Perfectionism and Ego: Are They Ruining Your Writing Career?

When I first started writing, many moons ago, I was terrified of three major things.

1.) Rejection.
2.) Naming a Price.
3.) Rejection.

I had no problem writing for folks who contacted me and asked me to write for them, named their price, and then I would get to work. What I did have problems with was writing a query or sending an article or bid in ‘on spec’ and waiting to see if they accepted it.

Here was my routine:

1.) Write a query.

2.) Doubt the query is good enough, so tweak it.
3.) Read and re-read the query, and edit it.
4.) Work up the courage to submit the query.
5.) Query a publication.
6.) Wait.
7.) Wait.
8.) Wait.
9.) Wait.
10.) Get rejection.
11.) Cry and wonder why I’m not good enough.
12.) Not write for a day or two.
13.) Wonder if I should give up being a freelance writer.
14.) Query another publication.

As you can see, this really is not a successful way to go about a freelance writing business. If I query and then wait and don’t query anything while waiting, and it takes two weeks, six weeks, a couple of months or more, then I am not producing and making money in the meantime.

What is my system now?

1.) Query.
2.) Log query.
3.) Query another place.
4.) Log query.
5.) Query another place.
6.) Log query.
7.) Write on spec for another place.
8.) Log submission.
9.) Write for a content site, just ‘cuz.
10.) Sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat.

At any given time, I may have about 10-20 queries in the works along with five or six submissions. Things have really slowed down for me this last year though, so there are times now when I have nothing pending. Health has to come first, and I’m focusing on my fiction writing now more than freelancing since I don’t need the freelance income like I once so desperately did.

Anyway, I once read another freelancer’s blog who said she made a point of always having at least 13 queries out at any given time, so once a publication responded, she’d log that and submit more.

The first rejections hurt. I doubted myself. I worried about what I was doing and whether I was ever going to be good enough.

Now, I stay so busy I barely notice a rejection anymore. Now, a rejection just means logging it on the submission tracker and figuring out what to do with the article. If I really think it’s a good one, I’ll find another publication for it, and if I re-read it and think maybe it is too niche, or too fluff, or just not rich on whatever, I’ll find a content site to put it up on, like Associated Content or Helium or both for that matter, and at least make a few pennies to a few bucks off of it.

Oh, sure, every now and then I will still get disappointed over a rejection… usually, I get the most upset when it’s a story I felt personally about or a publication that paid really well and was new to me. But I simply sigh and log it and move on.

Ego has very little place in freelancing, or in writing in general. You take the good with the bad, remember that everything is so subjective that what one will love, another will hate.

Perfectionism is another story altogether. I’m the type who will read over and over again, tweak, edit, rewrite, twist, change, alter and a few other words I’m too lazy to look up in a thesaurus to put here.

There comes a point when freelancing where time is of the essence, and you just are not going to have enough time to spend time rewriting and ‘perfecting’ the copy. I’m not saying not to edit. Always edit. Read it out loud, read it backward, read it forward, edit it, and then submit the sucker.

Then log it and move on to the next assignment, article or project. Forget about it until you get the letter, email or phone call either rejecting it, accepting it, or asking for your to submit the article (if you had queried).

If you keep yourself busy with more submissions while waiting to hear from a submission/query, the time will go so fast and you’ll have no time to worry about whether you are getting a rejection or not.

Keep writing! (and submitting and querying and writing and submitting and querying, and….)

Love and stuff,