Twelve Angry Rejections

“Just frame it like, ‘Let’s see how much I can fail.’”

I was sitting at a window table in a lower east side dive with a small group of writers I had just met, questioning the ambition of my New Year’s resolution.

The bar was packed with an earnest, ex-party-hardy Saturday night crowd, chatting in large, homogeneous groups or milling around the pool table. Wrapped in an almost defensive southwestern theme—cowboy boots hanging from the ceiling, pop country on the jukebox whenever the internet radio algorithm felt inclined—the place seemed like it was straining to make sure you knew how relaxed it was.

The four of us were chatting about movies and music, I having been inserted into their group by the social machinations of a mutual friend, who wasn’t present. Mercifully, we all hit it off.

As the topics slowly turned more personal, and we started trading life stories, I began to unsubtly probe about writing. I had a creative writing degree, and while I loved my job writing code, I often dreamed about writing prose. Or, more accurately, I dreamed about getting my prose published. And these people, well, they were professional writers.

Yet would pursuing writing more seriously actually be worth while? Would it be the creatively satisfying experience I hoped, or the soul crushing wasteland I feared? Or perhaps somewhere in between? I needed to be convinced.

I asked, “What’s that freelance writing hustle like?”

The reply, “It sucks.”

So does paying rent, I thought, and I still managed to do that every few months. I was convinced: writing sounded fun.

Garth Brook’s bubble-gum twang swayed in the background. I felt inspired, ready to take on this new challenge. In that moment I decided my New Year’s resolution had not been ambitious enough, and I would change it to, “Get Writing Published,” instead of, “Get A Yogurt.”

I told the group as much, that I was going to make 2019 the year I got my writing formally published. I just needed one thing ironed out.

“How do you handle rejection?”

I wasn’t good with rejection, if anyone is. It was one of the top reasons I hadn’t submitted my writing more.

“Make a masochistic game out of it,” a writer said. “Just frame it like, ‘Let’s see how much I can fail.’ Most people set a goal like getting rejected 100 times.”

Re-framing the problem, and collecting something? That appealed to the part of me that loved creative solutions and the part of me that used to collect pistachio shells. It was the perfect solution.

So that is exactly what I’m going to do: get 100 writing submissions rejected in 2019.

Except 100 seems like a lot, so I’m cutting that in half. Come to think of it, 50 also seems like a lot, so I’m cutting that in half. And to be honest, I never liked the number 25, it seems like it would own a diamond-encrusted iPhone. Since we’re close, why not have one rejection per month?

My final statement: This time next year I hope to have 12 articles formally rejected by reputable publications.

I plan to post a round-up with short descriptions of all the ill-fated articles.

Until then, I’m going to grab a yogurt.