Last week I attended an event in Brooklyn hosted by the group Her Girl Friday. The event was titled Throw Like a Girl: Pitching The Hell Out Of Your Stories, and featured a panel of esteemed writers and editors from publications like The New York Times and The Atavist. The event focused on the gender disparity in bylines and published editorial, and how female journalists can work to bridge that gap. It was pretty fascinating stuff, but what I found truly interesting was the hundreds of other women packed into the room with me, grasping for a little bit of advice.
Even though I’ve considered myself a writer for my entire life, I have spent the majority of my twenties trying my hand at other (more lucrative) professional pursuits. Writing full-time has never really been a financial option for me (though I admire those who have the dedication to commit to it), so I have worked as a receptionist, a marketing manager, a PR consultant, and a social media maverick. I did what I thought was the responsible thing to do and got an M.A. in Media Studies and Management, as opposed to an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. I put a dream on hold in order to pay some bills, but I never fully deferred it.
When I decided to go freelance last fall, I promised myself I would at least try submitting more work, and make it a goal to get published. So, when I found myself shoulder-to-shoulder, standing room only, with all of these other budding journalists, I certainly felt a sense of camaraderie. But more than that, I felt inspired. A big part of being a writer (or any type of creative, really) is throwing things at a wall (or an editor) and seeing what sticks. One has to remain focused, and not let rejection get to her. It is a frustrating, and occasionally soul-crushing processes, but in the almost nine-months I have been doing it, the few wins have been totally worth it. Having someone say you are good at what you love to do, and not just decent at whatever task you were begrudgingly given, feels utterly wonderful, and makes me understand why so many people make sacrifices for their art.
When I looked around that room, at all of those women, I was excited for them, but also for the future of journalism. There are so many talented women who want to tell stories and break the news, and the more women who take the initiative to get their voices heard, the better off we will be as a society.
I know this is not a top 5 list of songs or favorite TV characters, but I figure every now and then what we really need, more than anything, is a little inspiration. As New York Times Metro editor Carolyn Ryan said at the event, “You can’t see rejection as a real reflection of your value…rejection is part of the process.” So think of that next time someone tells you no.
All right Kate-bookers, what is it you want to achieve this week? And how are you going to go about getting it done? Leave your thoughts in the comments!