March 19, 2010

Rejection! Rejection! What’s A Writer To Do?

Here’s the problem: Talented poets and writers often have an unrealistic view (okay, a fantasy) about the freelance writing life. They rightly know they express themselves well on paper so are apt to be shocked, angry, or hurt when an editor sends back their poems or manuscript. Some give up. Some self-publish, and some keep on and on until they find a good fit for their work in the traditional publishing markets.

To get a better idea of what it takes to be a freelance writer, focus on someone you know who works on commission sales. For example, my dad was in real estate, but everyone did not buy the houses he showed. Another family member sold life and health insurance, but everyone did not buy.

Sometimes the timing isn’t right. Sometimes buyers have unrealistic views of the value of a product or service. Sometimes nothing seems to fit, which is how freelancing can also be. Maybe the editor has too much on her mind. Maybe the publisher needs to cut back his product line. Maybe they have recently published something much too similar to your topic or idea.

No matter how you look at it though, the word “rejection” carries some heavy-duty connotations of being unaccepted and, therefore, unacceptable. In this respect, the word is a misnomer because your work may be just fine -- even wonderfully well-written. Your work may be very acceptable to your intended readers, too, but just not to the particular publisher you happened to pick. And, therein lies the probability of rejection.

At least in the beginning, poets and writers seem prone to reject editorial suggestions and writers guidelines provided by most publishing houses. Some think that only their work alone is “special,” so the “rules” do not apply to them or their brilliant idea. Other poets or writers seem to reject the genuine needs, interests, or values of their readers.

This type of mistake (okay, self-centeredness) happens to most of us at first because we’re new to freelancing and still trying to hear our own voice. Maybe we don’t have a clear picture of the publishing industry or don’t realize editors are real people with fairly basic editorial needs. We might not get how crucial it is to identify with our readers, especially if we expect them to identify back and connect with our poems or manuscripts.

When we stop rejecting honest input from our readers and/ or our editor/ publishers and attune ourselves to them -- not as we write but as we revise -- we will still get “rejection” letters. That’s a fact for most of us, but the difference now is that we know our work is worthy, and so are we. If we see our potential readers and editors as worthy too, they will be more likely to accept our poems and writings as something also worthy of their time.


(c) 2010, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.

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