broadsideblog

Rejection hurts? Pshaw! Man up, ladies!

In behavior, blogging, books, film, journalism, Media, Money, movies, photography, women, work on June 5, 2012 at 3:36 am
Aggie pitcher Megan Gibson pitches A&M to a Bi...

Aggie pitcher Megan Gibson pitches A&M to a Big 12 sofball victory over Iowa State, March 25th, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week in Brooklyn, home to the hipster/indie/creative class, an event was held to help adult women better understand the most crucial element of their business.

Not their fancy MFA or Ivy degree(s). Not their raw talent or burning desire to Change The World.

How to pitch their ideas to those with the authority and budgets to hire them.

This is from the Poynter Institute website (which is a terrific resource for all journalists, if you don’t know of it):

Hundreds of women (and a few men) crammed into a standing-room only bar in Brooklyn to discuss ways to close the byline gap.

At “Throw Like A Girl: Pitching the Hell Out of Your Stories,” which was organized by women’s nonfiction storytelling organization Her Girl Friday, a panel of experienced journalists and editors rejected suggestions that sexism or gender bias is exclusively responsible for the gap. Instead, they emphasized the need for young female journalists to develop the confidence to let rejection roll off their backs.

“You can’t see rejection as a real reflection of your value,” said New York Times metro editor Carolyn Ryan. “Every day, seasoned reporters pitch and get told no. Practicing pitching makes you a better pitcher. Rejection is part of the process.”

New York Times reporter Amy O’Leary, who hosted the discussion, said that as a young reporter she was so afraid of rejection that she would often agonize over her pitches for weeks or even months at a time. Meanwhile, she said, her male counterparts would happily send off pitches they had written in a day.

I’m going to piss a few of you off here and I’m fine with that.

Grow a pair!

I grew up in a family of full-time freelancers. My father directed film and television documentaries and series. My step-mother wrote television drama. My mother wrote journalism. No one had a paycheck, pension, paid sick or vacation days or any form of back-up beyond our own gumption and savings.

We ate well, drank good wine, traveled widely and wore cashmere. We drove new-ish good cars.

And rejection — of our ideas and pitches and plans and goals, no matter how hard we’d worked on them — was as normal to all of us as breathing. Nor was it anything more noteworthy.

So I really don’t buy this notion of women being too afraid to pitch, pitch, pitch again.

I wrote an essay about how well and carefully my husband cared for me after my hip replacement this year. So far, it’s been rejected by The New York Times, More and O magazine. I’ll sell it, or some version of it, to someone. Just not yet.

What makes me so sure?

Well, the essay I wrote about my divorce and pitched to Woman’s Day, which soundly rejected it, was bought by another women’s magazine — and won me a Canadian National Magazine Award for humor. Sweet!

But what if I’d curled up in a little sad ball, held a pity party — and never pitched it again? Rejection to a writer (any artist likely) is like blood to a surgeon — a messy and inevitable part of every workday.

If you can’t handle rejection, you’re not ready to make a living as a creative/independent person. Even people with cube jobs — especially people with cube jobs — have to pich their ideas, (if not for their day-to-day living) for buy-in to get their projects approved, funded or green-lighted, to their colleagues and bosses.

Do you find it difficult or terrifying to sell your ideas?

What are you doing to get over it?

  1. Get over it? Not sure I do. I just allow my delusions to grow. :D

  2. Excellent thoughts for writers…. Reminds of the advice writer and celebrity chef Gabrielle Hamilton told my daughter and I about wanting something badly enough: “You put your head down and you do the work.”

    • And she’s right! I once interviewed writer Margaret Atwood about writing and her reply was deeply esoteric — put your bum in the chair and write. People LOVE to over-think this stuff and it’s all a way to procrastinate.

      One reason I’m taking a month off of regular work is to FORCE myself (ugh) to work on my book proposal. It’s not the work I resent, it’s the fact it may well be rejected and I’ve wasted a lot of time, if so. Sigh.

      • Great honesty in this comment and that’s a great place to land. It does take a certain ueber-determined personality to be a writer. I like to ponder the word “dogged” every morning and waking moment I sit at the computer, it allows me the grace moment of wondering if my ten years at it all will be worth it. Will be teaching college level writing in the fall. That’s a start… now for bigger publications…

      • Great honesty in this comment and that’s a great place to land. It does take a certain ueber-determined personality to be a writer. I like to ponder the word “dogged” every morning and waking moment I sit at the computer, it allows me the grace moment of wondering if my ten years at it all will be worth it. Will be teaching college level writing in the fall. That’s a start… now for bigger publications… Thank you, by the way! Great, great story! – Renee

      • Teaching college is tough now if/when students are not reading deeply. i.e. distracted by tech.

        I wish writers were more honest about how tough it gets, and how we get through it.

  3. Love your attitude – no excuses, just get on with it.

    • Thanks…Having done this for decades, and having been rejected so many times (but accepted many others), I don’t have a lot of patience for those scared of being rejected. It’s part of the job!

  4. This is a great pep talk (for me!). I have a regular non-writing job, but pitching freelance writing is something I have to get over myself and do.

    • There’s a great jobhunting book “What Color is my Parachute?” and the job search looks like this nonononononononononononoonoyes. No wonder we dread it.

      Once you get a few sales, your confidence will soar.

  5. I love this post because I have been guilty of letting rejection overwhelm me in the past, but I am becoming stronger with each rejection now. I know that not trying is worse than any rejection out there.

    • I think the question to ask is….what am I gaining by NOT being rejected? If you can detach the result (no!) from the effort from your ego…who cares if we’re rejected? Does it mean we (as people) are worthless? No. Does it mean we lack talent? No. It means that one person said no. Someone (likely) will say yes. You just have to find them.
      :-)

      • I am definitely recognizing that getting where I want to be is a magic combination of hard work, persistence, talent, a thick skin, the right connections, a little luck, and perhaps some fairy dust mixed in. ;)

  6. This is great pep talk for everyone. Not just writers. We all encounter it from time to time and the key is to not view it as a failure. If you can find a lesson from the rejection, even better for next time. Sometimes the lesson is perseverance. If you never get a rejection, you’ll fully appreciate when you get a yes.

    I work within the Sales department at a software company and I observe rejection among my team daily. It’s all in how you handle it that makes the difference. The most successful in my group don’t even pause after a rejection. They just apply their energy to the next thing.

    • “The most successful in my group don’t even pause after a rejection. They just apply their energy to the next thing.”

      Thanks for sharing this. So true. It’s an easy way to keep bouncing along, spurred by the momentum of “no” to the next try. You have to see it as a process, nothing personal!

  7. Ha, as usual great stuff.. :)

  8. [...] seen a lot of blog post lately about how authors need to be more aggressive about their work, how they need to hone their platform, and how to leverage the free internet tools at our disposal. [...]

  9. Excellent piece! And rejection’s absolutely part of the territory – the more so these days as budgets tighten and editors can’t afford to buy. One editor’s reject is definitely another’s must-buy.

    Reminds me of the best piece of advice I ever saw – in a military survival manual, of all things. I paraphrase: “Remember, no matter how difficult the situation becomes, no matter how many setbacks you meet, do not ever give up.” Advice for life, really.

  10. I disagree only insofar as some things are worth dropping. In a general sense, giving up is unwise, but there are projects and clients that are so stressful relative to the financial or reputational gain that you have to walk away or say no.

  11. Terrifying, yes. I SO need to grow a pair. What am i doing about it? Taking the bull by the horns – ok, it’s a calf at this point, but it’s definitely a start :D

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