Friday, October 26, 2007

Coping with rejection

Got a rejection letter the other day. The details of what it was for aren't important now, but the truth is any rejection hurts. The letter, the email, the phone-call that brings the bad news can be sugar-coated to the max, but it's still a rejection. They didn't want you, you weren't good enough, other people were better than you this time. Unfortunately, that slap to the ego is part and parcel of being a writer. Unless you're freakishly talented or lucky [or both], chances are you'll face rejection face more often than you'll achieve success. Get used to it.

It's said success breeds success, and there's some truth in that. Get one thing commissioned, get that first job, that first success and you become a better choice for others in future. But one success is no guarantee of future success. And the greater your efforts in putting yourself forward for new jobs, new opportunities, new writing gigs, the more rejections you'll face. You need a thick skin to survive. If your ego suffers terrible bruising everytime you get turned down, maybe being a writer isn't for you. How much pain can you endure in your quest for success?

There's another problem writers face: when do they say enough is enough? When do you accept that all those rejections might be telling you something? Maybe you haven't got what it takes, maybe you'll never be good enough. It's that bleak, nagging doubt that really eats at a writer's soul. Ask yourself is your latest rejection a reality check, or just a stumble on a greater journey? The best way to assess your progress is by keeping track of your successes. How you won any competitions lately? How you won any commissions? Have you improved your skillset through courses and workshops?

Still not certain? Choose the best script you've written in the past six months and get it read by other writers, idealy by working writers or professional readers. Get their honest opinion on your work. Have you got what it takes? Ultimately, if your writing is good enough, it will get noticed. Everyone is desperate to find a great new writer, a great new voice.

The truth is mostnew writers are merely mediocre. Maybe they have great ideas, but lack the skills to execute. Maybe they can produce a polished script, but its got nothing to say. Maybe they can hit all the marks remarked and achieve expectations, but they never get beyond that, never surprise, never inspire. There's a lot of great writers already out there working. They've got experience, credits and contacts. To steal their job, you must aspire to be better than the best.

A lot of wannabe writers see a rubbish TV drama and think I could do better than that. Maybe you can, but you need to do better to have any chance of success. Trying to match mediocrity is no kind of ambition. You need to aim higher than that, you need to push yourself, to stretch and challenge the abilities you have. Most of all, you've got to keep writing, keep creating new work. Writers write.

You need to keep putting your work out there, keep inviting rejection to come slap you in the face. That's the job. Don't whine about not getting the opportunities you feel you deserve. Get up off the floor and make things happen. You want to be a writer? Prove it. You want to be a professional? Act professional. Take everything that gets thrown at you and come back for more. Endure. Improve. Onwards!


Oli said...

Hell yeah!

Rach said...

At a talk this week I heard writers go round with voices in our heads (yup, tick in the box), repeatedly expose ourselves (she said we drop our knickers in public, been a while but OK tick in box) and now must learn to love slaps in the face (masochistic too).

Boy we're a screwed up bunch.

Lucy said...

A timely post my friend, let's just say that.