Whether you’re an actor, writer, director, set designer, wardrobe designer, director or filmmaker, it always hurts. In this blog I focus on screenwriters, but the principles apply to everyone.
And it hurts more if you’ve invested months and years in a project and then it gets rejected over and over again. Add to that the struggle to pay rent, to keep a relationship together while you pour your soul into your work. So how can we cope?
1. Go ahead and take rejection personally – up to a point — then move on.
There’s no way you can’t take a rejection personally, so you might as well admit it. It hurts. It’s your screenplay, and you may have slaved over it for months or even years.
“Sit with your emotions,” as they say in psychology, or “process the rejection.” This just means, don’t fight it, or deny it, let it sink in, feel it authentically, and move past it.
You can’t let it crush your soul, or your next project will suffer. And maybe the next. So you have to be resilient. That’s the professional part. As a professional, you’ve got to think of rejection as “part of the process.”
2. Remember that everybody, even the best screenwriters, get rejected.
This goes back to what Einstein said about making mistakes. “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying.”
This is especially true in a creative field where risk is often the key to success. You have to push the envelope or you’re not going to be relevant as an artist.
Risk naturally leads to mistakes. But it also leads to originality. Think of rejection as part of the process of growth, and of creating your own original voice.
3. Keep rejection in perspective with everything else in life.
This rejection didn’t happen in a vacuum. You’ve lived a long life, and you didn’t always get your way. You lost football games. Some other girl stole your date. You didn’t get accepted at USC Cinema. You survived.
Writing just happens to be what you’re most passionate about doing right now. So it stings a bit more. Remind yourself of all the rejections you survived.
4. Attempt to keep your expectations in check.
There are thousands of scripts submitted every year. How many get made? Maybe 200 studio films. Keep the odds in mind.
Another way to keep expectations in check is to have your screenplay evaluated by a professional writer, before submitting it to a studio. Get feedback and improve your script. For more information about how this works, click here.
You can also enter screenwriting competitions. If your work gets high marks there, then you have a right to high expectations. More and more, writers in Hollywood make sure professional writers admire their work before even showing it to their agents.
Next week Keys 5-9 on “How to Survive Rejection in Hollywood.”
Image credit: Creative Commons, “Journal of Universal Rejection” coffee mug, 2012 by Tilemahos Efthimiadis, licensed under CC By 2.0