The Grand Prize Game


I’m no longer writing to be accepted these days, I’m writing to get rejected. Let me tell you the difference.

Before, I would just write to be accepted. I would work the hardest to make those stories the best I could possibly make them. I wrote in a way so that when I was rejected, I went back to the story and worked on it some more, tinkering and editing. All writers start this way. Writing to be rejected is what most people do.

The problem is when do you stop that? When do you let it go? Answer:!You write to get rejected.

Writing to get rejected dismisses the idea that a piece needs to be accepted at all. This has a Tao quality to it—do without doing. Because if you write to be rejected–in other words, writing without focusing on abstract concepts like Published or Recognized or Liked or Accepted—and just write the piece from your spirit, you’ll get published and recognized BUT YOU WON’T NEED THOSE THINGS because you’ll have already reached a level of acceptance for yourself without needing the extraneous labels that come with it.

One of the major differences between these two mindsets (and that’s all anything is, a mindset) is that the former possesses an imaginary finality—if only you could just ‘finish’ it. The problem is that you could just keep going and going (and it often does!), writing for the rest of your life. Writing to be rejected, however, has with it the finality of your own desire and taste; and since you’re not writing to get accepted, you can stop when it feels right, when the piece is done for you.

Another thing that writing to get accepted tends to make you do is place all of your faith and heart and soul in outside factors, like The Market or The Reader. Now, does that mean you should just write whatever the hell you want and wait for a check? No, of course not. A great career and life is all about balance. What you don’t want to do is overload your attention and energy into getting published and that’s it. It’s a long game, this writing career. Work to make yourself better, not just published.

Another thing about writing to get accepted is that when you do this, you want to be accepted, obviously, so you have this idea that it must be erased of all errors and flaws and be perfect. So you toil and work to scrub away all those faults. But that’s not really how it works. Flawed writing is out there all over the place, even from established writers.

What this comes down to is the idea of ‘finished’. When you want to get accepted, you think it has to be finished, perfect, erased of all errors and mistakes; and, yes, for the most part this is true. What I’m saying is don’t waste an entire lifetime perfecting your story!

Right now, I’m all about Quantity over Quality. Why? Because I spent eight years on Quality, and now it’s time to put in all I can to get it all out! Writing is more craft than art sometimes—treating your pieces like a carpenter would treat rocking chairs. Would you want to spend eight years on a chair? Get better by doing a lot. Writing to be rejected gets you moving. “On to the next one”, you’ll say.

Now, again, this doesn’t mean half- assing your work. It means stopping overthinking. It means stopping giving a shit what other people think of you. And most importantly, it means writing for yourself and your voice. Your writers will respect and love you for it. They can smell needy writing a mile away.

I’m writing to be rejected right here at Literature Adjacent. I used to overthink these posts for days. Editing, proofreading, editing some more. I would slave over the tiniest details. But now, I write and publish quicker. It helps my confidence and it gets this work out there. Now, once again, it’s not that I don’t care about you lovely people, but we both benefit from writing from heart instead of writing to be liked or shared.

Now I can see where some emotional, young writers out there might be peeved off about this, but it’s the way it is. It’s a business out there. Be deep and loving and wonderfully emotional in your stories, but when it comes to submitting, be cold, be realistic, and be persistent. You have to be two different types of people.

Writing to be rejected helps you with that. Then instead of writing to please some higher form of Art, to appease to the Gods of Art and Acceptance, with all of its smoke and priesthood, you can treat it for what it is: The Grand Prize Game.

Anybody out there in Chicagoland remember the Bozo show back in the 80s? Here’s a clip. The way it goes is this: you get picked from the audience of kids and try your luck and skill at tossing ping-pong balls in buckets of further and further distance. I don’t remember what the Grand Prize was, but to my eight-year-old mind it was something like a billion dollars and a pet dinosaur rolled into one.

That’s what you’re doing when you submit your work to places. You work on how you throw the ball, on where the ball goes, on what the ball does when thrown this way and that, and when you win the game, know that it dealt with skill, yes, but also a bit of luck and outside conditions. You don’t stand there for a half an hour focusing on one throw.

Keep in mind: DON’T THINK OF THIS AS YOU WRITE THE STORY. That’s another part of your brain. Only when it comes time to hand the story out, should you be using metaphors of games of chance and skill.

Get rejected!

Create and Complete

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