How Rejections From 4 Publications Led to My First $500 Article of 2021
My first article of 2021 was published in my favorite publication — Better Humans. But, the journey to get there wasn’t filled with roses. It took me 3 months and rejections from 4 other editors before I finally made it into a commissioned article worth $500.
The road there is filled with so many ups and downs; I gave up more than once along the way. But there was something in my soul that kept me from calling it quits.
And here I stand, writing this story today to tell you that rejection is good. It helped me earn $500.
This post is about all the lessons I learned from this wild, crazy journey and how you can implement them in your life.
Note: If you’d like to watch the whole story in video format — complete with screenshots and proof — please click here.
Round One: Better Humans
I wrote the story on October 1st, keeping Better Humans in mind. They have a model where they publish empathic tutorials by people who are either coaches or aggressive self-experimenters. Each commissioned article gets a one-time fee of $500 US. Since my story was based on my learnings, I qualified as an “aggressive self-experimenter.”
I had such high hopes for it that I was heartbroken when I got the rejection email on October 10th.
There was no explanation as to why it was rejected, and I was devastated.
This rejection affected me so much that I stopped writing for more than two weeks after that. It took a lot of mental effort to finally pull myself out of that abyss of self-pity.
Round Two: The Ascent
I let the article rest in my drafts for a few weeks until I finally gathered the courage to pitch it to The Ascent in mid-November.
If you’re a writer for The Ascent, you’d know they have a wait-time of 14 days. I waited patiently for 2 weeks, content with the knowledge that if I’d aimed for Better Humans, the article would at least get published with The Ascent.
Imagine my shock when the editor rejected it with their generic message of “The idea is good, but we didn’t like the execution.” Since I’d worked so hard for the article, I couldn’t let this go.
I left a private note to the editor asking why she rejected it.
Very graciously, the editor let me know that the ideas in my article were pretty generic, and they had already published a lot of other articles proposing similar concepts.
This was hard, but I had grown a thick skin by then. I decided to move on and pitch the piece to another publication.
Round Three: Mind Cafe
My next target publication was Mind Cafe. By then, I had published a few pieces with them and knew they welcomed well-researched pieces about self-improvement backed by a personal element.
Taking a deep breath, I submitted the story to them. Sadly, within just a few hours, the editor rejected my story citing the same reasons — the ideas I proposed were too “generic.”
Round Four: Publishous
By this time, I was already getting a bit restless. I didn’t know what was wrong, so I pitched the article to Publishous. I’d published a lot with them when I was starting out with Medium and seen some great results. I had hopes my precious story would do well with them.
Sadly, even here, the editor rejected the story saying what I had written was “common knowledge.”
Interlude: The Existential Crisis
I was trying very hard not to have an existential crisis by then. The lessons I’d mentioned in the article took me two years to learn. How could people say they were common knowledge?
Was I too dense, or was there something wrong with me? In a disturbed state of mind, I sent a message conveying my emotions to my Mastermind group.
My friends were very kind. Eva Keiffenheim, MSc, offered me a perspective shift saying, “common knowledge doesn’t mean common application. I bet if you only follow 50% of what you’re writing, you’re better than 90% of all people living alone!”
To this, Jordan Gross added something that completely changed my way of viewing this string of rejections: “Think about these rejections here as a challenge to your creativity going forward. Sure, maybe the advice you want to share is similar to others, but how can you present it in a different way? Maybe you tinker with the sub-headers? Maybe you acknowledge the common advice, but give each its own unique individual tip? There are always ways to learn and grow!”
Indeed there was, and so I did.
I reworked the whole article. I shifted my tone and changed the sub-headings. What was initially “Read more books” got changed to “Get on an idea diet.” “Journal daily” changed to “Write it out for the right emotions.” And before I knew it, my little personal project had a brand new look with different ideas, more information, and a whole lot of creative section headers that I was quite proud of.
Final Round: Better Humans Again
Because I was so proud of the way the final article turned out, I decided to take a chance and pitch to Better Humans once again. This time, I was fully prepared for rejection. I’d even made plans of how I’d publish this with another publication, and I’d still be happy.
But when the editor got back to me saying they would love to publish this story, my happiness knew no bounds!
What You Can Learn From This Story
Once the story was accepted, I shared the euphoria and gratitude with my Mastermind group members. They were very kind to celebrate this win with me and double my happiness.
Indeed, I’d not be exaggerating if I said this acceptance email was my highlight of the entire week!
Based on this story, if you’re looking for some lessons to take away with you, let me summarize them for you:
- If you truly believe in your story, never give up on yourself. Keep working on it until you reach where you’d meant it to be published, or someplace even better.
- To the creative, there’s no rejection, only redirection (quote courtesy: Jordan). Each rejection is a new opportunity for you to polish your skills and challenge yourself to achieve more.
- Once you set your mind to it, there’s nothing you can’t achieve. Yes, I know you tried your best. But can you push yourself to go even beyond that?
At the end of the day, rejections can be blessings in disguise if you let them be. If you utilize them as opportunities to look for alternatives and better ways to grow, you’ll end up achieving way beyond your wildest dreams.
While you read the title of this article, you might have thought this was a flex of how much money I’m making. In truth, this article is to let you know that rejections are inevitable. They will hurt. But you cannot wallow in that hurt forever. You’ve got to pull yourself out and become the best version of yourself.
Whether you get accepted or not isn’t in your hands. The way you react to it is. Make sure you take the path that leads you to growth.
Yes, it’s that easy. Yes, it’s that hard.