Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

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I’ve never dealt well with rejection. But really, who does? Whether it was rejection from a school (which, actually come to think of it, hasn’t happened – yet), rejection from a boy in a bar (pre-SVV, of course), rejection from a job – I’d rather just forego it altogether. Regardless, it still happens to me. Every. Single. Day.

As a freelancer, 50 percent of my job is pitching, which if you’re in the biz, you know is the hardest part of it all. The research, the scouring back issues for similar topics, the coming up with a fresh new angle – it’s a pain in my bedonka-donk (due to my mom reading this, I refrain from using unnecessary profanities; you’re welcome, Jeanie!). So the worse form of rejection comes when day in, day out, I get returned with a big, fat “NO.” Today was such a morning (just the way you want to wake up). After pitching three summer stories to a travel magazine I’ve been targeting since September (that has yet to greenlight anything), I got this in return: “None of these are lighting my fire. Sorry.” Tack that on to other reputable travel magazine that has pissed me off and which I would never write for even if well-known EIC came banging down my door and wooed me with trips to Vietnam and Nepal and gifts of Leonida’s chocolate (well, OK, maybe then, but only then!). Moral of this paragraph: It doesn’t matter how many assignments you land or how many times your byline appears in top publications; you still get your share of dismissal.

My initial foray into magazines after years of working at newspapers in Tennessee came from rejection, come to think of it. I had applied for 55 top-tier newspaper internships for the summer, only to receive 55 letters of rejection instead (at least they all had the tact to send me a stock letter “regretting to inform” me that I had not been hired). My mom said a similar thing happened to her when she was job-hunting in Atlanta right out of college and that she wallpapered her kitchen with the negative mail – an ingenious idea, one that would have saved me costs on furnishings had I known this before I discarded the unwanted letters.

But it all worked out in the end. One trip to New York put me face-to-face with several top magazine editors; one return trip over Spring Break resulted in seven interviews in a day and a half; seven interviews produced four job offers. And such is how I ended up at Newsweek. One editor of the Knoxville News-Sentinel (my back-up, back-up, back-up internship who also rejected me, after calling me up on my cell and begging me to come interview there, despite the fact that there are 173 other places I would rather spend a summer in than Knoxville, maybe more) even had the temerity to tell me: “Oh well, I guess things worked out OK for you in the end.” As if working for Newsweek was a close second to the News-Sentinel. AS IF.

Yet, for every stormy cloud, there is a silver lining, as I found out three years ago with Newsweek, then again today after my morning initially got off to a rather rocky start. Enter D.C., founder and owner of a certain water company named for a certain nation in the South Pacific (yes, that water, and did you know it actually hails from and is produced in the country for which it is named after all? And, hey, guess what we drank for lunch?) who took me to the exclusive members-only Court Club between Madison and Park, dazzled me with his success and his business ventures, and would I like to sometime come and check out his amazing, five-star, celebrity-loved, private Fijian island that only accommodates 20 people in the middle of the stunning South Pacific? Hmm, let me sit on that one for awhile. Where do I sign up?

So, you know, the rejection may never end, but I think I’ll be OK anyway.

  • January 16, 2008

    I hate you just a little bit right now lol. If they are low on visitors while your there I know 4 people who could fill a couple beds and give the “family travel” perspective. I am totally sure said exclusive island targets the preschool toting crowd right? haha maybe I should pitch that to someone!

  • January 16, 2008

    Yeah rejection really sux, but it seems like you are doing incredibly well anyway – go you! I, on the other hand, have recently just moved to London and am finding it virtually impossible to get an editorial job – even a really lowly one. What is worse than rejection (and believe me, I have gotten a lot of that) is nothing at all – no response from dozens of applications. I am seriously nearing the end of my tether, but your blog is a good inspiration.

  • January 16, 2008

    Holy bejeez. Few perks to the job maybe?

  • January 16, 2008
  • January 17, 2008

    I, too, hate rejection (but you’re right, who doesn’t?), which sometimes makes me wonder why I freelance.

    But then I come to my “real” job and deal with the fragile egos and the politics games of writers who think that my job as an editor is to tear their precious work to shreds rather than try to make it better, and I decide that there are worse things than rejection.

    As for the 55 rejection letters…I’m impressed. Way better than no response at all!

  • January 17, 2008
    Chelsea Talks Smack

    I completely understand this.

    I’ve been trying ot break into entertainment since I was about 8. HA, I was a sprite little thing, well ahead of her years. And my entire life has been about rejection…
    I even made a “rejection scrapbook” letters, auditions, etc. etc. then I started adding boyfriends in there as well….and I’m proud of it, as you should be.

    You have and will continue to have an awesome career because of it.

  • January 17, 2008

    Did you see Frank Bures’s World Hum post yesterday about his early-career diss from Granta? Must. Push. On.

    I’m impressed by your 55 rejection letters. I don’t have 55 rejection letters, which means only one thing: not enough pitching.

  • January 26, 2008

    Wow. I’m a little bit jealous of your life! I would second Aprille’s comment, but te idea of a long plane trip with 2 small children does not sounds like fun to me!

    I shall now live vicariously through you!

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