One Hundred “No”s

One of the most important things I’ve already learned from my studies in English/Creative Writing comes down to one piece of advice I found more helpful than I initially expected it to be.

My professor during the last quarter was a published author, and knows first hand how difficult it is to “make it” in the writing world. So many places will tell you “we decided to go a different direction” or just “no” or sometimes not even respond to your submission.

But here’s what she told us: “Send your writing everywhere. And don’t expect to get any “yes”s right away, or even soon. Don’t give up after rejection. You shouldn’t aim for one hundred “yes”s, but one hundred “no”s.”

At first I was confused. Why would I strive to be rejected one hundred times? I obviously wasn’t alone in that confusion; the whole room had scrunched up faces, looking back and forth at one another. Was she serious? But then she elaborated.

She said that yes, you do want to get one hundred “no”s, because that means that you sent your writing to one hundred places. And maybe they don’t all want to publish it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad piece. Maybe it needs more work, or maybe it’s not the right time, or not the right place. But you went out and found all one hundred and tried. And when you finally do get that one “yes”, it will be even more worth it.

Then I understood.

As I deal with rejection – from journals, websites, and even jobs or internships – I try to keep in mind that each one is just going towards my own one hundred. It’s hard, and it sucks to hear “no”, but isn’t the “no” better than the fear of it? If you hadn’t gone out and tried for it, you never would have gotten to find out if it was a “yes”. The one shot you don’t take could be the one you’re supposed to make.

I got a pretty tough “no” this week that actually came in two separate waves, and despite the double ache of it, I know that I put my heart into the work I submitted. One place rejecting it doesn’t decrease it’s value or it’s meaning to me.

And now I guess I  have to find those ninety-nine other places I’m going to send it to!


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