A journalist who recently interviewed me for a writing forum asked me if I had any advice for first-time writers. In response, I drew on a mantra of mine that I believe applies to freelance writers in general. I thought I’d share my reply with you.
One thing I always tell new writers is to remember that they’re about to enter an industry where nine times out of ten, someone tells you no. Doesn’t matter whether we’re writing a book proposal or pitching an article to a magazine. Doesn’t matter whether we’re just starting out in this business or if we’ve been at it for 20 years. More often than not, editors will say no. This, of course, usually has less to do with our abilities as a writer or the merits of our particular idea as it does with time, space (as in “in this issue” or “in this catalog”), needs and other verities that are beyond our control. From a practical standpoint, people have to say no. But at the same time, I encourage writers to remember the flip side. Yes, nine of ten editors will say no to you… but that also means that someone, sometime is going to answer yes. And that’s all that really matters. All we need is for one person to say yes. Now it may not come today. It may not happen until tomorrow, or next month, or next year. But when you think in terms of the one yes, then each “no” we encounter means we’re that much closer to the inevitable positive outcome. So we have to be positive, and we have to be persistent.
Of course, there are times when being positive is much easier said than done. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had stretches when it seems no matter who we pitch, or where we pitch it, nothing seems to stick. For me, those are the times when we have to … yes, be patient, but also remind ourselves that each success we experience paves the way for future success. Those are the times when the idea of the “one yes” becomes that much more important. In my case, I remind myself, “People have said yes before. Someone will say yes again.” Now, this doesn’t mean that every article or book idea I’ve pitched has always led to publication. Far from it. Sometimes, it just takes a lot of submissions before a query is finally accepted. Other times, you have to rework the idea, or put it aside altogether and move on to something else. Those are also realities we have to deal with in our profession. The point is, it’s easy to focus on all the rejections we receive in the course of our writing careers. It’s harder to think in terms of the one yes. But once we train ourselves to do that, two things begin to happen. Not only does that mindset become second nature, but all those nos become secondary in importance. Ed Robertsonwww.edrobertson.com