More than a year ago, I wrote a post detailing how I paid myself £5 for every rejection I received. The thought was that I would eventually earn enough money to go on an Arvon writing week. The spirit of the gesture was to recognise and reward the risk-taking that comes from offering something to the world, knowing that there is a good chance the world will say ‘no thank you.’ It was a way to celebrate the evolution from fluttery idea to written prose. This was my self-designed, self-improvement scheme.
How much did I earn? Well, every piece I sent out earned me £5. I had a nice little honey pot stashed away.
Was it enough to go to a writing retreat? I’ve never been all that good at saving things, and although my pieces were doing their best to add to the total, I became impatient. I wanted to find a writing community sooner. Wise Old Google led to a writing group in Cambridge called Angles writing group. I went to their website and scoured the pages, nodding approvingly at their rules for workshopping, nosing through the writers’ bios and sample works. Oh! I wanted to be a part of this! I sent the organiser an email and asked about joining.
‘Do you write? Do you lead a writing group or are you thinking of starting a writing group?’ She asked in her response where she graciously invited me to sit in at one meeting.
Starting a writing group. Sounded like a good idea. I had taught secondary English including some creative writing over a decade ago. I did have a very tentative plan in the works to lead a writing workshop one evening with a group of undergraduates. ‘Yes, I am thinking of starting a writing group,’ I wrote back. Then I began to wonder, How am I going to do that?
The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to try creating a writing group. And during one of the daydreams, it occurred to me: Why not use my rejection money to make this a reality? I ended up pouring the money into creating my business, Writing Circles, offering 6-8 week programmes for small groups of writers to meet, write, revise, and grow.
This autumn we had the first few rounds of Writing Circles. I’ve written a little bit about our experiences here. As these programmes grow, I’m learning how to listen, how to respond, and how to provide structure and scaffolding that support a piece of writing until it is ready to stand on its own. I’m finding it absolutely fascinating. I’m really glad I had those rejection-generated-start-up funds!
It turned out that Angles also had space for new members and I happily joined. Participating in a rigorous workshop with high standards has been invaluable. Given the range of experience and expertise among the members, I learn something new or appreciate something more deeply every meeting. When I told them about my £5 per rejection money-making scheme, they asked, ‘What will you do when you get something accepted? Will you pay yourself double? Or will you have to do penance? ’
‘I haven’t had that particular problem, yet,’ I replied.
I now have that problem. Today, I had my first piece accepted for publication in the Words and Women prose competition. The anthology, Words and Women: Two, will be published in March by Unthank Books.
There were 176 entries, 21 finalists, and an overall winner. That means there were 154 pieces of writing that didn’t get chosen this time. I’m used to being one of the 154. I’m sure I will be many times again. I’d guess that many of the finalists have had their fair share of rejections slips, too. It is a game of numbers and persistence.
Among the finalists were two others from my writing group. More than anything, I think this is a testament to the potential for growth when working in a good group. I know that my writing has benefitted enormously from having high quality feedback. It’s not always easy to take, but it is worth considering carefully. I’ve had to learn how to use feedback well. Other writers can see and hear things in your work that you can’t always perceive. I think we all suffer from creator’s myopia sometimes. Being in a group helps us to understand our words and meaning more clearly.
So, what will I do now that I have had a story accepted? I think I’ll add £10 to my stash and carry on writing, submitting work, and turning rejections (and maybe the occasional acceptance) into investments.