By Lori Hatcher @LoriHatcher2
You attended a writers conference recently and met with industry professionals. You pitched a book, an article, or a blog post, and someone said the words you hoped to hear, “Yes! Send it to me.”
Yet 70 percent of you won’t submit it.
This surprising statistic is why most wanna-be writers won’t make it. Not because they’re not good enough, but because they won’t try. And try. And try again.
One of the first mantras I learned as a child was, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I had no idea my parents were preparing me for a writer’s life, but this adage has proven to be one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever applied to my writing career.
As the editor of a regional magazine, I often meet with writers, either formally at writers’ conferences, or informally through mutual friends. When they share their writing with me, I respond in a variety of ways. I may offer a critique, including ideas for how they can improve. I may suggest a suitable publication to pitch to. Or I may invite them to formally submit their piece to me.
Some do, and some don’t.
As unfortunate as this is, I understand why, because I didn’t submit my work the first time a professional asked me to, either.
I believe there are at least three reasons why writers don’t submit their work when an editor, agent, or publisher invites them to:
1. We think they’re just being nice. I had the opportunity to propose a book idea to a publisher at my very first writers’ conference.
“Do you think this might be a book possibility?” I asked, after I described my project.
“Maybe,” he said. “Send me some samples.”
I went home from the conference and did absolutely nothing. I dismissed his request as a kind attempt to encourage a fledgling writer, not a serious offer. Now that I’m a magazine editor, I know the truth—editors and publishers are far too busy to request material they don’t think has potential. There are many ways to encourage writers whose work isn’t quite ready for publication, but asking for submissions isn’t one of them.
|We don't truly believe in our work.|
2. We don’t truly believe in our work. When I thought about sending the samples the publisher had invited me to submit, naysaying voices started whispering in my ears. Why would anyone want to read what you’ve written? You’re not a professional writer. What if he reads it and thinks it’s a piece of junk? What if you get your hopes up and he rejects it? What if you waste all that time and have nothing to show for it?
I let my insecurities and fears keep me from seizing an opportunity to share my writing with others. Instead of giving my writing a chance to succeed, I doomed my writing to fail.
3. I didn’t believe God had a plan for my writing. Before I left for the conference, I had prayed, “Lord, I have no abilities apart from the ones you’ve given me. Open the doors you want me to walk through and close the doors you want shut. Connect me with those who can help me grow as a writer. Fulfill your good plan for me, and use my writing to encourage others.”
When I dismissed the publisher’s offer to submit, however, what I said in essence was, “Lord, the abilities you’ve given me aren’t enough. I don’t believe you really answered my prayer for open doors, and I don’t believe this opportunity came from you—even though I asked you for it. I don’t believe you can use this experience to help me grow as a writer, nor can you use my writing to help others.”
We’d never dream of saying something like this to God, but this is exactly what our actions communicate when we fail to walk through open doors of opportunity.
Thankfully, months later, when I mentioned the invitation I’d ignored, seasoned writer friends grabbed me by the collar and shook me. Their collective horror that I’d rejected such an offer, paired with their assurances that professionals don’t ask for submissions unless they’re serious lit a fire under me. My first devotional book, Joy in the Journey – Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms, was the result.
The takeaway? Don’t be part of the 70 percent who don’t succeed because they don’t try. Be part of the 30 percent who try, try, and try again.
Have you ever ignored an opportunity to submit your work? I’d love to hear why. Or maybe you’ve struggled with another step in the writing journey. Leave a comment below and join the conversation.