Ask the Aliens: Quitting Time?
[Ask the Aliens is a monthly feature on Misreader. Read the open call here or check out the previous letters here. If you have a question send it to misreaderblog at gmail dot com with "Ask the Aliens" in the subject line.]
Recently I made the decision to start sending out freelance articles and pitches. I just finished a third piece that I have written on spec and sent out to all the big paying outlets. I never heard back from any of them. Three articles and not one word. So everyday I open up my inbox and even though I know the email isn't in there, I look for it. It wasn't there this morning, again.
So my question is: Why should I even bother? At this point I feel done. I am so ready to give up and look for some other job, probably in an office, probably temping until I can find something regular, probably being miserable.
This last article was so perfect, and my timing was so good: It was right on the heels of a major news story and it offered a different, alternative perspective on an event that tons of people are talking about. It may have qualified as a hot take, but I acknowledge that, I was sending it out to hot take websites. And yet nothing! Nothing is tantamount to rejection when it comes to pitching essays in this market. I'm more familiar with the lit world's rejections, the ones where you get a form response to let you know no one wants to read your crap.
Now I'm starting to freak out. If I can get articles regularly published I can be able to cover my living expenses doing something I love to do, with a workload that leaves me plenty of time to do my own thing. And it's not going to happen it's not going to happen it's not going to happen.
But on another level I'm like, should I be trying this hard? There is so much crap out there to read and digest, there is so much competition, do I even want to be a part of it? No one is going to notice me if I'm there contributing or if I'm stuck at work somewhere else. Why fuck with that? Why not give up/do something else?
Hot Takes Not Not Takes
Dear Not Takes,
I can sympathize with you about not hearing back about your article. I have been running this advice column for a few months now and still have gotten ZERO response from any form of extraterrestrial life (I'm sorry to add to your response rate, but they didn't get back to me about your problem either). Really, our situations are very similar, except that yours is about how you are going to make enough money to live and mine is about some stupid blog. But here's the thing: You should not give up now.
There is an amazing abundance of life all around us. A new study released the other day just found out that there may be as many as a trillion alien civilizations out there in the universe. (Not that any of them have been answering our letters or intercepting our interstellar space probes. Yet.) Trillions! And imagine how many individual people may exist in each of those trillions of civilizations. A lot. You want to write for the internet, a medium that is closely modeled on the universe's expansion rate. Do you think it's easy to supply the infinite amount of brand new content every single day for us to click on and consume and then have something ready to go tomorrow? This is how the internet works, and this is why you still have a chance to get your work out there. The people who run these websites need you writing your alleged hot takes, even if they don't know it yet.
Or maybe this study is right, and life in the universe is really rare, the same way that websites that will pay you for your work are pretty rare. You still shouldn't give up what you want to do. Because, maybe you have noticed, there is a lot of pure garbage on the internet, and I assume that what you're writing is not. But consider the fact that what you said your hot take was about something everyone else is already talking about. Don't you think that editors already have a million pieces by people looking to take part in that conversation? Your hot take was probably cold by the time it got to anyone's inbox. What you should be writing about is what no one is talking about right now. For an editor, coming across that kind of content is like exploring a mostly empty universe and suddenly finding a single star that did not manage to burn up the one life-sustaining planet in its habitable zone, where life had evolved.
You can be one of trillions that the universe is able to support, or you can be the rare example that proves the Fermi paradox rule: if you stop writing now neither of those two things will be true. Keep sending your articles out into the void: someone might discover them.