Back in the day, when I was a scrawny gonnabe writer, Gardner Dozois used to offer me encouragement. We'd be sitting around in his apartment and he'd leaf through the new issue of Asimov's, suddenly stop, and say, "You know, Michael, this story is even suckier than yours."
"Gee, thanks, Gardner," I'd reply.
He'd leaf some more. "Here's another story that sucks worse than yours."
"I really appreciate that, Gardner."
Flip, flip, flip. "I don't see why that story of yours shouldn't sell. There are lots of stories here suckier than yours."
"God bless you for saying that, Gardner."
But, as time would prove, he had a point. There were indeed stories even suckier than mine and that meant that sooner or later mine was going to sell. As it did.
New writers should take this to heart. Your stories don't actually have to be good to be published. Just less sucky than the worst of what is already being published. The bar is set a lot lower than you thought.
You can always be good after you've made that first sale.