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Take The Pressure Off
by Cynthia Arnold

With writing, you want to succeed. That is good and natural. But what about those times when you send dozens of queries and are rejected time and time again. And the magazine article you wrote on assignment is thrown back at you, because the magazine had a change of editorial staff and the new features editor doesn't agree with your take on the story. You read article after article in writing magazines that says if you don't send x number of queries per month or you aren't published in magazines/e-zines paying y number of dollars, you are not a real writer. Will I ever be a freelance writer, you ask yourself? You want to throw in the towel and take up a less demanding job--like licking stamps onto envelopes.

Wait--there is hope.

I too read those articles. And I'm here to tell you how not to give up on yourself, that you are indeed a REAL WRITER. Read it again. YOUR ARE A REAL WRITER.

You can put too much pressure on yourself to succeed in this business, at the expense of the joy of writing. Who really cares if you're published in the lower-paying markets for a while? You know can be as much of a writer if you don't make thousands of dollars or even hundreds of dollars, for that matter. The important thing is TO WRITE, that's what's important. The writing can't become such a drudgery and a chore that you stop doing it. That's the way it was for me, when it came to the point that I didn't write AT ALL. Perhaps I was burned out, with all the pressure I was putting on myself to succeed. That's no way to live. If I'm not enjoying myself writing, what's the point? Yeah, it's fine to want to succeed, but I felt there were so many experts telling me I wouldn't succeed if I didn't do thus and so, that I needed to write x number of queries per month, get y number of acceptances. Who says so? And what makes them the font of all knowledge of freelancing? Maybe some of their ideas and advice are right--maybe not.

In despair, I finally put all those books on craft away and thought about what I wanted to get out of freelancing. I brainstormed and put together some ideas, adapted from self-help books that deal with success in life generally.


This is where the freelancer can feel most vulnerable. There's a lot of rejection in this business. You have so many editors rejecting your ideas, that you start to doubt your ability as a writer. Maybe I'm just no good, you may start thinking to yourself. Can all these editors be wrong? YES. They certainly can be. Just because your ideas have been rejected time and again doesn't mean you're no good as a writer. Perhaps you just don't have the techniques of writing query letters mastered yet and need to fine-tune your skills. On the other hand, perhaps your fabulous idea arrived at the wrong time--after the editor had a fight with her secretary, for instance. Your idea may be rejected for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you. That's another good reason not to take rejection personally, as a sign that you don't have what it takes to succeed as a writer.


Do you know your strengths and weaknesses as a writer--and as a person? It may be easy to wallow in self-pity or despair over some character trait that makes you less than effective, but that way of thinking is never productive. You need to honestly assess where you have gone wrong and attempt to address the situation. For instance, do you find you are constantly missing deadlines? Perhaps the answer lies with your common habit of procrastinating--maybe failing to get to grips with the assignment quickly enough. Instead of fretting over this common character trait, take steps to address the problem. Read books on time management. Read articles on how professionals in the writing business and other areas have tackled the same problem.


Be sure to keep a handle on the role writing plays in your life. Yes, you want to succeed, but it's important to give yourself positive reinforcement, regardless of the number of queries you've sent out this month or the number of acceptances you have received. Remember that the PROCESS in within your control. Don't worry about what you cannot control. Don't be afraid to re-adjust your goals to bring them into line with reality. Far better to scale back your goals for a while than to be constantly frustrated at having failed to achieve them. That may backfire on you and cause you to get down on yourself, which undermines your self-confidence. Perhaps you'll even think of giving up writing entirely. Always be re-appraising your goals. Remember: Goals exist to serve you, to give you a sense of direction. You don't exist to serve your goals. So you didn't make your monthly goal of writing 25 queries? Instead of beating yourself up and pushing yourself to try even harder, just assess what went wrong. Did you aim too high for the skill level you currently possess? Keep that old goal in the back of your mind and make a new goal, one that you can achieve. With the skills you acquire in making that new goal a reality, you can go ahead and allow yourself to gain the self-knowledge and skills that will help you attain what you desire.

© Copyright 2000, Cynthia Arnold

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