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  • suzannahwatchorn

I Aimed For 100 Rejections in 2023. Now I'm Published!

Rejections: they're as much a part of the writing life as a love-hate relationship with deadlines, tendency to stay inside too much, and general obsession with punctuation. (Do I need that comma?)

Despite its ubiquity, the fear of rejection causes havoc with our creativity. We might avoid submissions and applications, refuse to show our writing to others, or even resist finishing work in order to keep the (potential) rejections at bay.

I've been writing since I was a child, and I've given a lot to my craft. (Craft is a bit of a pretentious word, yes, but I like to think of it as a shorthand for witchcraft, which writing definitely is.) The childhood and teenage years of daily journaling became college essays, open mics and running a creative writing group; my twenties were a blur of publishing internships, volunteer-then-paid editing work, workshops, conferences, graduate school, teaching. Honestly, I'd been so dedicated and consistent, for so many years, that I kind of had an expectation that I'd be published before 30.

This expectation, however, didn't line up with my fear of rejections. I was timid about submissions. I took each rejection far too personally. I didn't fully believe in myself and was prone to wallowing.

I had read Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year by Kim Liao, and her follow-up, What Collecting 100 Rejections Taught Me About Creative Failure, and I was curious whether I could reach that magic number. It felt much less daunting to deliberately aim for an avalanche of rejections, especially when I decided to start by submitting poetry (my main genre is fiction, so I tend to be more emotionally attached to my short stories).

To say this approach worked would be an understatement. It completely transformed my relationship to rejections and my identity as a writer. When I tell you I received 101 rejections in 2023, I'm not at all ashamed; I'm proud of myself for being so dedicated.

100 rejections

And it wasn't all doom and Unfortunately, this submission is not right for us gloom. Not only did I get many higher tier rejections and invitations to submit again, I also received 9 acceptances! You can read eight of them right here. (The ninth is for a very, very cool publication and I can't wait to share more later this year. I have been dancing around!)

I know how scary it is to submit your work over and over again, especially when you keep hearing no. When you're unpublished, getting a yes can feel like trying to slay a particularly wily dragon. But I promise you, your pen is a mighty sword.

Before I get back to accumulating rejections for 2024 (3 already?! sigh), I wanted to offer a few tips and tricks for getting started with submissions. Hope this helps!


Make a separate email account just for writing-related activities.

Not only does this make it easier to keep track of your submissions (and rejections, acceptances and withdrawals), but also, you won't get rejections fired at you whenever you least expect it.

Find journals to submit to on ChillSubs, Duotrope and other writers' bios.

Read a sample issue to see if it's your vibe, or look up the publication history of writers you like. Pay attention to the guidelines! Those rejections don't really count if you're sending flash fiction to poetry-only journals.

Keep good records.

I may see my color-coded spreadsheet in my sleep, but at least I know I'm keeping track of a) editors who want to read more from me, b) journals I need to withdraw work from upon acceptance elsewhere, c) how many rejections I can brag about to my writer friends.

Choose a specific day/time to complete submissions.

As writers, we're already busy generating new work, doing revisions, giving/receiving feedback, and practicing our poses for our future author portraits. How are we supposed to do more? It helps me to designate a specific time, place + goal for focusing on submissions. Every Monday morning, I meet another writer and spend some of our time together researching new journals, hitting submit, and updating my spreadsheet. Submissions aren't so daunting when I have good company and a nice cup of coffee.

Compete with another writer.

In 2023, collecting 100 rejections was a solo endeavour, but this year—because I've mentioned it so much—others will be joining me. I even have an agreement with another writer in my city to make one another dinner when we hit the magic number.

Get feedback first.

Every piece I've had published has been nurtured by the questions and suggestions of others. Whether you swap work with a writing partner, participate in a class or workshop, or hire a writing coach, don't do this alone. It's easier to handle the rejections when you've also received encouragement.

Withdraw work when it no longer represents your best writing.

Last year I submitted a poem I was really fond of. Then it got rejected so many times that I had to admit something was off. (If it ever does get published, I promise to share the final number.) You want to avoid a constant cycle of submission-withdrawal, of course, but sometimes it's necessary to do another round of revisions.

Take breaks.

Please give yourself permission to stop thinking about your submissions (and rejections) when you travel, spend time with loved ones, or just want to focus on the writing itself.

Be kind to yourself.

There were times when I was totally unfazed by the number of form rejections stinging my writerly hide, and other times where I wanted to wail about how I would never write again. Do be patient with yourself, and expect it to be an up-and-down process. Aiming for 100 rejections is brave!

Promise yourself a gift at the end.

Speaking of getting stung, I've been thinking of commemorating my first 100 rejections with a jellyfish tattoo. I currently have zero tattoos, so we'll see if I ever get around to it. My point is, my dear, sweet rejected writer, reward yourself with something very, very pretty. You deserve it.


Happy 2024 to y'all! Rub some sand on the sting of rejection(s) and you'll be just fine. (Can you tell I've been the victim of jellyfish stings more than once?) Please let me know if this method gets you any acceptances!


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