By Penny A. Zeller
I contemplated quitting early in my career as a writer. My reason? A rejection letter.
I received a request to see a bicycling article I had spent weeks perfecting. Excitedly, I sent the article and numerous photographs to the editor. Not a week later, I received the manuscript back in the mail with a note rejecting it. I was devastated. My heart and soul had been poured into those three pages of text. I am ashamed to say that I cried for days and thought seriously about giving up my newfound career.
I wondered if I really was cut out to be a writer. Sure, I’d had rejections before, but never had I worked so hard on an article as I had on this one. If you get stuck in a rut, as I did, here is some advice that has helped me along the way:
- Seek out family and friends. My husband was ultimately the one who told me not to let this one editor be the one to make me quit the career I had dreamed of since I was seven. I am grateful that he sat me down and gave me the “you listen here”speech, and I am grateful I listened.
- Join a local writing group. Years ago when I walked into my first writing group meeting with my four-month-old daughter on my hip, I never realized just how valuable the Range Writers would be. I have gained insights, confidence, and lasting friendships from this group of people with whom I share the same goal.
- Find an editor. Every writer has inborn antennae to “catch” things others may miss. When I heard that my new neighbor was a retired teacher who had once taught English, my antennae went on full alert. Now was the time to find out if I should be writing as a profession. With several manuscripts in hand, I walked over to her house and asked if she would be willing to edit my work. She was honored. Since that time, I have learned extensively about punctuation and have had many typos caught by this woman who I am proud to call my editor. She gives me honest and constructive criticism—and that’s what a good editor does.
- Discover your niche(s). So maybe writing about bicycling wasn’t my niche. What about other topics? I believe there are as many topics as there are writers to write about them. So, I found my niches. When I look back on the articles sold, I find that most of them fall under one or more of the following categories: they are geared toward teenagers, include some type of spirituality, or deal with health and fitness. Does that mean I can’t write about other topics? No, it just means that for now I am perfecting, focusing, and honing a few niches.
- Develop a “happy file.” I have never kept my rejections (there is a reason why my outdoor garbage can is next to my mailbox!) But I DO keep thank-you notes from people I have interviewed, congratulatory notes, newspaper write-ups about me, and “atta girl” letters from editors. I place all these in a file to resort to whenever I need that extra motivation.
- Examine your motives. There is a reason why a person wants to be a writer. For me, it was my dream before I could use a computer. The idea of dreaming up new things to write about and then proceeding with the written project is exciting and challenging to me. Examine why you wanted to be a writer in the first place. Write down the three main reasons. File it away in your “happy file”and read it whenever you feel like giving up.
- Keep an “idea file.” Ideas always come to me while I am taking a shower or suffering from insomnia. I quickly write these ideas down and file them in my “idea file.” This is a highly motivational tool. If you don’t write those articles and stories, who will?
- Realize that opinions are subjective. I realized that everyone has his own opinion and what may not look good to one editor may look acceptable to another. Keep this in mind when you receive a rejection letter. That was one editor. Big deal! There are a million more and they all have different opinions. The chances are good that one of them could easily like the article you are proposing.
- Look back to the past. Whenever I am feeling discouraged, I look back at old query letters I wrote at the beginning of my career. I am amazed at how far I have come. Keep copies of the queries you send “this is a great way to track your progress in the future.”
- Do not give up. I am a firm believer in perseverance. Stick with your dream, and someday your dream will be realized.
Penny A. Zeller writes for national and regional publications across North America. Some of her recent credits include Women’s Health & Fitness, ePregnancy, Grit, Woman’s Touch, Hopscotch, and WREN Magazine.