Life’s A Pitch

Sheets of hand-written text lit by soft light through curtains.
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

I broke the seal. I’m now sending out pitches for articles to various editors.

In fact I’ve already gotten a rejection! Don’t be sad, that’s a good thing. Well, not as good as an acceptance but still, it means I’m out there trying. That’s why I’m saying I “broke the seal”—the scary part is over, and now I can just keep moving forward, by, presumably, coming up with more article ideas and sending them out to editors until they accept one or more of them.

The rejection I got yesterday was not my first rejection. Many years ago I took a writing class. It was a night class, not for college credit. Just something I took to dip my toe in the water and spend time around other people who like and want to write. And after we finished our first story, the instructor made us all submit it to an editor.

She made us all send it to Redbook, I believe. Is that magazine still around? The magazine published lots of freelance or reader submissions, on a wide variety of topics, including little memoir-type stories like we wrote for our first assignment in class.

Our chances of being rejected were quite high, she explained, but the whole point is to get our first actual rejection out of the way and behind us, to teach us it’s better to pitch and fail than just wonder.

I still have that letter, I think. It’s framed somewhere in a box, but I saved it. I wish I had a picture of it; I’d post it here, because I like to include pictures with my posts when I can. I’m funny that way.

As of right now (write now? sorry, couldn’t resist) I’ve got one idea that I’m shopping around to some local publications. I’m aiming high; it’s a big article idea and the outlets I’m sending it to are kind of a high bar to cross for someone with no real published articles to their name. But it’s a start. I have some smaller ideas I want to send out, and for those I will be aiming at various small online-only blogs and websites. But the idea I’m starting with is one I’m proudest of, and one that would be a lot of fun to write.

No, I’m not telling you what it is. You’ll have to wait.

This is what I have to do if I want to be published. This blog is a testament to my ability to write lots and lots of words, very good words, arranged well and communicating emotion and facts and character and plot… but that’s not the skill I need if I want my words to be accepted by editors and then printed elsewhere. I love you all, all 25-30 of you that are reading my posts these days, but I need to see if I have what it takes to get my words in front of a wider audience.

And to do that I have to send out pitches. I was talking to Terry last night and I was explaining the steps, and one of the things I mentioned was that it is considered a negative if a freelancer sends the same pitch to more than one editor at a time. Not supposed to flood the market, even though that would shorten the time it takes for a pitch to find a home. “I don’t know why that is, but that’s the case, and I’m going to follow the conventions because I’m trying to break in.”

Terry laughed at me. “You’re not selfish enough!” he said, and he’s right. I’m not selfish enough to try to break in by breaking the (unspoken but socially-accepted) rules. I want to do it the right way. I consider that my strength, not my weakness.

Honestly I already have the advantage of being a straight white cis male. It may seem like that advantage is evaporating these days, but it’s still there. I am OK if that’s seen in a less approving light these days; there are plenty of other voices out there that deserve the spotlight. People of color, women, gay and trans and queer voices. I’m happy they are getting more attention; it’s long since past time for them to talk about the world as they see it.

That being said, I know that I’m still going to have a small advantage due to the accident of my birth in a culture that leans in my direction—my privilege. So I am not going to press that advantage at all. I’ll keep my head down, follow the rules, just write as best as I can and send it out and see who bites.

Because I’m always going to write. That’s not going to stop. I’ve demonstrated I may slow down from time to time, but writing is still second nature to me. Writing is one thing. Writing for an audience is quite another skill, so I’m beginning to develop it. Stay tuned.