Monday, 23 May 2011

Every Action Has An Equal And Opposite Reaction

When a chef puts a frying pan onto a burning gas stove, it gets hot. When a chef puts some ingredients together, a culinary dish is created. When a chef drops and egg, he makes a mess on the floor!

The old laws of science still apply - for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

I was thinking about this the other day when a student commented that she wanted to get to the stage in her writing career where she could switch on her computer one morning and find an email from an editor offering her a commission.

I too like days like that! They do happen - but as Newton's law says, in order to get that reaction, first you need to undertake some action yourself. In order for an editor to email you with a commission, you need to tell the editor that you exist and offer him, or her, an idea that they can't resist.

Next month, an article I was commissioned to write will appear in an American magazine. It took two years to get that commission. First of all, I obtained a couple of sample issues of the magazine so that I could study it. Then I emailed the editor with three ideas. They were rejected. So, I emailed three more article ideas. They too were rejected. So, I emailed another three ideas, two of which were rejected, but one was accepted.

In order to get that 'reaction' of a commission - I had to take some action myself. In fact, I had to take quite a lot of action, in order to get the reaction that I wanted. (My first action - three ideas - were rejected, so the rejection was a reaction - just not the reaction I was looking for!)

It may seem obvious to some people, but as with so much in life, if you want something to happen, it is down to you to do make it happen. That is so true of writers. If you want to have a novel published, you have to write one first. If you want an editor to commission you, you have to pitch them first.

There is a saying in the world of fiction that Drama never comes knocking on your character's door - your character has to knock on Drama's door. In other words - your character needs to take some kind of action, that will generate the drama to unfold.

Next time you want something to happen in your writing life, think first about what sort of action you need to take to make it happen. Then do it!

Good luck.


  1. Yes, this is ringing lots of bells. Sometimes the groundwork is a long and hard slog but when you get that commission it's always worth it.

  2. A great post Simon. It's having the confidence to carry on despite rejection ( not something I find easy but I'm working on it) This shows that the american magazine was rejecting the ideas not the writer which is so important to remember. If one idea doesn't work try another.

  3. Well said, Simon. Who was it (Henry Ford?) that said ‘The harder I work, the luckier I get.’ ? There are a few ‘jammy’ people in the world but most successful people – be they writers or sports stars or business leaders - have worked hard for what they’ve achieved. It’s just being lazy to think that it will ‘happen’ without any effort, isn’t it? (And I’m just as guilty as the next person of wanting the glory/fun/publication without the graft!). Thanks for pointing out what you had to do to get that American commission (and well done!). Most people would have given up after the first rejection of those three article ideas, but not you. And I think that’s a lesson to us all: be dogged, be determined - keep going!! Helen

  4. A great lesson that many of us never learn.
    Thanks for sharing how long it took you to get one idea accepted - it gives us all hope and shows the importance of persevering.
    I just had 3 consecutive essays accepted
    by one magazine and then the next 3 disappeared into the black editorial hole - I never even got rejections, just death by silence.
    I was going to give up but you showed me that's daft- the only one to lose would be me.
    So I'm off to write another one.

  5. Excellent post Simon - thank you! :-)