Fear Friday: Submit to a Writing Contest

April 1, 2016

Fear Friday: Submit to a Writing Contest

I started listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on creativity, Big Magic, this week during my long walks home from work. The audiobook is read by Elizabeth Gilbert herself so it feels like I have my very own personal, big-time author whispering inspiration into my ear as I struggle to make it up that last stupid hill before I reach my house.

The first chapter is called “Courage,” and as you can imagine from a chapter with a name like that it talks all about how we shouldn’t let fear dictate our lives.

As you might have guessed from my blog’s name, I’ve got a whole lot of fears. But I try not to let those fears hold me back from doing things I’m scared to do– whether it’s camping alone or throwing myself down an icy chute at 30 miles per hour.

But there’s one fear that I still can’t seem to get over: the fear of rejection.

Unlike my fear of ceiling fans (don’t judge), this fear has been realized more times than I care to recall. After all, I have yet to be decapitated by a ceiling fan (IT COULD HAPPEN), but I have been rejected a whole heap of times.

I’ve been turned down from jobs I really wanted.

I’ve auditioned for starring roles and ended up being cast as “Marching Peasant #5.”

And I’ve been rejected by boys. Oh, sweet golly, have I been rejected by boys! I mean, I’ve heard these words SO MANY TIMES: “You’re a sweet girl, but…” (And we all know what that “but” means, amirite?)

These rejections have hurt.

But, the thing is, they’ve never killed me. They’ve never even come close to killing me. Meanwhile, I’ve done a whole lot of things that could have killed me. So why am I letting a little non-lethal thing like rejection get in my way?

My fear of rejection has stopped me from doing the one big thing that I’ve always wanted to do: get my writing published professionally.

I can take being rejected for jobs and being turned down at auditions and having some dofus saying, “You’re a sweet girl but…”

But I haven’t been so sure I could take an editor telling me, “You’re a good writer but…” Or worse, an editor telling me that I’m a bad writer.

I’m cool with being mediocre in pretty much every area of my life. But writing? Writing is the one thing I’ve always thought I was good at. What if I found out that I’ve just been fooling myself this whole time? Just like how I’ve been fooling myself into thinking men find the way I break out into hives every time I talk to them attractive. (They don’t. Just FYI.)

But this week, thanks to a few personal, after-work, audio counseling sessions with Ms. Gilbert, I decided to bite the bullet and face my fear of having my writing rejected, and I submitted a story to my first ever writing contest. Oh, and it wasn’t just any writing contest — it was an audio contest, meaning I had to submit an audio-recording of myself telling the story.

So I faced two of my fears this week: my fear of having my writing rejected and my fear of making people’s ears bleed by forcing them to listen to my screechy voice for more than five minutes.

So I’m pretty sure Ms. Gilbert’s got to give me bonus points for that, right?


What has fear of rejection held you back from doing? How did you get over it?



I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On April 1, 2016 at 8:56 am Monica Harris said:

    Sally, I just try to remember that no one can ACCEPT your work if you don’t send it out. True, they can reject it but having it sit in a drawer will get you nowhere. No editor is going to beat at your door and say, “Hey, I heard you have this amazing book sitting in a cardboard box with Hello Kitty stickers on it. I REALLY need to buy it from you.”

    They can’t say NO if you don’t give them the opportunity to say YES.

  2. On April 1, 2016 at 12:16 pm Andrea Yoshida said:

    Amazing!! So proud of you and super surprised that, with your talent, you have not been professionally published yet. Funny how that Elizabeth Gilbert is such an inspirational counsellor; I just watched a TED Talk that she did and that sparked me to think about my life. And now, you are inspiring me to get back into writing because I have abandoned it for far too long. I have a lot locked away that needs to come out! New life path?

    Great blog and congratulations to you on taking that big step. Going to find myself a big step to take too!

    • On April 2, 2016 at 11:31 am Sally said:

      I’ve had a few things published in regional publications and, of course, school publications. But nothing major. Part of it is because of the rejection stuff. And the other part is because the stuff I write doesn’t really seem to match what a lot of literary journals are looking for — it’s definitely more humorous and light-hearted and not so “literary.” But the contest I entered had a Humor section, so I figured that was a good sign!
      And, yes, definitely start writing again! I suggest reading/listening to “Big Magic” for inspiration. She talks a lot about making time in our ordinary life for creativity. I think so often we think we have to quit our job and move to a cabin in the woods so we can start writing, but I like her approach of just making creativity a habit not a huge life-change.

