My experiment in collecting rejection

Added to in mid-February 2020 to reflect upon this experiment…

Kiki Schirr
May 29, 2018 · 5 min read

Shortly before New Year’s Eve, I decided that my goal for the year was to collect 100 rejection letters.

One thing I’ve always struggled with is putting myself out there, especially when it comes to my writing. Writing, especially fiction writing, is a game of numbers. The more often you’re rejected, the more often those rare acceptances will come through.

So I joined Duotrope and started sending away my short stories.

But a problem arose with my plan early on: turnaround time on short story rejection is long, and I was already starting to lose motivation. So I began sending out applications to other things I found interesting as well.

I’m one of those surprisingly-common type of people that has many interests, even within the professional realm. So I started to apply to startup-related grants and scholarships, writing gigs, crypto content marketing jobs and more.

What started as a whimsical experiment began to morph into a mindset. And as the end of May approached I realized: this collecting rejection thing isn’t actually working.

Um, whoops. That’s a bit more popular of a tweet than I usually have!

So in the afternoon, before I ran off to a meeting with one of my new clients, I paused to type out a gratitude tweet. When I said, “take more chances” I was really talking to myself, but that message resonated, apparently…

Which is why I’m writing this post now.

People began to ask for more detail, or to share their own methods of motivating themselves to strive for success.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from the overwhelming, wonderful response to my tweet:

  • If you apply to 100 colleges, you’ll likely go broke. Use Prepify to prioritize.
  • If you’re looking for central repositories for jobs or gigs, try Duotrope, Writer’s Market, Artist’s Market, or Indeed.
  • Yes, this was a giant humblebrag, but no, I’m not ashamed of it.
  • Everyone motivates themselves in different ways, so learn what works for you by experimenting.
  • Viral tweets make Twitter nearly unusable. I will be going through my follows more carefully after things quiet down to do a better followback process and get to know my new circle better. :) And if I was asleep when you tweeted at me, it’s likely gone. I can’t scroll back more than 2–3 hours at this time. Sorry!
  • Twitter remains the most amazing tool to meet new people through the Internet.

Also, here are a few cool opportunities currently available for application:

  • SWHackout: Startup Weekend’s LGBTQIA+ themed weekend hackathon in Austin, TX, coming up soon. There might still be a few travel scholarships available, too, but you’ll need to check.
  • Product Hunt Startup Book Giveaway: a sweepstakes running through May 31 that enters you in a contest for a pile of amazing books in exchange for your email.
  • The NYAAF has two positions open until June 1st for those who believe in choice for reproductive rights. Based in NYC. (community submitted)
  • If you’re a part of a women-led early stage startup in Chicago, the new Brad’s Deals Accelerator is opening for applications, um, real soon! Check it out. (community submitted)
  • If you have another cool opportunity, please DM me on Twitter and I will add it here.

So if you’re inspired by this project and feel like taking it on yourself, let me know — June seems like a good time to get started, and my Twitter should be less hectic by then. Say hi!


Hindsight is 2020, right?

As we approach the 2-year mark on this article, I wanted to take a moment to outline a few warnings. These are the three things I’ve noticed myself or others trip upon when attempting this project:

  1. Some people are already reaching: While many people need this conscious push in order to strive beyond their perceived needs, some people already overestimate their abilities! And I’m not entirely guilt-free on this one: I definitely over-extended myself in early 2019.
  2. Some people fixate on 100: The number 100 is delightfully round. Be careful though, I’ve noticed that while I was more than willing to quit somewhere around 60, other people can obsess over achieving this number. Quit while you’re ahead! If you get a really great opportunity, put this exercise on hold, for goodness’ sake! Live in the moment, I guess.
  3. Some people aren’t in a position to do this: This challenge isn’t meant for everyone, always. You might have familial obligations, student loans, or other responsibilities that are getting in your way. Or you could be suffering from an illness or just plain tired. Please don’t read this as another challenge you’ll have to pass up due to your circumstances! Remember that this is only an exercise to help you alter your mindset. You might be able to take on this challenge without actually opening a spreadsheet and counting your failures. All I’m asking you to do, really, is evaluate: is your mindset on what you are capable of actually holding you back?

If you have any feedback for me or wish to share your own story or challenges, feel free to reach out to me via Twitter or email (this name no spaces at gmail, ofc!) I look forward to hearing from you — I’ve been enchanted with the stories people have already shared with me. :)

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