Why I’m Setting a Resolution Designed to Fail

AKA, the 100 Rejections Quest.

Happy new year! Scrap that – happy new decade!

I absolutely adore new years, when everything feels shiny and new and incontrovertibly possible. It’s the fresh-start of it all.

And I know it’s all arbitrary – just another number that’s no different to tomorrow being a new day, or even saying the very next minute is a whole new opportunity to start something fresh – but I love the ceremony of it all. The official-ness of it. The atmosphere of the entire world appreciating the blank slate of 365 brand new days.

You get it. I love New Year’s.

That being said, I’m not a massive fan of resolutions. I used to be, and I still love setting new goals and new plans and resetting things that aren’t working, but resolutions? I don’t really get them. They don’t seem to add much purpose, only more pressure.

Maybe it’s because everyone expects them to fail now. They’re not so much plans (which I’m all for), but often monumental desired habits or achievements, which, you know, kind of need a plan, not a statement. You’re basically setting yourself up to give up. And no one wants to feel like they’ve given up on something.

But this whole setting yourself up to fail got me thinking. A plot began to form… (I am a writer, after all.)

What if you created a resolution designed to fail. You couldn’t possibly lose*. Then the whole process becomes about trying and action, which is the basic idea or hope of a resolution anyway, isn’t it?

(*It is starting to occur to me that I see winning and losing far more often than I realised – perhaps it was no random idea when I came up with The Game (*cough* shameless self-plug).)

As a writer, a large part of my job used to be sending my work out to professionals and hoping they would like it. Sometimes they did. Often they did not. And I remember when I got my first ever rejection letter, I was ecstatic (seriously): real writers get rejection letters, and I just got a rejection letter!

But, oh, how times have changed. I do still like getting rejection letters. (I’m a masochist, I guess?!) But it takes a lot of effort to send something out to someone (there’s a lot of researching involved and then writing around what you’ve actually written to explain to someone who hasn’t read what you’ve written what you’ve written when they could just read what you’ve actually written). And that process can feel really deflating when, nine times out of ten, it’s probably a big fat waste of your time.

And there’s also this whole notion that this is your ‘one shot’ with this person, so you have to get it absolutely right first time. That’s a lot of pressure and work to then think you’re probably going to be, at best, rejected. Most likely, ignored.

So me sending stuff out to people = on the decline.

But, back to my plot! When I was thinking about my writerly goals for this year, sure, I could set myself the task of send out ten queries a month. (And I’m telling you now, that would never have happened.)

But that didn’t set my soul on fire. That didn’t make me feel YES, let’s stop goal planning and get on this RIGHT NOW, this VERY SECOND! It actually kind of filled me with dread.

But flip it on its head. (Yes, I’m also a poet.) The idea fills me with dread because it’s soul-destroying to work hard on putting something you love into the world only to find out it was a waste of your time and no one wants to love it like you do. (Even if I do get rejection letters with lovely words of praise and encouragement – it seems people tend to like my writing even if they can’t actually do anything with it.)

But what if that became the aim? The goal? Get 10 rejection letters a month requires the exact same action (send my work out to ten different people/publications), but it no longer seems like a waste of time. It no longer inspires dread, but excitement! A new goal. One I have to fail at!

Jeez, that was a lot of ‘but’s in a row. My point is (there is one, I swear), if you create a resolution designed to fail, you seriously can’t fail. Which I guess makes it kind of an oxymoron or paradox of some kind, because if you fail then you’re succeeding, which means you’re not failing, but then you fail the initial resolution which means you are failing, which means you’re succeeding…

You get the idea.


Anyway, that is my giant goal, my big fat plan. Get 100 rejections. Which I’ve realised is going to require me to do even more writing, since racking up 100 rejections in 12 months (less now, since we are well into January already) is going to take… well, 100 submissions. And they don’t all have to be 100 separate pieces of work, but I think part of my soul might die if I sent the same novel to 100 different people and not a single one liked it. Plus, we’re on a time crunch! I’m gonna need to have multiple queries in the work at any one time if I’m going to hit 100 by 2021.

So, I’m now going to head off to curl up in a corner and think about the monumental vow I have just announced to the entire internet (well, this little tiny part of it I rent). There will be updates (about the 100 rejection challenge, not my soon-to-be foetal position – though I wouldn’t be surprised if it features at some point. Maybe around May?)

In the meantime: what resolutions can you flip round? What challenges can you twist to make infallible?! Let me know.

And Mum, if you’re reading this: send Skittles.

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