Thoughts on Aiming at 100 Rejections (29/02/2020)

It was almost the end of 2015 when I first heard about the writers #100rejections challenge. The idea is to submit your creative work to more prestigious places than you might be brave enough to if you weren’t chasing the numbers. It takes the pressure off thinking – it’s not good enough, it’s not ready etc – to hit the journal/competition deadline and just send it out. Of course that doesn’t mean you should send out work that really isn’t ready but it might help you get over the procrastinating period when you’re just moving commas about or just generally tinkering because you’re afraid to send it out into the world for comment. It was a shock to discover that year I had only managed x45 submissions, which had resulted in x1 publication and x1 staged piece.

So in 2016 I decided to take up the challenge properly and sort out a spreadsheet for all my cross genre submissions (poetry, stage work and flash fiction, which occasionally morphs into short story territory). I discovered Submittable and managed x96 submissions. Not bad and this resulted in x12 pieces of work being published/staged.

2017 I tried again and made 113 submissions with x17 successful outcomes.

2018 I tried again and 122 submissions became 23 successful submissions.

2019 I tried again and aimed high, 201 submissions became 33 successful submissions (and with x19 still to hear from at this point in time, you never know).

This high number was only possible because I didn’t have a significant writing project taking up most of my time, whilst in the years 2015 – 2018 there had always been a large-scale writing project. The significant events in 2019 were putting together chapbooks of work – x2 of which are to be published in 2020 – and a collection. And relocating from Yorkshire to Scotland last autumn.

I began to track other things too, how much I was paying to submit, initially, because I wasn’t keeping track the outlay turned out to be over £300 for 2017. But I have gradually reduced this by reasoning if you don’t get anything out of it if you don’t win (and you never win) consider whether a competition fee is worth it. Do they offer feedback? Do they send you a copy of a poetry anthology if you are long listed? Is it a very prestigious competition/ journal? Do you want to get your work in front of the judge they have picked this year?

I will be trying the #100rejections challenge again in 2020 because it gives a sense of purpose to my day, if I have submitted something I have achieved something, whatever the outcome at least I thought it was good enough to send out. But I also need to have a significant year creating new work because due to the Jo Bell Method (detailed in How to be a Poet) a significant amount of my written work is now out there in the world – hence this website to collate the links - and I now need to concentrate on creating new pieces to send out.

It is possible to burn out in the submissions game and I have already felt the effects this year (end Feb). My submissions are significantly down on this time last year, due both to having available content to send out and a sense of exhaustion at the process. Hopefully this will pass and I will be able to start creating new work soon because that’s what I really miss, being totally immersed in a project and working out the plot problems and sensing characters lurking waiting to appear on stage.