  3. On April 1, 2016 at 3:37 pm Edward Kimble said:

    Having been rejected for magazine articles more times than I care to think, perhaps you just need a practice rejection (kind of like a rabies shot) to get over your fear….

    “Mr. Sal Thelen, you seem to be a sweet guy, but your genre and gender is not really in keeping with our current “Women’s” demands. Please note our upcoming schedule of directed topics… We will only be accepting fun uplifting articles in March of next year. Perhaps if you were more sullen and seriously addressed this month’s topic, “Why Sororities fear Nuclear War,” then we would have at least read past your first paragraph. However, to avoid further embarrassment and waste of our time and yours, and as a style observation, we find your style is less Oliver Wendell Holmes and more James Whitcomb Riley, thus and i.e. we recommend that you confine your future writing to scripted Real Estate descriptions and leave the real writing to professionals.”
    January – Planning Wardrobe Failures – a guide
    February – Prison pen pals.. connubial bliss
    or the road to conjunctivitis?
    March – Filing your own adoption papers
    April – Why Sororities fear Nuclear War
    May – Implants with clicker controls
    June – Psoriasis, poison ivy, and you
    July – Pretending to be an Illegal Alien
    (12 drugs to make you look Hispanic)
    August – Now that your IQ is lower, toking
    more wisely…
    September – Dark empty beaches for hard times,
    take Spring break now and make your
    studying seem less foreboding…
    October – Witch’s guide to transforming your
    November – Be Santa! Existentialist Anti Diets
    December – Blinking implants and accidental electrocution, the Holiday road to doom?

  4. On April 1, 2016 at 7:04 pm Leslie in Oregon said:

    Congratulations, Sally, and best wishes!! Those of us who have read your blog know that you know how to write and that you have a lot to say. I would be the first in line to read anything written (or written and read) by you.

    To answer your last question: as an adult, I have gotten past fear of rejection, when it raised its ugly head, by convincing myself that the rejection at hand, if it occurred, would not be the end of my world.

  5. On April 1, 2016 at 7:46 pm Reg said:

    First of all, you are a good writer, just to get that out of the way. If you keep trying to get published, you will be rejected, because that’s part of it. So when that happens come back to this blog and notice all the people who love it and read it. Remember that if you weren’t a good writer, you would not have a following. Also know that editors are all different and your style may not be the right thing for one, but it will be right for another. And sometimes it takes a few goes before you find that editor. You should keep trying. It gets easier. I’ve been rejected a bazillion times and eventually it does not sting. It’s part of the process and one day someone will say yes. And if they don’t, they’re fools, because you’re writing has amazing voice! Keep at it!

    • On April 2, 2016 at 11:20 am Sally said:

      Thank you, Reg! I think you make such a great point about editors — and maybe my style/tone might not be for everybody. I kind of forget that. I sometimes think that if one person doesn’t like what I do, then ALL people must not like it. Thank you so much for your encouragement!

  6. On April 2, 2016 at 4:04 pm Claudia said:

    Get that book published. I want to read it.
    Claudia recently posted..A day like a princess in Castello di Malpaga

  7. On April 3, 2016 at 7:00 am Michelle said:

    This is the very first post of yours that I’ve read – I just heard of you from Laurence at Finding the Universe – and already I think I’ve found a kindred soul! I am a big chickenshit (pardon the language… I don’t know yet whether you use swears at all) when it comes to getting published. I even thought about quitting blogging because I felt like everyone couldn’t care less about my writing. But I didn’t! I still have hope… but what I really need to do is get it out there more 🙂

    • On April 3, 2016 at 9:08 am Sally said:

      So glad you found me. (And, thank you, Laurence, wherever you are for sharing me. 🙂 ). And, yes, I swear… much more than I should… but I try not to do much of it on this blog because my grandma reads it. 🙂 And, yes, keep at blogging! I’ve been at it for ages. And, honestly, it can be really discouraging when I see people who have just started out getting tons of readers and here I have been going at it for 7 years (and a few years before that under a different blog name) and I have yet to “make it.” But then I’ve seen a lot of people who started about the same time as me, stop blogging and disappear after being discouraged by the same thing or just because they got tired/burnt out/bored of blogging. And it makes me really proud of myself that I’ve stuck with it. As a chronic quitter, this is MAJOR for me that I’ve managed to stay at it for so long — even if I haven’t been super consistent. So keep at it!

  8. On April 4, 2016 at 8:44 am swathi said:

    All the very best Sally (We are always on first name basis in my head and parenthesis is my writing thing :)), I am rooting for you from other side of earth i.e,India


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