How constant worry was more harmful to my writing life than send a few crappy pitches.
When you first start freelance writing, pitching is scary. You have to reach out to strangers and those strangers are in charge of bylines, money, and validation of your writing career. It feels like there’s a lot at stake, as if your career is on the line with every email.
This kind of pressure stops people from pitching at all. “What if I send out something bad and the editor blacklists me?!?!”
Thinking of the worst case scenario of a pitch is easy. The editor will hate it, they’ll laugh about it with their friends, I’ll embarrass myself with a bad idea, all come to mind.
But what’s the worst thing that will happen if you don’t pitch?
You can substitute pitch with “write,” “reach out,” “promote yourself,” or whatever other scary thing that’s haunting your brain at the moment. But really, what’s the worst thing that’ll happen if you don’t.
You’ll have unique answers, but for me, the worst case of not pitching is:
- I’ll be annoyed at myself that I didn’t try.
- I’ll wonder and worry about what’ll happen if I did try.
- I’ll beat myself up about missing another opportunity.
- I’ll spend way more time worrying and beating myself up than I would have spent writing and sending any pitch.
For years, I didn’t write much or reach out to bigger publications. I figured my ideas would get rejected anyway and didn’t want to face another no.
But it didn’t end there. I didn’t just let the idea of writing go and move on with my life. No, I kept thinking about it. And worrying. And comparing myself to other people who were so much more successful. Then going back to worrying and blaming myself for not trying hard enough.
This parade of endless shitty thoughts was a misery. It never motivated me or made writing easier. It just made me feel like garbage and like my goals were impossibly far away.
Slowly, I gained a bit of confidence and started pitching. Lots of people said no, but a lot of people said yes. Some rejections were hard, others barely made a dent in my day.
No matter how bad the rejections were, my cycle of worry and self-hating thoughts was so much worse than any pitch I’ve ever sent.
I’ve been rejected by Vulture, the New York Times, Cosmopolitan, and a bunch of other places. None of those emails were that bad and most of the rejections I don’t even remember.
But I do remember all the hours spent worrying that every possible pitch would be further proof that I’d never have a career. And to save myself the trouble, I might as well not try. That feeling was horrible. The worst rejection letter hasn’t even come close.
Now, I don’t expect you’ll be quite as dramatic. I have a tendency to be very self-critical and have a history of depression, so I’m definitely not saying that skipping a pitch will lead to a breakdown. It won’t. I’m just saying that not pitching always had worse real world consequences than sending out the stupidest of pitches.
Because I’ve sent out a lot of dumb ideas. Yet, I manage to make a living writing. And no matter the number of nos I get, at least I know I tried. And that helps.
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