Ever since attending The Op-ed Project Seminar in Atlanta a couple of years ago, I receive regular updates from the organizers letting me know what’s new in the program and in the world of opinion writing in general. Yesterday, the following appeared in my inbox:
A quick note on editor silence this week
A quick note to you amazing people who have had pieces accepted for publication this week, and to the rest of you amazing people who haven’t, and who can take this week as an object lesson:
Imagine you are an editor at a publication. Could be the Washington Post, or USA Today, or Truthout—a publication that looks at major US news and its political impact. Imagine you logged off email and packed up your tote bag to head home for dinner the night before last. And imagine that in the midst of dinner, you got an alert that Donald Trump had fired James Comey. You spent the night emailing, following twitter, trying to manage what you could from home. Then you got into work, headed into an editorial meeting, and tried to train your focus on what the world is telling you might be one of the most significant stories in modern American history.
You might not reply immediately to other emails in your inbox. You might rethink the opinion page for the next couple of days. You might seem to disappear for a bit.
Fellows, as you develop your practice of having a public voice, especially in the world of news and publishing, it helps to develop ways to see from an editor’s perspective. Not only because it allows you to empathize rather than seethe when you don’t hear back, especially when the publication is pending on a piece. But because it allows you to protect yourself from the self-doubt and panic that can often encroach in the silence. I’ve been there, so many times. So often, the news cycle can explain it. Look to that, and not the worth of your ideas and voice, when it seems like you’ve gotten through the door just to hit a wall of silence.
This post is excerpted from a letter sent by OpEd Project leader Lauren Sandler to the fellows she mentors at Columbia University, as part of our Public Voices Fellowship initiative to broaden the range of voices we hear in the world.
It’s nice to know that sometimes when you don’t hear from an editor, it’s not a statement about you as a writer. I think that a lot of us have been scratching our heads the past few months, finding it difficult to say anything at all in response to the madness.