The Cost of Accomplishment
by Arthur Klepchukov
What do you focus on when you make New Year’s resolutions or broader goals? I tend to fixate on what I’ll gain. It’s less motivating to acknowledge what you’ll have to give up to make those gains, but it’s just as crucial. Consider all your goals. If they are to become accomplishments, they have to happen in some order. Order implies priority. Priority implies a few things first. What won’t make it over the finish line?
A year ago, at the beginning of 2017, I wanted to accomplish the following:
I. Earn at least 50 rejections in submitting writing for publication.
- I submitted 130 times,
- got rejected 95 times,
- was encouraged to submit again 23 times,
- and got accepted 3 times.
II. Resume querying literary agents by finding comparative titles for my first novel, Mechanical Flowers.
- I found 3 comps.
- I queried 14 agents from April to August—not as many as I would have liked.
- I got 1 request for a full manuscript followed by a personal rejection.
III. Finish a draft of my second novel, Heartifacts.
- I gave up this goal after deciding to take a new job and move across the country.
IV. Write the next drafts of two complex stories, “Lookmarks” and “within & without.”
- I wrote the 2nd draft of “Lookmarks.”
- I wrote the 2nd and 3rd drafts of “within & without.”
- I substantially revised 4 other short stories.
V. Write more flash fiction.
- I revised my only previous flash piece twice.
- I wrote drafts of 6 new flash pieces.
I happened to also:
b. make my first nonfiction submissions and earn my first acceptances for publication in nonfiction
To make room for my writing goals, I decided:
- to turn down 3 out of 4 freelance design jobs
- not to make as much art
- not to learn piano
- not to learn guitar
- not to take an improv class
- to prioritize time writing with friends over other activities
I made getting rejected a first priority because it was an outcome I had more control over than getting accepted. Thus, every rejection that arrived brought me closer to my goal. Rejections had to be earned though, not simply hoarded after numerous, irrelevant submissions. I earned rejections by making thoughtful submissions to markets I read or opportunities I researched. This approach required time. How did that affect my other goals?
Querying with my first novel and writing my next fell behind. The lower-priority goals of revising short stories and writing flash fiction eclipsed longer writing because they fed into my first priority—earning 50 rejections. They were also shorter investments of time. But each polished flash fiction or short story brought more submission and rejection opportunities, and eventually, acceptance.
My rejection goal could have included rejections from literary agents. But that would have muddied my agent search with how much effort I put into submitting shorter work. On the other hand, a more specific goal (e.g. earn 50 rejections for fiction of 1,000+ words) could have dissuaded me from writing more flash or submitting nonfiction that will now be published.
Accomplishments come with costs. I’m satisfied with mine for 2017. What were yours?