The Spirituality of Pitching 

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It’s a nerve-racking yet unavoidable part of the creative life: sending your work out into the world. Whether you’re pitching to a long-shot publisher or to an outlet where you have a comfortable connection, it’s still an act of deep vulnerability. You’ve created something unique and unrepeatable with your mind, your heart, your hands. Will anyone else find it of value? It’s a hard question to ask. 

But pitching is a good reminder — especially to those of us who primarily work alone, hunched over a computer or a camera or a microphone — that creativity always offers us an invitation into communality. The dialogue inherent in pitching and publishing gives us an opportunity to affirm that everything we make is already a collaboration, an act of co-creation with God. 

Pitching is necessarily vulnerable. But it is also an affirmation of our belief in our own work, our belief that we are giving voice to something valuable about the human experience. Something that only we could say, something only we could create. When we receive communion we say, “Amen,” which means, “I believe.” And when someone else encounters our work and feels its resonance in their own life, there’s nothing more heartening than hearing that same “amen,” that same, “I know this to be true.” 

Of course, it doesn’t always go that way. Sometimes trying to get our work published is a bit like throwing a dinner party and debuting a new recipe, only to find that … no one likes it. Or perhaps, they like it fine, but they had a late lunch and they’re not really hungry. In those cases, it’s hard not to feel like your labor is in vain. Hard not to feel like you should have let that idea, that project, that recipe, stay safely within the confines of your own mind. 

But then you have to remember why you threw the dinner party in the first place: to have a shared experience of something meaningful with others. To invite others, however nervously, into the home of your heart, your mind, your experience. It’s an intimate act. An act of hope. An act worth persevering at. 

And then there’s that other part of pitching we dread, the waiting. It’s like someone tasted your painstakingly crafted dinner and then … said nothing. For days. Weeks, even. This is that seemingly never-ending part of the process when you refresh your email or your Submittable page every hour. No one likes waiting. So much of our life, though, and our spiritual life, consists of waiting. Standing in line at the DMV or the grocery store. Waiting for that prayer to be answered, that unjust policy to be changed. Waiting each Lent for Easter, each Advent for Christmas. It’s a liminal space where we can meet a God who understands our longing, our impatience. 

The ever-present possibility of rejection, meanwhile, offers us some extra practice at Ignatian indifference, of letting go of our attachment to having our work published in any particular outlet. There is so much in publishing that is simply out of our control and beyond our knowledge — the timing of a piece, the responsiveness of a particular editor, what they already have planned for their editorial calendar. Although so much of our sense of ourselves is tied up in our work, pitching gives us the opportunity to affirm that our work is not all of who we are. It forces us to ask ourselves questions like, “If this piece that I feel so passionately about isn’t accepted anywhere, will I still be me?” And as painful as pitching can sometimes be, I’ve never failed to hear a little whispered, “Yes.” 

Finally, pitching requires persistence. It requires that we shake off our disappointment, tweak that recipe a bit and invite people over again. It requires that we keep seeking to make a connection, that we maintain belief in what we’ve created and have the courage to keep placing it into the hands of others. It is a concrete act of hope. It is our way of continuing to ask, seek, knock, until the door is opened to us. 

But maybe above all, the spiritual value of pitching is to be found in its unmistakable nudge to recognize the sacredness of our human work, the inherent holiness of our attempt to express something true in language or music or physical form. Pitching calls us to sing into the darkness, and to hope and believe that there will be an echo. Pitching reminds us, again and again, that there is fruit to be borne in every step along the creative journey, and that the sweetness of a shared communal experience is always worth the wait. 

Contributed by:

Cameron Bellm is a Seattle-based writer and retreat leader, whose work has been featured in America Magazine, National Catholic Reporter, Red Letter Christians and Catholic Women Preach.