I figured this sort of thing would be easy by now.
Pitching my skills as a writer, I mean.
I’ve been doing it for years. You do build up a small bit of resistance to the unpleasant possibility that your efforts could get shot down — or completely ignored. It’s a little less scary than it used to be. You learn to expect rejection.
But that definitely doesn’t mean it gets easier. Or that you’re ever completely immune to the anxiety surrounding the uncertainty of the matter.
For the first time in a long time — probably since I sent a thank-you email following the final interview before being offered my current full-time writing job — I put my game face on.
A probable writing opportunity bounced into my Twitter feed and proceeded to stare me down until I could no longer ignore it. I knew I had to at least reach out. Knowing I had nothing to lose, knowing the answer very well could have been “no thanks,” I figured, “How hard can it be?”
I sat on my hands for days. DAYS. Trying to decide the best method of contact. Email? Twitter? That questionable contact form on the website that you never know whether or not to trust? All of the above? None of it?
Then the doubt rolled in, as it always does.
What if they think I’m too forward? Too desperate?
What if they say no, and I get disappointed and sad?
What if they don’t say anything at all, and I’m just left here wondering what I might have done wrong this time around?
See? I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve succeeded and failed as an initiator in these conversations on too many occasions to count. And even I still get nervous. Even I still get scared that, somehow, I’m going to humiliate myself in front of someone I really want to impress.
But here’s the thing. There are two directions this crossroad can take you. You can give in to this fear, never take a chance, and let the “what if” questions cloud your conscience for the rest of your life …
Or you can take a deep breath, say “oh well” to all the possibilities, and hit send.
In this case, I chose to hit send. My hands shook when I did it. I got that feeling you get in your gut that you might have just done something dumb, even if it also sort of felt like the right thing.
The reality is, people on the receiving end of your queries about writing aren’t judging you the way you think. It’s very likely they’ve been in your same position before, and understand that just because they get messages just like yours all the time doesn’t mean you’re silly for trying.
I tell you this as a former magazine editor whose job it was to review article submissions and writing internship sample pieces. Everyone wants the same thing: to get their work published. They’re all trying. Whether your efforts work out in your favor or not … it’s really nothing personal.
So what happened after I submitted my pitch? I’ll let you decide the ending of this story for yourself. Maybe they loved it. Maybe I got rejected. That’s not the point. The point is, yes, this is one of the hardest parts of the writing process. But we all have to do it. And those of us who sidestep our doubts and fears and give it a swing really do fare better in the end, eventually.
Do it. Pitch it. The only way to guarantee failure is to never do anything at all.
Are you trying to pitch to a magazine editor? Here are the steps you should take.
Did your pitch get rejected (again)? Here’s what you should do next.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.