The other day on Twitter I saw Penny Shutt mention #100rejections. Intrigued, I followed the hashtag and felt I’d stumbled on some sort of masochistic cult…
“Heard the outcome of a GDC scholarship that I applied for…!
Didn’t get it! All good, another ✔️ for #100rejections.”
“Holy EFF I might make #100rejections in the first month at this rate. I’ve got 11 in two days. Go me?”
“This year was the first year I seriously submitted work to literary journals. My goal: #100rejections”
Can this be true? My first thought was along the lines of ‘duh? I’ve easily got a hundred bad poems right now which I could send to a cluster of fine mags and be guaranteed rejections’. But I guess that’s not the point.
I started thinking of the high octane telesales people who talk about how great it is to get knocked back, because every rejection means you’re closer to making a sale. I can’t really see the logic in it – just feels like statistics gone nuts. But then again there’s no logic in my preferring the word ‘declined’ to ‘rejected’ when poems don’t make the cut with an editor. As someone pointed out to me recently d’you mean as in ‘your credit card has been declined’? All-righty.
My ego resists mustering up the courage to submit writing to literary magazines, pitch articles, and apply for grants, residencies, and fellowships. Yet these painful processes are necessary evils if we are ever to climb out of our safe but hermetic cocoons of isolation and share our writing with the world.
Perhaps aiming for rejection, a far more attainable goal, would take some of the sting out of this ego-bruising exercise—which so often feels like an exercise in futility.
I can see how we all have to play whatever mind games it takes in order to submit our work for outside scrutiny and still retain the confidence and/or determination to keep going. But aiming for rejections feels to me like an ‘exercise in futility’ in itself. I wonder if by trying to ‘protect’ the fragile ego in this way you’re just feeding the problem by elevating the status of a rejection – increasing its significance, rather than allowing yourself to move away and on from it.
There was a good recent discussion of #100rejections on Twitter, starting with this comment by Natalie Ann Holborow (@missholborow) which struck a chord with me:
“Not sure about this #100rejections thing. Surely it’s knocking yourself back before you’ve started? For me, it means more to aim high, work hard & use rejection as a valuable way to improve so that I can be my very best next time. Rejection happens, but I don’t need to seek it.”
Perhaps aiming for 100 submissions a year (on the basis that you may get some acceptances in among the rejections) is one thing, although personally I know my creative brain goes to sleep if I turn the business of writing poetry into a numbers game. I do berate myself for not sending work out, it’s true, but I’d rather not send at all than send for the sake of achieving some numerical goal.
It’s obvious I’ve come late to the #100rejections party – Kim has written about again here, three years later, on ‘What collecting 100 rejections taught me about creative failure‘, during which time various writers and artists have run with it.
I can see how the #100rejections meme works for some people – movements create camaraderie if not community, and Kim Liao’s assertion that ‘since I’ve started aiming for rejections, not acceptances, I no longer dread submitting’ clearly holds good for many. But it’s not really my bag.
In other news, as a couple of magazine subscriptions come to an end I’ve just subscribed to The Moth and Stand to take their places. Neither are journals I’m familiar with, but I know them by reputation and am looking forward to seeing what they hold.