This is the fifth in a series of articles that strive to answer the question “How can I get myself to work harder toward a goal?” Today’s article tackles the problem of being worried about what will happen to you if you try.
In part III of this series, I talked about emotional conflicts–about both wanting to do something and not wanting to do it. Being worried about trying is a special kind of emotional conflict, and a common one. I realized the other day that I’ve been running into this problem myself. Lately I’ve been sending out magazine article queries (that is, proposing to write articles for various magazines), and in some cases getting assignments (success!). However, I haven’t been sending out nearly as many queries as I’ve been wanting to, and when yesterday I sat down to send out another, I also did some thinking about why my progress has been so slow so far. As silly as it is, it became clear that I’m just worried about rejection.
I say “silly” because for writers, rejection isn’t so much something to worry about as a near-unavoidable fact of life. For any given query, the editor who reads it could just not like the idea, could have bought something just like it, could decide that they don’t want to work with a writer new to them just now, or could reject the story for any number of other rational or irrational reasons. Whatever reaction the editor has, it’s out of my control: all I can do is send out the best queries I can manage.
But I haven’t done as much querying on articles as I have of submitting short stories and even work on book proposals and submissions. It’s more familiar and comfortable for me to pitch a novel, propose a non-fiction book, or send a short story to a good market than it is to query about a magazine article, just because I’ve done those other things more. And without even noticing it, I was letting my fear of not doing well slow me down.
Like most fears, the best way to get past this one is to both acknowledge it and ignore it. Yes, I’m likely to receive some rejections (or non-responses, which is how some magazines do things instead of sending rejection letters). But I’m also likely to continue to sell some articles, and so rejection ultimately doesn’t mean anything: what matters are attempts and successes. Any query I don’t send is one that has failed out of the gate. If I send it and it gets rejected, at least I’ll have some information with the failure–and if it gets accepted, I have both some information and an article sale.
It’s the same for anything. Yes, failure is always possible, and trouble can always arise: finally getting around to sorting out an old pile of mail might reveal an unexpected overdue bill (or unexpected uncashed check! Though I admit those are rarer). Asking someone out may lead to failure or even embarrassment. But since not attempting at all is a guaranteed failure, trying–while sometimes painful or scary–is almost always an improvement.
Photo by CRASH:candy
The previous installments in this series are: