me. I want you to aim for 100 rejections, with whatever focus you’d like. And I think that if there are enough of us (there are few of us at Write Club doing it already), we should find a way to keep in touch, share our progress, share opportunities and keep each other motivated. I’ll be posting updates throughout the year with rejections and failed rejections, if people want to follow along. If you’re keen, drop me a line at chairperson AT ballaratwriters.com and we’ll work it out. And hey, if no one emails me, then I guess that can be rejection one of 100 — just 99 to go!
Ballarat Writers Inc. chairperson Rebecca Fletcher is a Ballarat-based writer who has recently escaped the tertiary education system. Wondering about her odds of getting published? You’re not alone. You can read more of her writing (well, her blogs and her failed rejections, anyway) at saltyturnip.com.