The Year of Rejections

Last year I read a tweet about a woman who decided to get rejected 20 times the year she turned 30 and it taught her a lot. After all, you can’t expect to have success if you don’t put yourself out there. Since it was almost my birthday when I read the tweet, I decided to get rejected 12 times the year I turned 24. It hasn’t been quite a year, but I’ve made 13 attempts and have been rejected 12 times. 

My first attempt was an article I wrote and submitted to HelloGiggles. I don’t want to get too in detail about what it was about since it’s now irrelevant, but I spent so much time working on this personal essay and didn’t hear back from HelloGiggles for months. By the time I finally heard back, it was too late and I knew there was no way I would ever let the article see the light of day. REJECTION 1. 

My second, third, and fourth attempts were all screenwriting competitions I submitted a pilot to. I went to school for screenwriting and hadn’t done anything with the tv pilot I wrote while I was in school for ages despite it being my passion project. So after a couple more edits, I put it back out there and didn’t even place in the competition. REJECTION 2, 3 AND 4. 

Last fall I ended up sitting alone at a soccer game. Do I know anything about sports? No. Do I care about sports? Also no. However, I ended up texting a friend all my reactions, which were golden enough that I decided to write them into an article: attempt 5. I put it on Buzzfeed, (which I can’t find now, but you can read it here) but it was rejected as a featured post. REJECTION 5. 

Attempt 6 wasn’t putting myself out there as much as it was me doing a challenge that would either become a personal success or failure. This challenge was NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month. You can read my full blog post about my NaNo experience here. I didn’t think I’d be able to write 50k words in a month, but not only did I accomplish that, but I also did it in 22 days. SUCCESS 1. 

Then this year I wrote a blog post about BPD (which you can read here) and along with posting it on my own blog, I submitted it to The Mighty. However, it was rejected. REJECTION 6. 

Along the same lines, I also recently applied to write for the upcoming mental health publication ”The Breakdown”, and didn’t get it. REJECTION 7. 

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling financially lately, and so attempts 9-13 were part-time job applications. I applied to Spool of Thread (cause you all know how much I love sewing), two front desk reception jobs, and two sales associate jobs. Well, I’m still broke and I didn’t get an interview at any of them. REJECTIONS 8-12. 

You might be wondering what the point of me writing about all this is since out of 13 attempts I only had one success. I’ve previously written about how you can learn more from failure than from success, and I really believe that. I learned so much putting myself out there. If I hadn’t have submitted my abandoned script to screenwriting competitions, I wouldn’t have fallen back in love with it and rewrote it as a novel for NaNo. Every rejected article has made me a better writer. I’ve learned I need to be more aggressive when I apply for jobs. These are all really valuable lessons. I’m no longer as afraid of failure as I used to be, and I can’t wait to have more rejections (and successes, of course) in the future. 

The Struggle of NaNoWriMo

Back in May I attended the Creative Ink Festival for readers and writers, run by a friend of mine (I even wrote a post about it here). After listening to writers all weekend, I felt inspired to actually try doing NaNoWriMo again. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month) is something that happens every November. You sign up on the website and the goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. For those of you who don’t feel like doing the math, that’s 1667 words a day. It’s a slightly insane challenge but I’m stubborn and decided to go for it.

Now fast forward to October when I was supposed to be preparing for NaNo. I knew what story I wanted to write–I was finally going to write the novel I’ve been dreaming about writing since I was eighteen–but I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to do it. The first part of October was spent preparing for FanExpo and the last two weeks was supposed to be full of story planning so I would be ready for November. However, sometimes all the planning in the world can’t prepare you for the shirt life throws at you, and I wasn’t prepared for the challenge even scarier and more daunting than NaNo: depression. Depression is something I’ve struggled with for years, but I wasn’t expecting the depressive episode so bad I didn’t leave my house for three weeks.

To say I was afraid I wouldn’t succeed at NaNo was an understatement. I could barely function, let alone write a novel. However, my friend Andrea, who was also doing NaNo wasn’t going to let me give up without a fight. So instead of spending the end of October planning a novel, I spent it trying to pick myself back up again and mentally prepare myself for a challenge. Thanks to some antidepressants, a good self-care routine, and some great friends I was feeling good enough to start NaNo.

For weeks all I did was write. Luckily I had prepared food ahead of time so I didn’t have to spend any valuable writing time cooking. I tried getting up at 5am in the morning to write but it just wasn’t working for me. I’m way more productive in the evening. However, I continued getting up early so I could go for a run before work. It helped clear my head and gave me a good reason to get out of bed and start my day.

Writing was a challenge some days. You have no clue how many times the words “Writing is hard” was sent between Andrea and I. There were days that my characters would fight me and not do anything I wanted them to. There were also days depression would kick my ash and I wouldn’t want to write anything. However, giving my main character depression and having her struggle to do things as much as I was struggling to write was very cathartic.

I ended up finishing NaNo in 22 days, and I’ve never been more proud of myself for anything. My novel is a mess right now but I got a first draft done and that’s what matters. After all, I can clean it up with more drafts. Andrea and I have said “that’s a problem for future Alicen/Andrea” about things in our stories. The important thing is that i challenged myself and then I shocked myself by succeeding. I would have been happy to have just written 20,000 words in a month, but the fact that I wrote 50k in three weeks, surpassed all my expectations of myself. I often have trouble believing that I’m actually a writer, but maybe this will convince me.