Three Months Later and I’m On Vox.
I recently had my article “My Shady Life As An Underage Drinker,” published on Vox.com. I had people emailing, calling, writing on my Facebook wall, and texting me freaking out about how incredible it was. No one could believe it. The article was posted on the Vox.com discover channel on Snapchat the next day. I received even more congratulations from people. People viewed it as an incredible breakthrough in my life and were very happy for me. The real story wasn’t so simple.
I wrote that article at least three months before it was finally published. I first showed it to my dad who absolutely loved it. Then I showed it to my advisor in the Praxis program. He had incredible things to say about it and asked me to share it with the rest of the Praxis team. I did and everyone insisted it was a great story and that I had to get it published.
So I started looking around. I submitted the article to Buzzfeed, Vice, Salon, Wired, Reason, and The New Yorker. No one sent me a reply. The very best I got was an automatic rejection email. After the first two, I was pretty disappointed. By number four I was downright depressed about the whole thing. But I still had people checking in on how the submission process was going. I had people all around me telling me it was fantastic and that someone would pick it up. But I was still really depressed about it and it got to the point where I almost just wanted the article to disappear. I dreaded people asking because I felt like it was as disappointing to them as it was to me.
My First Connection
After two and a half months, I just wanted to get it published somewhere. I had totally lost the idea that it was an incredible article and that it needed to be seen by tons of people. I just wanted to get it out there wherever I could. Finally, a friend in the Praxis program pitched the article to the head editor of Life Learning, a publication on Medium.com.
This wasn’t a particularly small fish either. It was smaller than I had been aiming but the publication still has nearly 70,000 followers. After my friend pitched it to the editor, he accepted the article and it was up on Life Learning the next day. I was extremely excited. For the first couple days, I got maybe 20 recommends each day. This was far lower than I had been hoping for. Not only that, I also had people responding to the article and demonizing me. The phrase “immature alcoholic” came up a few times.
I was back to being a disappointed about how well the article was doing. But then on the third day of the article being up, something changed. Recommends started pouring in. By the end of the day, I was up to 300 recommends and it was the 12th most popular article on all of Medium.com. I still had people responding to the article every few minutes. Some were just normal people saying they agreed with me or what the drinking culture was like where they lived. But still, at least half were some very nasty responses.
My Big Breakthrough
Even though there were tons of disheartening things being said, I was still really happy to have my article finally getting the attention everyone said it deserved. Then I got an email. It was from the first person editor of Vox.com asking me if they could run my article the following week.
When I first saw the email I really couldn’t believe it. That was it, finally the level of attention I was hoping for the article to receive. Once it was on Vox.com, it got some pretty solid attention. That’s when everyone started congratulating me. Friends from back home seemed to think I was some unbelievable writer now. I realized how much sexier the whole story sounded when you didn’t know what I had to go through to get it on Vox.
It wasn’t sexy. Until that moment when I got the email from the Vox editor, it was pretty tough for most of the time. I was put in a weird situation because on one side I had a bunch of people I really respected telling me it was awesome. On the other side, I either received no answer to my submissions or a canned rejection response.
So what can you learn from my experience? Creativity needs to be backed up by the work and to not take your support community for granted.
If you’re excited about an article, business idea, or any other type of project see it through to its fruition. The creative spark should be held sacred and you have to be willing to put in the work and deal with rejection. To help you conquer the fear of failure, don’t be afraid to rely on your tribe for support. Lean on them, instead of the negative outsiders who haven’t earned your respect and don’t necessarily have your best interests in mind.
Believe in your product, article, or idea and take in as much support from your friends and family as you can. But in the end, you have to be your biggest advocate. If you don’t believe in your own product, why should anyone else?
Originally published at nicktucker.me on January 30, 2016.