What I Can Learn From a Rejected Pitch

I’d sent the pitch several months ago. So long ago I had to search my memory for what it was that I had contacted the site about when I saw a response email land in my inbox. I’d pitched a popular entertainment news and culture site with an idea for a new regular feature that I thought was pretty cool.

When I finally opened it up it was exactly what I expected. The message said something like the following:

Interesting idea, but it’s not original enough so we’re going to pass.

There were a few moments of depression that followed. Being rejected never feels good, though you’d think with all the experience I’ve had over the course of the last year and a half I’d be more used to it. Certainly seems as if I’ve gotten Malcolm Gladwell’s required 10,000 hours of practice in.

After a bit I started thinking about the situation differently and came away with a few thoughts and realizations.

It’s Not Personal

It’s not me that’s been rejected, it’s just this particular idea. I’m still a good and talented person, this idea just didn’t fit with what that site was looking for.

This is perhaps the toughest for me to remember, but I get there eventually. I get emotionally invested in things and begin to believe they represent part of who I am as a person. Disconnecting my identity from my work is a process I’ve been engaged in ever since I got laid off last year. For too long what I did *was* who I was as a person, which wasn’t healthy.

That’s an artifact not only of the generation that raised mine, before concepts like “work-life balance” came into vogue, when there was still a middle-class and when you could reasonably expect to have a full-time job with the same company for decades. It’s also a result of the “rugged individualism” that’s still persistent, where you are measured by your measurable contributions to society.

So it takes a little work for me to eventually remember that this isn’t me being turned down, it’s just this idea, or the collection of skills I have. God still loves me, as does my family, and I can still take pride in the work I can do, it’s just I won’t be doing any of that work for X Company.

“No” Can’t Stop Me

OK, so that particular site didn’t like the idea and didn’t think it was original enough for them and their audience. Got it.

I still like the idea, though, and think it has merit. I don’t think the site sending me the rejection considered it fully enough. That might be my fault in that I might not have framed the pitch accurately and so didn’t give them the full picture of what it could be. If so, that’s on me. There are two options then available to me:

First: I can always look for other sites that might be interested. There are plenty of options available so it’s worth the time to investigate. I’m not going to do so immediately but will subscribe to the emails/RSS feeds for those sites, learn what they write about, how they approach material, discern who they believe their audience to be and then find out if they’re accepting pitches and how to do so effectively. I’ll make whatever tweaks to the concept I feel are appropriate – either based on the feedback I got or just opportunities I didn’t notice initially – and then make the pitch.

Second: I can just do it my own damn self. Like most all freelancers, I have access to not just one but multiple self-publishing platforms. So if it’s an idea that I still think is interesting and worth executing but, say, I’ve pitched it repeatedly with no pick up I can just put it on one my blogs.

A New Approach

Back when I was doing content strategy for a living one of the things I’d tell clients wanting to spin up a corporate blog is that they need to plan editorial six months out from launch. If you can’t identify what you’ll still be talking about six months from now, you need to reevaluate if a blog is needed.

Not only that, but start writing posts two months before it launches. Just open a Word or Google Doc and call it “Blog Post Drafts” and start writing the kinds of things you have in mind for the blog. Do that regularly so that writing for the blog becomes part of a routine, something you don’t have to “fit in” but which you take specific time to do. This helps you refine your voice as well. Those drafts can either be kept private or published so the blog has an archive as soon as it goes public, it doesn’t really matter. The point is to practice in private before opening day.

That’s more or less the approach I’m going to begin taking with ideas I have that I want to pitch. Instead of basing the pitch on an idea and maybe one executed example, I’m going to do two months of practice. Doing so will help me test the validity of the idea and make adjustments that would be awkward to do post-debut and hopefully strengthen the quality of the pitch.

Don’t Get Discouraged

No one likes being rejected. But it’s not the end of the world, and it’s not a necessary stamp of approval on my worth as an individual. Tomorrow brings with it the opportunity to achieve different things. Some will work out, some won’t, and some I’ll have to just do myself. The key to success is showing up, so that’s what I’ll do.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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