A New Year’s resolution: Aiming for rejection

Happy New Year! It’s that time again, where we’re all brimming with excitement about the year ahead and setting all kinds of goals. But if you really want to get serious with your writing in 2018, let me share with you a rather inspiring piece of advice I’ve heard:

Aim for rejection.

I am, of course, referring to rejection letters. They could be rejections for short story submissions, magazine publications, writing residencies or agent applications – anything that means you’re putting your writing out into the world. Many people aim for 100 rejections a year, but you could start out with a more achievable goal like 25 or even 10. Yes, it might seem counter-intuitive, but aiming for rejection is really useful for several reasons.

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Don’t worry, Mark. Let me explain.

1. It means you’re finishing things

You can’t get rejected if you don’t submit your work, and you can’t submit unless it’s finished. If you’re the sort of person who has a problem letting go of your work, or you end up stuck in the editing stage forever, having a rejection goal should encourage you to loosen that grip and let it out into the world. Suddenly your writing is no longer a secret between you and your desk drawer; it’s out there, it has an audience (even if it’s just one editor), and knowing that will make it easier to submit again.

2. It means a ‘no’ won’t dishearten you

One of the most difficult parts of writing is letting someone else read your work, and a curt ‘no’ from a magazine editor might be enough to send you scurrying for the nearest rock to hide under, swearing you’ll never write again. But flip a switch in your mind and suddenly that rejection letter becomes one more step towards your goal. It’s a positive thing, and it’s far less likely to cripple your desire to write.

3. It could mean you get accepted

It can be too easy to get bogged down in an idea of perfection that can slow your creativity and, crucially, deprive you of the practice you need to improve. If you aim for rejection letters, you have to finish and move on to the next thing, and as a result you can’t help but get better. It also forces you to hunt around, submit to new and different places, so you’re more likely to find someone who likes what you do. Aim for a good number of rejection letters, and chances are you’ll find an acceptance or two along the way.

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A true cause for celebration!

Hopefully this post will help you think about rejection in a new way and inspire you to finish, submit, and submit again in the new year.

If you have a piece of work you’re ready to send out into the world, contact me for proofreading to give it that final polish.


This post was partly inspired by Kim Lao’s post about collecting rejections on Literary Hub.

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