My most popular work made the New York Times — written by somebody else

We’re cool though. No, it wasn’t plagiarism. It was my own hesitancy to build out an idea. Don’t be me. Set your ideas free.

In January I started collecting rejections with the vague idea of getting 100 of them in 2018.

In May, I more or less gave up on the project, not knowing that my failure on failures might turn out to be one of my largest successes.

The tweet spun out of my own control.

It has been seen nearly by nearly 3.5 million people and retweeted more than 10,000 times.

I wrote a Medium post about the failed project, which garnered another 34,000 views. Bustle and Jetzt interviewed me and Lifehacker and Thought Catalog wrote short pieces about it, too.

But while it was clearly a phenomenal concept, I was hesitant to expand the project into a book, as many people urged me to do.

Why? Because as soon as my May tweet was live, I realized the idea wasn’t solely my own.

Plenty of other people had gotten, or tried to get 100 rejections.

Jia Jiang has a TED Talk about it.

Kim Liao wrote an essay in Literary Hub about it.

Charles Chu wrote a Medium series about it.

And although I had the wisdom of Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist behind me, and a clean conscience of blissful ignorance of their projects while I was writing mine…

Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist is so damn good. Buy it, now. You will thank me.

I never really did much with my #100in2018 concept.

And yesterday, a friend posted this on my Facebook wall:

Turns out, Charles Chu and I were not the only ones attempting 100 rejections in 2018. Emily Winter had just published a very witty piece on getting 100 rejections herself — in the New York Times!

Well, damn.

For a spiteful moment, I consoled myself with the knowledge that I have more Twitter followers than she does.

But after that, I resigned myself to the knowledge that she had done exactly as I had — come up with an amazing idea on my own. And I attempted to soothe the sting my throwing myself into work for the rest of the day.

Multiple Discovery is a concept in science that basically says that different people often independently generate the same ideas.

The most famous case of Multiple Discovery might be Darwin’s concept of evolution.

Darwin had been sitting on his theories for years when he learned a young man named Alfred Russel Wallace was beginning to publish the very same concepts he’d been hiding in giant stacks of illegible handwritten notes on his library desk. A fire lit under Darwin and he suddenly began to produce actual, publishable work. If Wallace hadn’t been so star-struck with respect for Darwin, we likely would attribute evolution to him today. As it was, they coauthored the theory and Wallace let Darwin have the limelight.

Publish or Perish is not just a concept in academia.

Elizabeth Gilbert has a similar story in Big Magic of a novel about the Amazon that passed right through her and into a fellow author friend and onto the page.

If we do not publish, ideas don’t just cease to exist. Someone else writes them. And it is our own ego that perishes.

So, Emily Winters, I wish you all the best with your rejection collection and hope that your imposter syndrome dies a fiery death on a pyre of comedic success. Thank you for spurring me on, and being the Wallace-like fire under my own tuckus.

And me? Well, you see, I’ve had this amazing idea for a horror story that came to me in a dream. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that I need to write it down, now!

If you need me, I’ll be at my computer, typing.